How to Pitch to a Shark
Do you have a life-changing product? Have people told you that you’re sitting on a million dollar idea? If so, you’ve probably thought about pitching your innovation on Shark Tank, the one place where you can pitch and get a $500,000 investment in the same day. If a Shark gets a whiff of your business and likes it, your passion project could go from being a mom-and-pop shop operating out of your garage to a million dollar franchise praised by every major news outlet in America.
Although the stakes are high, getting a Shark to say “I want to invest in you” doesn’t require superhuman powers. Let me walk you through four key attributes—shared by the Sharks themselves—that will help you craft an irresistible pitch. It’s not easy diving into the Shark Tank, but if you’re considering it, here’s your survival guide.
From the mouth of Barbara Corcoran, “Have Chutzpah!” when you pitch. Corcoran cited a business plan she invested in purely because the two business partners had what she described as “the courage to pitch as though they had gold.” The company founders didn’t know their numbers or inventory, and their presentation was far from airtight. But they had that special something that makes you want to root for them.
Have you ever had to give a presentation with no time to prepare? The one thing that you have on your side is charisma. Here’s a secret: Everyone has it, but not everyone knows how to use it. Chutzpah is about knowing what makes you unique and fearlessly owning that in front of others. “Chutzpah” is the piece of magic that makes Beyoncé, well, Beyoncé.
But before Queen B was headlining Coachella, she was an entrepreneur betting on herself. You can imagine that as Beyoncé plans her performances, she leaves plenty of time for introspection and answering this question for herself: “What kind of impression do I want to leave on my audience?”
So, how can you find your chutzpah? Watch Shark Tank pitches and look for entrepreneurs that are charismatic and memorable, pay attention to how they use words and body language to let their confidence shine through—especially during the Q&A, which is where the Sharks can throw curveball questions and criticisms. Many people fall into the trap of becoming defensive and immediately unlikable. Then, think about what impression you want to leave on the investors, and keep that top-of-mind as you practice your pitch. Don’t stop until you have harnessed your chutzpah and can channel your inner Beyoncé in every performance.
2. Know your content
Kevin O’Leary invested in Snarky Tea, a tea formulated for the modern day woman because of how well the founder knew her business. I’m talking, she listed off her customer acquisition cost and her sales to date without hesitation. It was evident that she knew every period, comma, and semicolon in her business plan, and that she was no stranger to talking about it.
I don’t doubt that if you created a business plan with your own hands, you know the details inside and out. The real challenge is being able to talk about it at any moment’s notice. You should be able to recite it in your sleep. If you don’t, the Sharks will pick up on that vulnerability as weakness.
The way to prepare for a successful pitch is no secret. You just need to practice. Listen to how you talk about your business—your tone, confidence level, and language. Ask yourself if you’d invest in your pitch. If the answer is yes, congrats!
You are the Snarky Tea to Kevin O’Leary, and the Sharks will respond favorably.
3. Motivate the Sharks
How do you bait a shark? Well, you get them to believe you are jawsome, of course! After all, a Shark won’t bite if you aren’t at least a bit appetizing.
Daymond John invested in Bubba’s Boneless Ribs because of the founder's ability to motivate his workers, customers, and investors to believe in his business. Al Bubba Baker spoke to the Sharks as if they were his closest friends. Baker talked about coming up with the idea for his business to solve his wife’s dilemma: his wife hated eating baby back ribs due to the mess. Now, she can eat baby back ribs without the mess forever. That sweet origin story was enough to pull at the heartstrings of Daymond John, so much that he invested $300,000 into Baker’s business.
Think about how you can spin your story into a motivational tale. Everyone loves a good underdog story. Tell yours—the good, the bad, and even the ugly. The key is to emotionally connect with your audience. This isn’t just a product or service. It’s your life’s work. Sit down and write all of the events that led up to how you thought up your product, to creating your business plan, and finally going all in and betting on yourself.
Do not shy away from the dramatics with this one. Everyone loves a bit of drama, even a straight-faced shark.
4. Be Creative
To hook a Shark, you have to be creative. If you lack creativity, your numbers, inventory, and sales to date will fall on deaf ears, no matter how impressive they are. But being creative is easier said than done.
Mark Cuban described why he chooses to invest in businesses that embody creativity. “Creative thinking is incredibly important to a business. Especially because you’re competing. You want to give yourself an edge.” These investors have heard thousands of pitches, so you need to find what makes you stand out.
I think this calls for another Beyoncé example, don’t you think? She’s a trendsetter. When she broke the internet by releasing her self-titled visual album with no warning besides an Instagram video announcing it five minutes before midnight? Ingenious. Look back at the Shark Tank pitches that you’ve watched, and ask yourself what they’re missing. Brainstorm everything that you think they should have included to crank up the creativity. Then, think about how you can incorporate something similar for your own pitch.
If you’re considering pitching on Shark Tank, do your idea justice and present it with creativity—think outside the tank.
By Emina Cepalovic, Growth Marketer and Lover of Sharks