There’s a moment in the film The Social Network where Mark Zuckerberg walks into a meeting with potential investors wearing pajamas, preparing to cause a minor scandal so he can support a friend who had been treated badly. Suffice it to say that most encounters between startups and venture capital firms aren’t nearly so dramatic, though they mark a critical point in any young company’s growth.

Despite some VC investments that don’t turn out as expected, there appears to be no slowing down of startups getting access to the capital they need. In fact, a recent report from National Venture Capital Association indicated that the timing for budding entrepreneurs hasn’t been this good since the original dot-com boom of 2001. So far this year, for example, VCs have put US$12.1 billion into startups.

That said, getting time to speak in front of a VC doesn’t come along any day, and blowing that kind of opportunity can set a startup back months, if not longer. It’s a lot like trying to secure those all-important first prospects who turn into customers. That’s why startups should think about the sales strategies that work in generating revenue and applying them to their meetings with VCs.

Plot Your Idea On A Customer Journey Map

VCs might appreciate statistics and market research that shows whether there’s a real demand for your products and services, but a potentially even more effective way to illustrate your point is by using something familiar to marketing departments everywhere. This is the customer journey map, which shows how prospects self-identify a need and the steps they take that lead to a transaction.

In a retail environment, for instance, customers may run out of an item -- like laundry detergent -- and get on their computer or smartphone to research any specials or coupons. They may check to see if a particular retailer is open, and how late. They may then go to a store, browse for a few other items while they’re there, pick up what they need and then wind up at the checkout.

All along this journey map are areas where things can be improved -- the speed at which they find what they need online, e-commerce options for when stores are closed and so on. Show a visual representation of how your startup idea fits into a day in the life of your ideal customer -- and why it might be the highlight of that particular day.

Engage With Preemptive Content Marketing

VC money can be used in all sorts of ways -- hiring staff, setting up a real office -- but some portion of it will likely go towards marketing. In an ideal world, you’ll have things like white papers, blog posts, videos and other forms of content to educate and persuade customers to do business with you.

Go beyond speaking about such tactics at a high level by showing a sample (even a mockup) of these content marketing assets to a VC. Send a sample blog post to their smartphones just prior to a meeting, for example. Show a video explainer that captures why your products and services are necessary.

These content marketing assets may not look anything like what you’ll wind up using with customers, but that’s not the point. The point is telling a good story about your startup - one that VCs will want to see continue to the next, most exciting chapter of being funded.

Use a CRM Approach To Discuss The Competitive Landscape

It’s very rare for startups to be the sole provider in a product or service category, and VCs will want to know how well you understand their value proposition and how you’ll differentiate yours.

This kind of intelligence-gathering can be presented in a number of ways, but think about the way companies use customer relationship management to grow an established business. When CRM is used well, companies keep track of how often they’ve made contact with a lead, what questions or feedback they received, the various team members who might have been part of the final purchase decision and how an existing customer has been upsold or cross-sold over time.

Looking at your competition, see how much you can find about their current client list by exploring their case studies, testimonials and other assets. Talk to VCs about the approach these companies have taken and what you’ll steal from their strategy and where you’ll introduce your own go-to-market innovations. You may never be able to get at as many details about your competitors’ customer base as you would in your own CRM, but you’ll prove you have a thoughtful, comprehensive mindset about nurturing customer relationships.

CRM is a game-changer for small businesses. It allows you to be more productive and to have a bird’s-eye view of your company’s performance through comprehensive reporting. Learn more here about CRM here: