Persuasive investor pitches make the investor feel confident that they are making a good decision

The psychology of a persuasive investor pitch

September 10, 2018

Do you think you have a persuasive investor pitch?

If so, take a moment to answer these three questions:

  • Are you a rational, logical decision-maker? 

  • Are the investors you pitch to rational, logical decision-makers?

  • Do investors decide purely through conscious analysis of information?

Surprisingly, the answer to all three questions is a clear ‘NO’.

Is your conscious mind in the driving seat?

Psychological research shows that our subconscious minds are steering us from under the bonnet.

By the time we decide to make a turn, our subconscious mind has already decided which way to go.


Because there’s too much going on for us to constantly process everything consciously. So the driver under the bonnet – our subconscious – constantly sifts our surroundings for danger and high priority information.

The unconscious passes control over to the conscious mind only when we need to switch on our full attention.

But most of the time, the unconscious nudges us left and right without us even knowing it’s there. We accelerate forward, believing we’re fully in control.


This has real consequences for the high stakes world of investment pitching. 

Most of us have it backwards.

When we want to create persuasive investor pitches, we set out to prove our case for investment. We wear our logical hat and talk about numbers, the team and the competition.

But you can’t prove any investment decision in advance. You can’t guarantee the returns or forecast the future.

Wearing the logical hat isn’t enough. You need an emotional one, too.

Successful pitches make the investor feel confident

They should feel confident that they are making a good decision.

So, instead of trying to prove an investment decision in advance, they build confidence about that investment decision.

And if you build confidence, you make sure the investors’ subconscious doesn’t dismiss you as a danger or a risk to avoid.

So – what can you do to build confidence? How can you use the way our brains work to be more effective and deliver more persuasive investor pitches?

There are three cognitive biases you need to harness:

  1. Cognitive ease

  2. Exposure effect

  3. Priming


1. Use cognitive ease for persuasive investor pitches

Something is easy to understand because our brains use little energy to process information. This feels effortless, which we equate with being good and true.

When something is tricky to understand, it feels difficult. When your brain feels strained you are more like to be vigilant and suspicious. You feel less comfortable, rely less on intuition, and act less creatively.

For example, V4C are a Polish mid-market fund. We recently helped them to prepare successfully for a round of fundraising. One of their challenges was that international investors didn’t recognise the names of their outstanding Polish portfolio companies. This lack of familiarity could make investors feel uneasy, and overlook the success of the investments.

We could have advised that the fund detail each of the portfolio companies, and explain the different products they offered. Instead, we assigned each company an analogy.

For example, we referred to one web company as ‘The Go Daddy of Poland’. This instantly brought to mind the fast-growing, profitable, market-leading company that investors were already familiar with.

In just a few words, we’d supplied a mental shortcut that carried a wealth of positive associations. This made it easy for investors to understand.

Every detail matters when making your offer familiar and accessible – from clear design through to appealing trading names. For example, a study by Pascal Pensa found that companies with pronounceable ticker symbols – such as KAR or LUNMOO – outperform ones with unpronounceable symbols like PXG or RDO.

How to use cognitive ease to your advantage in investor pitches: 

Use simple language and make sure concepts are easy to understand. Use high contrast visual aids that convey message within a few seconds. And make sure any text is clear and easy to read. And, if you can, pick names and phrases that are easy to pronounce and remember.


2. Exposure effect for persuasive investor pitches

Psychologist Robert Zajonc proved a link between a word, face or symbol being familiar and the positive feeling people have for it. Zajonc said this comes from evolutionary advantage: it makes sense for animals to be wary of novelty, as it may lead to danger. But repeated exposure to something – and the lack of harm that follows it – means that a once-novel stimulus is associated with safety.

This is why advertisers spend $550bn each year to show their brands and products to us, often in ads that we ignore. When we’re in buying mode, that brand or product feels familiar, even if we don’t remember why, and we perceive it to be a safe choice.

How to use the exposure effect in investor pitches: 

Think about repeating your main message throughout your pitch. Introduce it early on, so that it starts to feel familiar when you restate it in slightly different way later. 

According to another team of researchers, a message feels truer when you prompt your audience to retrieve your message from memory. So, you could refer to something you said earlier, but restate just enough of it for people to recall the rest for themselves. Or you could show just a heading or an image from a previous slide to prompt recall of the rest of the slide’s contents. 


3. Priming for persuasive investor pitches

If I introduced you to a friend by telling you about his interest in starting life on Mars, you might think he was crazy.

If I started my introduction by detailing his success at launching Paypal, and his individual net worth of $20bn, his interest in building rockets starts to sound more credible. This is the power of priming, and it has a measurable impact on our behaviour.

In one now-classic experiment, researchers asked students to combine sets of words into short sentences. Afterwards, students who were given words with an elderly theme (e.g. forgetful, grey, wrinkle) walked significantly more slowly than students who weren’t exposed to those words. When questioned afterwards, none of the students had noticed the theme and all insisted their behaviour hadn’t been affected.

In another task, participants were exposed to a logo for just thirteen milliseconds. Afterwards, they were asked to write down unusual uses for a brick. Those who were shown a logo associated with creativity (such as Apple) generated a higher number of uses for the brick and had more creative ideas than those exposed to a logo without such strong creative associations (such as IBM).

In pitches, fundraisers often spend too long talking about the market opportunity or going through detailed biographies of the team. This is a missed opportunity to prime the investor to see the world through your lens. If you get this right, you prime your investor for confidence.

How to use priming in investor pitches: 

Trigger positive associations for your fund by priming investors with well-chosen words, stories and images. For example, you could start with an image of a successful adventurer to prime the thought of discovering riches. Alternatively, you could tell the story of a well-known historical figure to prime investors to think about long-term legacy. Choose a priming device that is relevant to your industry or main message so that it doesn’t feel forced.


You are not immune – your blind spot

We find the existence of such powerful cognitive biases hard to believe because they do not match up with our experience. We don’t notice them precisely because they happen subconsciously.

This means we are over-confident in our beliefs, and struggle with accepting – or even acknowledging – our own limitations and blind spots. The reality is that these biases affect ALL of us. Thinking that you are immune even has it’s own name: blind spot bias.

This is one of the reasons that objective advice from an expert third party is so valuable. Often, fundraisers are so close to their fund or business that they underplay their strengths and overlook the weaknesses in their investment narrative and pitch.

How we can help you create more persuasive investor pitches

Benjamin Ball Associates has over ten years’ experience helping businesses and funds pitch successfully to investors. Our team includes former corporate financiers, fund managers, financial PR experts and designers.

We give practical, easy-to-implement advice that helps you grab investor attention, impress them and get you invited in for that vital face-to-face pitch. T

hen, ahead of the pitch meeting, we help you rehearse so that you come across as just the right team to help investors achieve their investment objectives.

We do this every day for private companies, quoted companies and private equity firms. 

Call Louise on +44 (0)20 7018 0922 or email louise@nullbenjaminball.com to discuss how we can help you create more persuasive investor pitches.

Contact Us Now

You may also be interested in...

Fundraising Presentations: a survive and thrive guide for talking to investors

Apr 21, 2017

Fundraising presentations are hard work. You're bombarded with challenging questions from investors, worn out by long days, and struggling to...

Read More

Persuasive Investor Presentations – five techniques from psychology

Apr 13, 2016

Investment decision-making is not totally rational. Are you using all the tools at your disposal to create and deliver persuasive...

Read More

Why good public speaking skills make you a better leader

Nov 11, 2016

Do your public speaking skills inspire, motivate and influence others? They should. Many leaders are nervous of public speaking. Some...

Read More

Ten Benefits Of A Better Investor Pitch Book

May 10, 2018

A great investor pitch book is at the heart of successful fundraising. You use it to capture the essence of...

Read More

Why Body Language Matters When Pitching to Win Business

Jun 29, 2012

Better Body Language We all know that body language is important in business.  But how important? And does is really...

Read More

Private Equity Fundraising Tips from the Experts: Become a Top 1% Fund

Sep 06, 2017

How can you be seen as a top 1% fund by investors? At SuperReturn Emerging Markets in Amsterdam, experienced LPs...

Read More

How you can create a powerful investor elevator pitch

Mar 07, 2016

A great elevator pitch is an essential part of your toolkit Last month I chaired the Quickfire Showcase at Berlin’s...

Read More

How to prepare for your media interviews

Jan 16, 2013

You must prepare for media interviews The excruciating Newsnight interview with Treasury Minister Chloe Smith this summer is one example of...

Read More

How To Write So People Will Read – 6 Great Tips

Mar 11, 2018

These days, we are writing more than ever.  That means it’s harder than ever to grab attention.  Your readers have...

Read More

How well do you answer difficult investor questions?

Nov 16, 2017

When an investor questions how you calculated your Private Equity fund's performance, how do you react? If an investor asks...

Read More

How to Choose a Public Speaking Coach

Aug 21, 2017

How do you choose a public speaking coach? When selecting a public speaking coach or presentation trainer, you want to work...

Read More

10 Power Language techniques to use in your next talk or presentation

Sep 06, 2017

How To Use Powerful Language For Leadership Communications   Great leaders use Power Language. It adds interest and colour to...

Read More

What is The “So What?” Test? – And how to use it.

Dec 30, 2019

So What? is probably your most important question. When you put your talk or presentation together, how do you decide what...

Read More

Private equity fundraising | Seven tips for first investor meetings

Dec 10, 2015

What do LPs want from private equity funds at first investor meetings? That's the question I put to the panel...

Read More

How do you pitch investors?

Sep 21, 2016

What do investors really want? Six tips We wrote this piece with our Private Equity clients in mind. But there...

Read More

Give high impact talks and presentations – 5 simple tips

Mar 01, 2017

Do you want to give high impact talks and presentations? Do you want to engage your audience? And do you want...

Read More

Use a great business story for better business

Jul 05, 2017

How to tell a great business story Leaders use storytelling so that audiences listen, remember and act on what they...

Read More

How to Make Your Investment Pitch More Memorable – Six Tips

Mar 29, 2017

How do you make your investment pitch more memorable? It's a real challenge these days. Investors have more opportunities than...

Read More

Three persuasive appeals you must use in your talks and presentations

Nov 30, 2016

Your leadership talks need to be persuasive As a leader, every talk or presentation you give is an exercise in persuasion....

Read More

What do LPs want from your private equity pitch book?

Oct 14, 2015

A well-crafted private equity pitch book can make the difference between securing a first meeting with investors and getting a...

Read More


Our Most Popular Coaching Programmes

1. Improve Your Investor Pitch

2. Public Speaking Coaching

3. Presentation Coaching

4. Media Training

5. Prepare your AGM

N.B. All our coaching is currently via Zoom.

Contact Us Now


Top Blog Post Categories

What Our Clients Say

“BBA transformed our pitch into a compelling investment narrative. They undoubtedly helped us secure Sky TV as an investor.”

Gerry Bastable  Director, Blast Films

“The new presentation properly represents the institutional quality of our fund. It has been a step change for us.”

Erwin de Kleijn Head of IR, Saemor Capital

“We were very pleased…[BBA]  helped us define and explain our unique value proposition. As a result we have attracted new and different investors.”

Florian Kemmerich  Managing Partner, Bamboo Capital Partners


To Learn More…

Contact our
Client Services Director
Louise Angus
+44 (0)20 7018 0922