Lessons from 2015: Shark Tank

If there’s one thing I want you to recognize, it is this: Everybody pitches all the time. You are constantly pitching to family and friends in order to enroll them into your plans: seeing the movie you want to see, or going to a particular restaurant, for example. Even picking a wedding venue or naming your first child; every negotiation opens with a pitch. You do it so often, you aren’t even conscious of it. 

You’ve got this. You’re good.

Until, of course, there’s money on the table. At which point, pitching suddenly seems very hard indeed.

So, first, I suggest talking yourself down from panic. Remind yourself that you have decades of pitching behind you, from the first time you convinced Mommy to pick you up from the crib. After that, read this Business Insider list on the 18 best Shark Tank pitches.

Eighteen seems a pretty random number, but by golly, having so many pitches parsed out in a row was fascinating. The focus was exclusively on what worked, and while I recommend you read it yourself, here are my takeaways:

– Be prepared. Time and again, the entrepreneurs who had numbers at their fingertips, who had thought about objections and questions in advance were more likely to get a good deal. It makes sense; whether you’re pitching a movie or a shoe, you lose credibility when you don’t have the answers.

– Know your audience. The entrepreneurs who researched the show knew what worked, and the ones who researched the individual investors knew what each brought to the table. This not only allowed them to get offers, it enabled them to make good choices when the sharks competed with each other.

– Have many possible ways to win, and be willing to negotiate. If your only win is walking out with a million bucks in your hand, you’re going to lose all the time. Plus you have to make space for them to win as well as you; if you start out in a combative relationship with people who may become your partners, the relationship is doomed from the start. Acknowledge that their needs are as valid as your own, and show them how working with you is a win-win.

– Be yourself. Time and again, these “winning” entrepreneurs broke rules, revealed their personalities and touched people’s hearts. Yes, be professional, but don’t hide who you are in the inside. Ultimately, we’re all people and we want to be in business with other people, not brands or labels or spokesmen.

Oh, and flavored lip gloss! That seemed a sure-fire winner…


Happy 2016, and happy pitching!

— Laura