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How to pitch for Shark Tank success

Everyday, millions of people are pitching to one another to make a deal. You may be pitching your business, your product, your service, your food, maybe even yourself! Yes, if you are in a relationship right now, you know that you have been, and are continuously, pitching yourself to your partner. And vice versa. But I am not going down the relationship route just now. In today's blog, I am sharing some important tips that you can take with you to create a great marketing pitch for success - even on Shark Tank.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Shark Tank, it is a reality show from the US of entrepreneurs pitching to VCs and other billionaire business owners for funding in exchange for equity. Each episode has 4-5 business owners pitching to the "sharks" as they are known, hoping to get the finances, support, experience and clout that they command. Do watch this short video taken off one Shark Tank episode before we break down the lessons learnt from it to make a successful pitch:

(1) Be very clear with what you want

It is the standard format in Shark Tank that one opens by stating the funding level one is seeking and the amount of equity they are offering for that. While you don't have to be as direct as depicted in Shark Tank, you must nevertheless come upfront and say what you are looking for in your pitch. If you are pitching to a product distributor, then you can start by saying, "We are looking to partner a successful distributor to take 10,000 units of WonderGizmo to the market in 3 years." Look at how specific this goal is. It tells upfront what you need (sale of 10,000 units), what you are looking for (partnering a successful distributor) and even the timeframe (3 years). Immediately, the person you are meeting with will understand why he is there, what information to look out for, and maybe even to negotiate. By stating intentions clearly upfront, you don't leave people guessing where you are coming from, making his own assumptions with bits and pieces of information that you throw out there. Make it easy for him to help you by stating clearly why you are meeting and what you want.

(2) Identify the pain points

If you have sold a product or service, it means that you have solved someone's pain points. In the Shark Tank example, the pain (literally) was backache and also of alleviating that by oneself. You also heard from the girl that she went around looking for a solution, but found none. That is key. It means that there is a prevalent pain that no one is actively solving, thereby giving them a differentiated value proposition.

(3) wrap it in a story

For the girl, her story was wrapped around her mom's backache at the end of each nursing shift, and her "pain" of constantly being the masseuse. Anyone who has been in that position would then immediately understand and relate to it, and be more receptive to hearing more. You must make your pitch personally relatable to the listener, and the best way of doing that is to tell stories. But your story should have a happy ending, so it is not just pain without the solution. You are pitching your solution, so make sure that your audience rides with you all the way to that!

(4) demonstrate your value

For the case of the "sharks", the value is in sales. If you are looking for a distributor or an investor, you need to demonstrate similar value to them. If you have not made any sales, you have much lower bargaining power than if you have already demonstrated that. Sales volume is a proxy for showing how well you are able to meet the needs of the market. Your client list is also important to show the quality of your solutions - the higher the quality of your clients, the greater the perceived value of your solution. If you are pitching for a loan, for example, then your ability to repay the loan plus interest would be the key value to demonstrate.

(5) what is in it for them

Remember that the girl and her mom did not have a system, and had not even put up a website? She mentioned that they were looking for a mentor who could take that part of the business for them. Of course in return, they were willing to offer a percentage of the business to them. While three of the sharks did not see much value in the business and that it would be too costly for them to be involved, two of them actually knew just what they could do to help position the business for greater success, pitching it back to them that they could take over the business side of things. By being upfront and clear why you are pitching a deal to your audience, you tell them just what is in it for them, not just for the returns, but also for the jobs to be done.

(6) always think win-win

Finally, in any pitch, both sides will come to the table with some value. It never is a David-and-Goliath issue where one is much stronger than the other. When each party brings a certain value to the table, then the pitch is not about begging or asking for a deal, it would be one of creating sustained mutual benefit. And this is what we ultimately saw when the two sharks - Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran - jointly pitched it back to the girl and her mum that they there would be worthy partners. Ultimately, that is how you should be pitching your deal, that there is mutual benefit for both parties, so that there is sustainability all around.

So there you are. Six key lessons learnt from Shark Tank pitching success that you can use too.

I wish you all the best in your own pitches.

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