Anyone out there watch Shark Tank? Tom and I love it! If you're an entrepreneur, every show is a learning experience. Of course, it's a tiny smidgeon of education - you won't learn much about preparing a pitch for investors by watching Shark Tank. But, you will learn how NOT to prepare a pitch.
One thing that always surprises me is how many of the 'contestants' - yes, I think of it as a game show - aren't prepared with the most basic information about their company or their industry. They're desperate, they're eager, they're excited, I could go on and on, but... too often they're not prepared. I've cringed while some folks stumbled over the, "How many have you sold?" question, trying to think of a way of inflating their numbers. You don't want to say, "We sold 200 in the last year," cause you know 200 isn't going to cut it. But, if that's all you sold... you have to say it, don't you?
Recently, a young woman came on pitching haircare products for kids. She was amazing. She knew her stuff. She knew the industry, she knew why her products were better (no harmful ingredients - no, she hadn't tested because of the cost of that but she knew she needed to and she knew what it would cost), and she'd done a good bit of selling on her own. Sales were - better than average, though not as great as the sharks wanted them to be.
As we watched this young Mom continue to pitch her new product, called Hot Tot, and even be so bold as to tell one of the sharks who suggested a logo and image change, "I wouldn't be open to that. I don't want my product on the shelf with those cutesy things with cartoon characters on them." we were impressed with her fortitude, her preparation, and her determination. She didn't stumble once! And yes, she got a deal. I personally don't think it was a good deal, but... it was good enough for her and it will likely take her places she could never go on her own.
A few months ago, actually, many months ago, a young woman came on pitching a product for pets. Doesn't matter what the product was. In her pitch, she was nervous (who wouldn't be? I'd be terrified!), she was unsure of herself, and while she was passionate about her product - she lacked credibility because she didn't know her market!
The product she was pitching had GREAT possibilities! I have a pet business - BlogPaws. I know our bloggers and pet parents would LOVE her product! Unfortunately, though she'd tested it in a few places, she hadn't sold many, and she wasn't able to respond to the shark's questions adequately, so she was sent away without a deal. I was disappointed because I KNEW her market was huge! If she'd only been able to show the power of the pet parent in the U.S. today, she might have come closer to a deal.
In the end, she probably wouldn't have made a deal cause the sharks don't understand pets. Other pet products have come and gone at the show - and, because they (the sharks) don't speak 'pet'... they dismiss these folks without much interest. I challenge them to come to BlogPaws and then tell me that the pet industry isn't a powerful place to invest your money!
In the end, if you're going to try and approach sharks, on TV or elsewhere, be prepared. Passion and eagerness isn't enough. You can't prove your concept with flowery language or neat marketing packages. You need to know your industry. You need to show that you're out there making things happen - that people other than family and friends are interested in your product and are plunking down cash for it.
That's not to say you can't be a winner just by showing up. Sometimes an idea is so good, it can't be denied. Sometimes a person is so good, he or she can sell dreams to the sandman. Maybe you're one of those people.
Maybe you're not.
If you're not - you'd better be ready to show them how your product is going to make the sharks some cash. Telling them doesn't cut it. Show don't tell... show don't tell... show don't tell... hmmm, where have you heard that before?