"So your startup is looking for cash and you've got a meeting with a banker or investor. You're probably hoping they’re going to say yes to the money that very afternoon, but in the back of your mind you’re additionally wondering what the banker is going to ask of you. You’re wondering what you should reveal and which cards you should keep close to your vest. At the end of the day, you’re wondering how you make the impression that entices them to pull out their wallet. You’re wondering how you get them to “Show me the money.”

I hate to burst your bubble, but you won't get the money on the spot, no matter how good you are (I certainly haven't experienced anyone that good). Thinking critically about the following will make the process more comfortable and increase your odds of eventually accessing funds:

    1. Know your business. Know your operating metrics, your financial metrics, your competition, your market trends, your skills deficiencies and team makeup. And if you're not already profitable, think about your path to profitability. Lenders can get as excited as you about the growth opportunity and your upward momentum, but they also need to know  how their loan, or equity, is going to be paid back. Ideally you've got a plan and a forecast for where you're going rather than merely a backward looking story. If you're just getting started, try Futurepreneur's financial planning template.

    1. Know how much you need. Starting the conversation with ""how much will you give me?"" reveals that haven’t thought about the business and what it needs to execute. Understand your funding requirements, ideally your requirements now and at future milestones, so that you can have an informed discussion about where to get funding throughout your lifecycle. It's also important to talk about how the money will help the business. Lenders have a fiduciary responsibility to know how their money is going to help their client get to their destination, and not just allow that client to increase spending until they drive the business off a cliff.

    1. Be upfront about what you need the money for and how you plan to spend it. Lenders are bound by a number of regulatory guidelines when it comes to knowing their client. Any illegitimacy will be uncovered eventually during due diligence. Share your plan and how you've built it and ask for help. Money that comes with strategy, network, or mentorship is far more valuable than money on its own. If you're honest with the lenders about what you need and your plans, you might be surprised to learn that what’s on offer is more valuable than just the money itself.

    1. Have your house in order. You won't necessarily need financial statements at your first meeting, but if you're serious about financing, having prepared statements and proof that you've been organized – simple things like filing taxes with an accountant to verify your financial existence – will go a long way. It’s also a common misconception among rapidly growing companies that paying for audited or review engagement statements before it’s absolutely required is a waste of money. In fact, this may not only improve your chances of finding investors/lenders, it will also speed up the process and could lower your pricing (you're lower risk if a firm is combing through your financials and validating your business).

    1. Assume the banker or investor is an intelligent human being who understands financing and has watched a lot of businesses rise and fall – experience which motivates them to ask all those serious questions. Not every deal is a good deal. Entrepreneurs, generally, are optimists, especially about their business. Lenders, on the other hand, start from a position of risk mitigation. The banker is going to be thinking about all the ""what ifs"" they're going to face when it comes time to to sell your deal to their credit department. Help them out. Understand both the upside and the downside and prepare them to make your case.

    1. In preparation for, or following, a meeting with a potential lender, you'll want to prepare a digital data room where you might share due diligence documents like your forecasts, statements, pitch deck, and other plans and analyses you've already completed. You might even check out this handy loan checklist or a more detailed ebook on getting a business loan before you take a meeting.

 Like anything else in business, preparation, honesty and due diligence will take you most of the way."