First, don’t pitch to investors ‘cold’ if you can possibly avoid it, because your conversion rate will be very low. (By ‘cold’ I mean pitching to investors you don’t know, who don’t know your startup. ‘Warm’ pitches, by contrast, are when you are introduced to the investor by someone you both know, and who believes the introduction is a good idea).

If your network is too small to have a reasonable prospect of raising, and if you’re raising without the endorsement of a respected accelerator, incubator or lead investor, do this…

Don’t be generic

The best way to add someone to your LinkedIn contacts is to send them a specific, custom connection request. LinkedIn’s default connection request is “I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn network” — well, duh! Chances are, the person you’re trying to connect with gets so many similar requests each week, just deleting them is becoming a chore.

Why are you asking for help?

You can stand out and make your request look useful and actionable by being clear about what you’d like to connect for. Are you hoping to pitch for investment? Think they’ll want to buy your product? Wanting to connect to other people connected to them? State it short and sweet, and reference something relevant from their profile — “Because you have prior experience as a [Job Title] for [Company] I think you’re going to be pleased you took a moment to [do action].”

Where did we last meet?

People with hundreds or thousands of LinkedIn connections may not remember how or why you’re already connected to them, so help them out with specific, detailed context — “We met at [Conference] in [Month, Year] and you said you were [impressed with our product (or something like that)] and you asked me to follow-up in two months.”

Don’t say you want to show me the product, tell me why

“I’d like to show you our product and get your feedback” is the equivalent of saying, “You have limitless time and I’m hoping to show you this product will somehow inflame you with a mad desire to help make our company bigger than Facebook” — nothing is less likely! Tell me what early users say about it, show me rave reviews on the App Store, show me positive press coverage, show me ProductHunt and ProductHoist upvotes. Show me this before you tell me what the product does, and for whom. Don’t make me be the first person to decide this might be a cool product.

Don’t let me say no

Any investor’s default state when pitched to on LinkedIn is “no”. None of us likes cold inbound pitches as much as warm, qualified introductions from people we know and trust. So until you prove to me your pitch is worth considering, if you give me a choice of response, my default response will be no. Do I want to connect with you, a stranger, on LinkedIn? No. Do I want you to send me your pitch deck? No. Have I read the pitch deck you sent me? No. Do I want to invest? No.

Change the way that process flows to remove opportunities for me to reply with “no”.

Don’t try to connect with me on LinkedIn; instead, use the LinkedIn InMail feature to send me a pitch email, with your pitch deck attached. Don’t follow up to ask if I’ve read it, follow up to tell me that your round is 50% (or greater) closed, and that these are the other investors already committed to writing a cheque, or that this investor we both know said the following amazing things about our prototype.

Outside of LinkedIn (and I encourage you not to cold pitch for investment on LinkedIn) use the same principle, whether on AngelList, email, Facebook, or any other platform. Remove the opportunity for me to say no without considering what you’re pitching.

Follow up with thanks

When I ask my fellow seed investors and mentors what they hate the most about helping startup founders, the lack of follow-up is usually number one hate. A week ago, you asked me to introduce you to a really important person at a big corporation overseas that most people could never approach directly. So… How’d you go? Don’t make me ask!

Mentors, advisors, and investors always appreciate (a) a note of thanks when they help you out; and (b) a follow-up to let them know what (if anything) happened as a result of their action. Aside from being common courtesy, it’s a small dopamine-inducing feedback loop. Reinforce it repeatedly and it will serve you well. Fail to trigger it and you’ll get fewer and fewer favours from that network you’re trying so hard to build.

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