Fundraising is sales. You have prospects, you send a pitch and you negotiate with those who qualify. And we all know that sales has changed a lot in the last 20 years thanks to the Internet. So did fundraising. Just like buyers and sellers, funders and founders meet and make deals over the Internet. Million-dollar transactions can happen with just emails, phone calls and video conferencing.
The pool of prospective angel investors and VCs among others was expanded exponentially when the Internet made it possible for people to easily connect from around the world, which means a lot more “leads” to keep track of and evaluate.
When my company, PandaDoc, was about to raise money for our Series A, I knew I needed a way to coordinate communication with investors as there would be more than 100 “prospects” and thousands of conversations. We needed a good a pipeline management tool. I looked no further than Pipedrive, which I found through Ragnar Sass, my friend and adviser.
In three months, we closed a $5 million investment deal using Pipedrive.
Here’s how we did it:
1. Build a big pipeline
At one point, we had more than 400 VCs in the pipeline. Pipedrive’s dashboard presents the pipeline visually, so I could easily see investor deals, categorize them and move them through different stages.
I collected this number of VCs by searching the Internet for various lists of VCs that invest in our vertical. Quora was great for this. I then went on LinkedIn to see how I was connected to the leads and collected this information for future reference.
The drag-and-drop interface in Pipedrive was quite efficient — what would usually take 10 clicks took only two. We were able to manage our pipeline even with a large amount of contacts.
2. Target and prioritize
Once we loaded up Pipedrive with our prospective funds, we tagged the funds that specifically had the following:
- A presence in San Francisco Bay Area (this is where we were as well)
- Closely connected to my team members, former investors or advisers
- Actively investing in SaaS applications (our category)
- Actively investing in sales automation tools (our sub-category)
- Hadn’t invested in a competing product
- Invested in one of our clients
Since you can’t properly reach out to 400 people, I decided to start with a smaller segment that aligned with the tags above because they had the highest chance of success. From there, once these high-priority funds were already being worked, we then expanded the segment.
3. Never miss a follow-up
In sales, following up is an absolute must — the same goes for talking with investors. Missing a chance to check in over email can make a huge difference. We used Pipedrive to ensure we didn’t fail to keep working on conversations, follow-ups, meetings and next steps. It’s unacceptable to fail to deliver on something you’ve promised a potential investor, but it can be difficult when you’re juggling multiple deals. You need a strong process in place that doesn’t rely solely on your memory so that you can be 100% sure you are reliably and accurately delivering on your agreements.
On the flip side, another simple, professional thing that becomes incredibly difficult when you’re juggling a lot of contacts and doing a lot of outreach: Not contacting the same people twice. When you reach out with a cold email to a deal you’re already working, it can be annoying and possibly kill any chance of opening up a conversation.
Some of my advisers helped with introductions, and that meant we had an additional source of leads that potentially overlapped. Keeping the deals in Pipedrive helped to ensure we also didn’t accidentally reach out to the same people twice.
4. Improve your deck with data
Once a prospective investor reached a certain stage, I would send them my pitch deck, using our own product, PandaDoc. PandaDoc easily integrates with Pipedrive and offers document analytics providing information about how my deck was performing.
Here’s what I learned:
- Who opened the deck: Some investors never opened my deck. Someone who doesn’t open your deck (even if they read your email) needs a different kind of follow-up from someone who at least looked at it. I was able to send the appropriate response because I had this information.
- When they opened the deck: PandaDoc sent me an email notification when someone opened my deck. I timed my follow-up call to about 20 minutes after I saw the pitch deck had been opened. This helped me to get an “unfiltered” impression so I could ask for feedback in a timely manner.
- Who spent the most time with the deck: Some investors spent hours on my deck. Those were the most likely prospects to close, and they were my top priority.
- What parts of the deck they spent the most time on: Knowing which slide they spent the most time on also helped me know what to bring up on the follow-up call. Our metrics and traction data got most of the eyeballs, but surprisingly, the slide about our team members got a lot of attention, too.
- Who they forwarded the deck to: I could see when the decks were forwarded to managing partners, which served as a good indicator of high interest.
5. Choose the right partner
When you’re fundraising, it’s about closing as many deals as possible — and finding the right partner. Don’t get blinded by gathering so many offers that you lose sight of what’s important. Focus on whittling down to a qualified few.
You’re going to run into many investors who technically qualify, but it’s your job to choose the best partner and get the best deal. To do this, you need negotiation leverage. It’s natural for a few prospects to rise to the top, and you can create competition among this final group — we had three in our final round.
From that trio, we chose one: Altos Ventures, which invested $5 million. It shares our vision for solving big problems, and it proved to be the perfect fit to lead the round.
Managing a pipeline with 400 deals is tough. If I didn’t have Pipedrive, the round wouldn’t have gone so smoothly. Thankfully, I have good friends with great products. And when we come together, we can accomplish powerful things.