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June 26, 2020

How To Appear on Shark Tank: 8 Tips for a Successful Pitch

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This blog post was originally published by Deliverr, which is now Flexport. The content has been adjusted to fit the Flexport brand voice and tone, but all other information remains unchanged. With the merging of Deliverr’s services (DTC fulfillment, B2B distribution, and Last Mile delivery) into Flexport’s existing international freight and technology services, we’re now able to provide merchants with true end-to-end logistics solutions spanning from the factory floor to the customer’s door.

Want to get your business or product in front of 3.82 million people? ABC’s Shark Tank is an unbeatable opportunity for getting your company or product broadcast to millions, even if you don’t strike a deal.

But, with more than 45,000 entrepreneurs applying each year to appear on the show, you’ve got competition. Thankfully, these eight tips will help increase your chances of appearing on Shark Tank.

What Is Shark Tank?

For those not in the know, Shark Tank is an American business reality TV show, where entrepreneurs pitch their business idea to a panel of five “sharks” for business investment.

The show has been running since 2009 and has helped successful businesses, including Scrub Daddy, Squatty Potty, and Ring.

Tips To Appear on Shark Tank

With more applicants than Harvard, getting in front of the sharks is difficult, but not impossible with these top tips.

1. Build a Business, Not an Idea

Everyone has a great business idea, but what the sharks want to see is a lucrative idea that has the potential to become a multi-million-dollar business. This requires traction, evidenced by the following:

Plans are essential for turning an idea into a business. Ensure that you have a sold business and marketing plan for taking your idea to the next level, including sales forecasts, costs, a route to market, customers, and long-term goals.

Extensive market and product research are essential. Find out as much data as possible to prove market opportunity, demand, price points, competition, and future sales projection. Remember that you’re asking for a lot of money - put yourself in the sharks’ shoes and think what you’d want to know before parting with your own hard-earned cash.

Web presence
The sharks want to see an enterprise business in the making, so it’s useful to show that you’ve done some of the groundwork first. This includes:

  • A professional-looking website that is engaging, well-optimized, and easy to buy from
  • Online marketplace stores that echo your website branding and are brimming with positive reviews
  • A social media presence that’s engaging, established, and professional
  • High-quality images of your product and yourself

Learn more about how to launch your own ecommerce website in our 10-step guide.

Sales are fundamental for demonstrating business traction. They don’t have to be in their millions, but having a solid sales history on Amazon, Walmart, or your own website illustrates a growing market for your product and gives you much-needed evidence.

Of course, sales are only great if they’re accompanied by outstanding reviews. Prompt customers to leave feedback on your product listings or website, and avoid unnecessary negative reviews by ensuring your listing description is accurate, customer service is tip-top, and shipping speeds are fast.

Many guides will tell you the importance of having a patent for your product. However, in reality, patents are difficult and expensive to obtain. While an active or pending patent will undoubtedly boost your application, don’t worry unnecessarily if you don’t have one - it’s about being better, not necessarily different.  You can find out more about patents here.

You’re applying to Shark Tank because you need help - detail your weaknesses and how the sharks can assist. Importantly, be honest. Your simple idea might turn into a multi-million dollar business, don’t be tempted to overcomplicate things or be something you’re not.

2. Submit Your Application

Once you’ve gathered enough data and evidence about your product, it’s time to complete and submit your application.

There are two steps to apply to appear on Shark Tank: fill out an application and attend an open call.

Here's what you'll need:

  • A business/product name
  • A company website
  • A brief description
  • Images

Note that Shark Tank asks for a brief description - keep it that way by succinctly describing your business and product, the potential of your idea, how much you’re asking for, and what the money will be used to achieve.

3. Invest in Your Video

Following your application form, you’ll be asked to submit a 10-minute video covering yourself and your business idea.

This is your chance to inject personality and passion into your application and demonstrate that your product is worthy of both investment and television coverage.

Top tips from previous Shark Tank businesses include sharing your dream and vision, delivering the cold-hard stats, being open about why you need help, getting creative, and saying what you want and what you’ll do with it.

It’s also a good idea to invest in some basic video tech that makes your video dazzle compared to those shot on a smartphone.

4. Build a Killer Pitch

Never has being pitch-perfect been more important. We recommend building your pitch at the very beginning of your Shark Tank journey so you can use it for your application, in your video, and on the big day.

While the key features of a killer pitch are completely subjective, the following points ensure that you cover the basics.

Research the sharks
Know who you’re pitching to, including their expertise, the type of companies they usually invest in, and what gets them excited about a business.

Validate your product
Validating your product means knowing your figures well enough to demonstrate current traction and future potential. This includes:

  • The costs of goods
  • Profit margins
  • Gross sales year-to-date and per month
  • Projected sales for the current year
  • Net profit to date and per month
  • Current inventory (and value)

Value your business
It can be tempting to overvalue your business so you retain a higher share value. But an unrealistic valuation will quickly turn off the sharks.

A common way to calculate a realistic business valuation is using a multiple of your yearly revenue and then taking into account other factors such as inventory, asset value, debts, and future growth.  The multiple depends on the particular industry and is typically between 2-6 times. You can find out more about revenue-based valuations here.

Note that opportunity can also create value, but only if you have the right team, product, market, and defining differentiator.

Be excited about the future
A great pitch presents with the present and excites with the future. Therefore, include a measurable and attainable plan of growth that’s going to excite the sharks. This plan should include how much investment you’re asking for and what you’re going to do with it.

And, while we’re on the subject of investment, ensure that the share percentage you’re offering is sensible. Of course, you want to retain as much of your business as possible, but producers typically want to see 25-40% offerings.

Be better, not different
We’ve mentioned this briefly before and it’s very apt now. Being the first and only business to market isn’t always what the sharks are looking for, and it isn’t necessarily a good thing either. For example, it could suggest that there’s no need or market for the product.

However, being better than what’s already in the market, is what the sharks are looking for. This requires you to present a unique selling proposition that demonstrates how you and your product delivers value beyond your competitors.

Add the finishing touches
Once you’ve created the content for your pitch, it’s time to make it dazzle. Think about the visuals you’ll use, how you’ll tell your story, what emotional connections you can make, and how the sharks can interact with your pitch. And, if you’re pitching as a group, decide now who will take the lead on which questions.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

Nerves can get the better of anyone, but practice can help you to recover from any stumble or forgetful moment.

Know and rehearse the dream, your finances, your strengths, your weaknesses, and your ask. It helps to watch as many re-runs of Shark Tank as you can and answer the questions that are posed to other entrepreneurs.

And, don’t forget this is showbusiness, so make sure you inject lots of energy into your pitch to stand out from the crowd while remaining credible.

6. Embrace Your Personality Throughout

While the producers of Shark Tank aren’t looking for the next Top Model or Idol, they are looking for someone who will engage audiences and that the sharks will want to work with - after all, they’re investing in you as much as they’re investing in your product.

Make it a point to show off your personality in your application form, video pitch, and casting call. And, if you have any fun or innovative ideas for your pitch that will make great TV, let the producers know early on.

7. Be Patient

The Shark Tank application process is notoriously long, with several rounds of paperwork, videos, and interviews. Don’t give up. Stay committed, stay true to your business vision, be friendly to everyone you encounter. If you’re not successful this time, apply again.

8. It Starts With the First Step

What are you waiting for? Being on Shark Tank is an incredible experience, regardless of whether you get an investment or not. And, even if you’re not accepted onto the show this time, the above tips will put your business on the right track to making it big.

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