You don't need to score a spot on Shark Tank in order to benefit from the show, which features some of the U.S.'s wealthiest investors, who spend their own money in a public forum.

If you're a startup, small-business owner, entrepreneur, or inventor, simply soaking up the advice from these bloodthirsty sharks can help you plot your own moves. Watch their strategies, where their interest is piqued, and why they turn down some startups and fight one another for others.

There's no better way to prepare for your own pitch. Here's what they most often look for and how you can dish it up.

1. Something They're Interested In

Investors don't just seek out startups they're interested in because it's more enjoyable for them--it's because that's where their expertise is. Mark Cuban has a penchant for sports. Daymond John for fashion. Match your startup's services or products to the investor who has a background and passion for them.

2. A Proven Moneymaker

You don't need to have already made millions as a new business, but you need to have profits already in the bank or some kind of recurring monthly revenue. Otherwise, you're putting the shark (er, cart) before the horse. Almost no investor is going to sign up if you haven't already proven that your business can make money.

3. Someone They Respect

Investors want to partner with someone they respect, find savvy, and will enjoy working with. Even the most ambitious of startups is going to require a lot of guidance early on, and investors don't want to spend time coddling a founder they don't like or respect.

4. Someone Who's Committed

Investors, whenever possible, don't want to take on any extra work. They want to offer their money first and their expertise second. Sharks have connections and incredible business savvy, and they're happy to offer that to their partners. However, they don't want to be holding hands the entire time or having to push startups to grow. Your venture won't look as promising if your commitment is somehow called into question.

5. Long-Term Potential

It's stupid to invest in a trend: That's a short-term gain. Sharks are interested in the long haul. They've already made their billions, and aren't distracted by the potential of a few quick bucks. Ditch the trends and focus on a startup with longevity potential.

6. A High Profit Margin

You might have the best product in the world, but if you're spending $15 to make something that retails for $20, where are the profits? In very rare cases, a shark might offer a means of increasing profit margins with his or her own expertise, but don't count on it. There are too many other opportunities that don't require the sharks to do that. The higher the profit margin, the better your odds of reeling in a shark.

7. Affordable Products and Services

It's a lot easier to sell something that costs $50 than something that costs $5,000. The s of a product can instantly cut out huge portions of the population--and thus the potential marketing demographic. Just like sex, affordability sells.

8. A Salesperson

One of the first things a shark will notice is whether or not someone is a natural salesperson. The sharks take in the pitch, the entrepreneur's character, how that person interacts and his or her potential to be a force behind driving up profits. If the startup or product is good enough, the investors might be willing to step in and get the founder to be a silent partner. In this case, your startup better be very good.

9. A realistic negotiator

In the world of sharks, negotiating is good--as long as it's done well. It shows that a founder values the company, has business prowess, and isn't afraid to stand up for himself or herself. However, those negotiations need to be realistic. If you counter with a ridiculous offer, you may have just lost any chance of an investment or a favorable deal.

10. A full-time founder

There's an easy way to tell how serious someone is about a startup: Does that person have another job? If so, even if it's part-time, that's a huge red flag to sharks. It shows that the person isn't totally in the game and is clinging to a safety net.

 

Published on: Sep 23, 2014