How To Craft The Perfect 'Shark Tank' Pitch
Now in its fifth season, ABC's hit reality pitch show "Shark Tank" has made entrepreneurship and the process of acquiring funding a cultural phenomenon. It's also provided countless examples of pitches that work and pitches that fail miserably.
Is there a formula for crafting the perfect "Shark Tank" pitch? Pierce Marrs, a sales and communications coach who does a weekly podcast recapping the show, thinks there are some basic rules any aspiring deal-maker should know. His tips don't only apply to "Shark Tank" hopefuls; they're useful takeaways for any entrepreneur looking for money.
Below, Marrs shares his top strategies for making a perfect presentation.
Minimize stress, and master the "30-second stare down."
A little known fact about "Shark Tank" is that before contestants begin their pitches, they must stand on a mark in front of the Sharks and not say anything for about 30 seconds. This gives production the chance to get a few static shots and also helps the Sharks size up the mettle of their contestants. Can they handle their nerves? Do they keep their cool or get fidgety? In fact, Marrs says he's interviewed contestants who were told to wait 15 or 20 minutes on that mark without speaking to anyone. It's essential to remain composed before, during, and after the pitch. "Everybody needs to be set at ease for it to be a happy negotiation and presentation," he says.
Know your numbers, inside and out.
"The cardinal question is about how much sales you have," Marrs says. "That question right there can make or break you." Contestants on the show need to know their numbers inside and out. How much does the product cost to make? How much does it retail for? How many markets are they currently in? What other marketing opportunities are available? Knowing the data is part of knowing the product, and the Sharks are looking for people who can rattle off those figures in their sleep. Plus, the numbers better be impressive, because that's something you can't charm your way around.
Remember you're pitching an investor, not your mother.
One of the top mistakes hopeful entrepreneurs make, Marrs says, is to make their presentations as if they were talking to friends and family members. Your mother might think everything you say is delightful, but the Sharks won't be so easily convinced. Assume your audience will be skeptical, and be prepared to back up claims about your product with evidence. More importantly, don't be shocked if the Sharks make disbelieving or snarky comments about your pitch and product. Think of the toughest questions and criticism you could face and have responses ready.
Show, don't tell, how awesome your product is.
Most of the contestants on "Shark Tank" bring a sample with them. But the most effective pitchers turn that sample into a compelling demonstration. Just last week, for example, a family from California landed offers from both fashion entrepreneur Daymond John and technology guru Robert Herjavec for their land-based surfboard invention, Hamboards. It's probably not a coincidence that John and Herjavec were also the only two Sharks that chose to try out the boards themselves, riding them up and down the stage. Once the Sharks connected with the product, they were far more willing to take a chance on it.
Most importantly, know what each Shark looks for, and appeal to it.
The Sharks care about and value different things, and understanding that is the most important part of succeeding on the show, Marrs says. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, for example, wants to see a hard worker who will go above and beyond for the business. For Kevin O'Leary, an educational software businessman, it's all about the money. And while John can be tough, he softens up for people that are struggling to pull themselves up by their bootstraps like he did. The best contestants on "Shark Tank" don't just know how to pitch to any investor — they understand how to connect with each individual.
"The biggest mistake that I see people make is that they believe people will buy their product, their service, their company, for their reasons," Marrs says. "To move people, to persuade people, to sell people, you’ve got to look at things through their eyes."