When people recognize me from "Shark Tank," they never remember that I made a deal with the renowned Mark Cuban. Instead, they bring up my epically failed pitch.
It was every entrepreneur's nightmare. Once my faulty slideshow disrupted my flow, I went silent for nearly a minute before stammering my way through the rest of my pitch. The Sharks smelled blood; the taunting began, and I ended up making a fool of myself on national television. When you make a bad pitch, there usually isn't any taunting, but that's showbiz, baby.
Despite my awful performance, I somehow managed to secure a deal with Mark Cuban, and in hindsight, I recognized three key things I did wrong:
- I tried to parrot a memorized spiel, which isn't my strong suit. I should have winged the pitch from the get-go, but instead, I let nerves force me to over-prepare.
- I didn't think out a "likeability" strategy. That doesn't mean that I should have been insincere, but it wouldn't have hurt to interject with something about why I would appreciate them as investors for my business.
- I didn't ask for enough. Once there was a deal that I wanted to accept, I should have tried to secure an additional line of credit dependent on the success of my initial startup stages.Viewers often forget that I did make a deal, but I wish that I had taken the opportunity to ask for a line of credit in a way that would have make the Shark look good by verbally agreeing to it.
So I've covered the three things that I did wrong. Now, let's look at several strategies that can make things go right:
- Pitch what you know. You know your business inside and out, so prove it. If there's a gap in your knowledge of your business, you're not ready to pitch to investors. And I would never recommend using a professional "pitch person" to pitch for you.
- Have a likeability strategy. Investing in something is similar to taking on a partner--they're investing in you as much as the business. If you want to partner up, you'll have to make them like you.
- Be yourself. You have to be comfortable to perform at your best. If you're not a suit-and-tie person, dressing to the nines might make you look like a fish out of water.
- Understand where you stand in terms of an investor's priorities. Recognize that a single investment can change your life, but investors deal with many entrepreneurs every day. Always keep in mind that an investor has less hinging on the decision than you do.
- Remember that when you take someone's money, it's a big weight to carry. Of course, investors know that they're taking a risk, but if you end up losing their money, you're not going to sleep well for a while.
- Look through the investor's eyes. As an entrepreneur, you view valuations based on a fairly narrow set of parameters. Investors recognize that a million different things can go wrong. What if you're nothing but a fraud? Or you get struck by lightning? Or an unexpected invention makes your product obsolete overnight? Try to see things from their perspective.
The bottom line is that a successful pitch is all about being prepared. It's not as superficial as being able to "outpitch" someone; it's about having the groundwork laid out and seizing opportunities. And not only does total preparation make you more pitch-capable, but your potential investors will also recognize your effort and planning. And that is the sort of investment they're looking for.