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Pitching potential investors is a fundamental part of scaling your startup. Hours of work refining your pitch, researching and practicing leads to one pivotal moment that could make or break your career. Although practice and preparation are key to a good pitch, there is no way of knowing what kind of questions investors might ask you. That’s why it’s important to know what to say to an investor instead of saying ‘I don’t know’.

Over the last five years we’ve heard pitches from entrepreneurs all over the world working in different industries so we know that every entrepreneur struggles when it comes to answering a question they don’t know the answer to.

There are some questions investors expect you to know inside out: team, operations, financials, market fit, competitors, projection.. these are all things you need to know. If you don’t, you’re not ready for investment.

But sometimes investor questions can catch you off guard, and hit your weak spot.

When this happens, it’s important to stop, think and take a moment.

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Getting flustered and stuttering can really put off an investor. Instead, try to move the question away from your weakness, and towards your strength. For example, if an investor asks you how much it would cost to manufacture your product globally, and you don’t know, you could say:

“We have received interest from many potential customers outside of Europe and are now using their experience and expertise to find the right manufacturer with costs to benefit the business and our investors.”

Sometimes this doesn’t work, and you need to find a way of saying ‘I don’t know’ in a more professional way.

To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of alternatives to say when you don’t know the answer.

1 – “I have that same question”

This one is great because it doesn’t make you sound like you’re unprepared. It looks like you already anticipated being asked that question you’re working on an answer. Finish by saying something that indicates that this is the next step in your research process.

2 – “Let me check I understand the information you’re looking for”

Sometimes questions are phrased in a way that is complicated and can cause some misunderstanding. So before assuming you do not know the answer, double check you understood the question. It also makes you look like a careful and thorough innovator, two characteristics investors appreciate a lot.

3 – “Based on what we know today, my thoughts are…”

It is good for investors to see that you can think on the spot. As an entrepreneur, you will often have to make intuitive and spontaneous decisions. Even if you do not know the answer to a certain question, you probably have some ideas about it. It is ok to show them you are not entirely certain what the answer is, but already have some theories.

4 – “Great question. I’m just not familiar enough with the issue to hazard a guess. I will look into it…”

Sometimes nerves get the better of us and we can blackout on the spot. Being honest and showing that you will look into the matter is the best way to deal with this situation. Honesty is always appreciated and it is unlikely that this will harm your chances if an investor is already interested in your service or product.

Most importantly, be honest and straightforward with your answer, but avoid using certain expressions. ‘I’m not sure’, ‘sort of’, ‘maybe’ can make you sound like you don’t like what you’re doing or aren’t interested enough in it. Always try to bring a positive twist when answering tricky questions and show that, after all, it is a process and you are willing to learn and improve.

Remember, we’re all human. We don’t have the answers to everything, so as long as you perfect your pitch as much as you can, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

If you’re looking for more pitching tips or access to investors check out our latest events in your region.