A few weeks ago, I made my network television debut. Months after having my pitch to some of the world's most famous investors recorded on ABC's Shark Tank, my negotiation strategy was finally out there for millions across the country to watch and critique. The truth is, I've been picking it apart in my head for months already.
While hundreds of entrepreneurs have been lucky enough to make it into the Shark Tank over the last few years -- with many being reduced to chum -- only a small percentage of those who "won" actually ended up with an investment. That's because as many as two-thirds of handshake deals on the show eventually fall apart.
The offer we received from QVC Queen, Lori Greiner and Cyber Security Billionaire, Robert Herjavec is still in the negotiation phase months after our initial pitch, but we've closed a separate seed investment in the meantime. With that as a backdrop, I thought I'd share some of our very public fundraising experiences, while offering five pointers on how to streamline investment negotiations and keep your head above water.
1. Do your research on an investor's past deal size.
Not only did we practice our presentation for four hours a day leading up to our pitch to the sharks, but we also watched every episode of Shark Tank that's ever aired, wrote down every question ever asked, and analyzed the investment size and equity given in every handshake deal that's ever been made. All of this prep work allowed us to go into the pitch and the initial negotiation with confidence that our investment ask wouldn't immediately be shred apart.
2. Two sharks isn't always better than one.
After the show, you find yourself working with the shark's teams as the deal gets finalized. Given we secured a deal with two sharks, this meant negotiating with two teams. Having more than one team discussing deals can make things more difficult. I'd recommend securing and working with one lead investor. They can act as social proof for other investors and assist in getting them on board with deal terms.
3. Avoid bringing the real sharks (lawyers) into the conversation too soon.
After taping, the sharks often send representatives or business partners into the green room right away in an attempt to close the deal. That was the case with us as well. The natural reaction can be to contact your lawyer right away and get them to look at the offer. However, if you bring them in before you've gone back to representatives with any type of counter offer, it can muddle negotiations. In addition, legal bills can pile up quickly if those negotiations are extended. Try to keep the lawyers at arm's length until they're really needed.
4. You don't have to negotiate the same deal.
Just because you netted out on a specific handshake deal on the show doesn't mean you have to start there during post show negotiations. Like a lot of strategic partners interested in a piece of your company, most of the sharks would rather not put cash into the deal. Often times, they'd rather put in 'sweat equity' as a connector or brand builder in exchange for sharing sales profits in some way (% of sales, etc.). It's good to have as a fallback option if you're not getting the valuation you want or you feel like you're giving away too much control of the business.
5. Don't be afraid to get bitten.
It can be very intimidating to negotiate with a shark or other high-profile investor, but don't let their status or reputation knock you off your game and cause you to make bad business decisions. Stay strong while negotiating, support your position with facts and numbers, and always be respectful. Sharks want a confident leader who is willing to put in on the line for the best interest of their business. Whether you're on network television or in the boardroom, getting investors to believe in the team behind the company is 50% of the negotiation battle. Let your business savvy shine through and you're halfway to reeling in some pretty big fish.