Many entrepreneurs dream of having the opportunity to score a deal with Mark Cuban or one of the other sharks on ABC's Shark Tank, but the majority of business owners who step into the tank walk out empty-handed.
To land a shark as your partner, you'll need to have a proven business model and healthy growth, but you'll also need some insider knowledge on the best way to reel the sharks in. Waiting until late in your pitch to disclose your impressive revenue figures, for example, can help hook a shark when they're not expecting it. Claiming an early time slot also helps, as the sharks listen to pitches for 10 hours a day and can get burned out by the afternoon.
Below are 100 tips for winning a deal with the sharks that we've gleaned from many hours of watching the show, plus some expert advice from entrepreneurs who've pitched the sharks and received offers.
1. Bring the sharks a personalized gift from your company.
2. Remember, the sharks don’t want a job--they want an investment, so don’t ask them to do any heavy lifting for your company.
3. Don’t call Mark Cuban "Cubes." (BagBowl's co-founder learned this the hard way.)
4. The sharks listen to pitches for 10 hours at a time, so try to get an early slot for your pitch.
5. When a shark asks you a direct question, give a direct answer.
6. Don’t point at the sharks.
7. When sharks say they’re out, they’re out, so don't ask them to reconsider.
8. Be decisive when considering an offer.
9. Don't ask if you can call your lawyer.
10. Don't respond to an offer by asking another shark to join in the deal.
11. Don't refer to your business as a "hobby."
12. Know your customer acquisition costs.
13. Don't brag about your success so far. Be humble.
14. Always thank the sharks for their offer, even if you plan on rejecting it.
From Melissa Carbone, founder of Ten Thirty One Productions:
15. Don’t act desperate. Go into the tank without the air of desperation anywhere on you.
16. Be true to your own personality. The sharks are ultimately buying you, so don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
17. The sharks talk over each other, but you shouldn't. Don’t interrupt!
18. Be respectful of the sharks.
19. Don’t be scared of the sharks--they’re actually nice people, despite what you may see on the edited episodes.
20. Kevin O'Leary is all about valuation and numbers, so don't talk to him about your warm feelings.
21. Mark Cuban is not a strictly numbers guy. Your story matters to him just as much (if not more).
22. Don't be afraid to come into the tank with a big valuation.
23. Have a story to back up your valuation. Valuation isn’t objective and isn’t just dictated by existing sales.
24. Be comfortable about conversations involving money. Don’t get flustered simply because you’re talking dollars and cents with five highly successful entrepreneurs.
26. Don’t haggle too much. It’s a fine line to walk, but as an entrepreneur pitching the sharks, you should be able to walk that line.
27. If a shark drops out, tell the other sharks why you're worth investing in. It might convince the shark who bowed out to change his or her mind.
28. Be confident.
29. Be charismatic.
From Sara Margulis, co-founder of Honeyfund:
30. Know your numbers. Drill them into your head.
31. Have some sales. It's very hard to get interest without this most fundamental market confirmation of your product.
32. Demonstrate growth. Investors like to see dramatic growth!
33. Stay cool.
34. Pick a shark in the room who you feel most at ease with, and look at him or her when answering a question.
35. Know how much equity you are willing to give up. Draw your line in the sand and stick to it.
36. Leave it all on the field. Know your key points and messages, and make sure you say them all before you walk out.
37. Smile! It makes you look and feel confident and fun.
38. Dress to impress. You're pitching to well-dressed people, and you're appearing on national TV.
39. Try to make a deal with Mark Cuban. He's the toughest nut in the room. Keep selling your business until you've won him over or you have a deal with another shark!
40. Know your Shark Tank valuation. In other words, the sharks will always bid down your valuation because of their prowess. Know what that number is for your business.
41. Take your time. Despite what they portray on the show, you should take time to discuss and negotiate.
From Evan Mendelsohn, co-founder of Tipsy Elves:
42. Make flash cards of all your statistics and memorize them.
43. Know what your EBITDA is.
44. Know what EBITDA stands for.
45. Know what your sales are since inception and during the past year.
46. Know your sales growth percentages.
47. Watch as many past episodes as you can and write a list of all questions the sharks have ever asked.
48. Make sure you can answer all those questions.
49. Know the difference between net and gross.
50. Surprise the sharks.
51. Don’t be boring.
52. Do something unexpected and outside of the box (like a fashion show).
53. Move around. Don’t just stand there.
54. If your sales are unexpectedly high, save that data point for as late as possible in your pitch to hook the sharks when they’re not expecting it.
55. Entertain the sharks however you can.
56. Remember, it’s not just money the sharks are giving up. It’s also time, so make it clear you appreciate that.
57. Show the sharks the value you bring to them, rather than focusing just on the value they bring to you.
58. Do not say that you will use the sharks' money for marketing and PR. They hate that.
59. Timing is critical. Wait until your company is in a sweet spot of growth before appearing on the show.
60. If you can cry, cry. Barbara Corcoran and Daymond John are known for their softer sides.
From Ben and Eric Kusin, co-founders of Reviver Clothing Swipes:
61. Be prepared to pitch for more than an hour. The show edits every pitch session down to 8 to 10 minutes.
62. Be a listener.
63. Don’t be hyper-defensive.
64. Don’t come across as a know-it-all.
65. Be open to new ideas from the sharks.
66. Expect the unexpected.
67. Prepare to be interrupted.
68. If the sharks start cracking jokes or teasing you, roll with the punches.
69. Defend your product. Hold your ground when you know you’re right.
70. Don’t take the bait when the sharks try to trade insults with you.
71. Remember, you’re going to be on TV in front of 8 million of people.
72. Make a good deal, not just any deal.
From Chase Hamilton, Marley Marotta, and Alexander Mendeluk, co-founders of SpiritHoods:
73. Be honest. They’ll find out eventually if you're fudging anything about your business.
74. Keep selling. Even after someone shoots you down, turn to the next shark and keep selling.
75. Don’t be a pushover.
76. If you want your episode to air, make it entertaining for the viewers, not just the sharks. Good TV sells.
77. Delegate pitching tasks with your co-founder(s).
78. Keep your integrity.
79. Trust your intuition. Some people lose focus from being excited.
80. Don’t overthink it. Focus on whether the value of the deal is worth the equity you’ll be giving up.
81. Expect to get an offer you won’t like.
82. Practice your pitch a lot!
83. Have attractive women in your pitch.
From David Heath and Randy Goldberg, co-founders of Bombas:
84. Don’t argue with your partner in front of the sharks. Remember that you’re on the same team.
85. Don’t punch your partner.
86. Think on your feet.
87. Go to the bathroom before your pitch. You'll be there for a while.
88. Know when to walk out. Just because you make a deal doesn’t mean they don’t have more pitches to see.
89. Remember you’re always on camera.
90. Be prepared to sweat.
91. Represent your company by dressing the part. A suit is not always necessary.
92. Don’t let the sharks walk all over you.
93. Don’t be arrogant or cocky.
94. Stand up for yourself, but don't cross the line.
95. The sharks will almost certainly find a fault in your business, so don’t panic when they do.
96. Know how your product relates to each of the sharks on a personal level.
97. Be playful and have fun with your pitch.
98. If a shark tells a joke, laugh.
99. You will probably black out or not remember what you said while in the tank, so don’t worry if that happens.
100. Enjoy the moment.