If you’re going to take advice from anyone, on how to make a business pitch, Kevin O’Leary is a good choice. He is a successful businessman who got started with a $10,000 loan from his mother and he’s been listening to, accepting and rejecting pitches on Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank for 14 seasons.
For those who don’t know, Dragon’s Den (Canada, UK) and Shark Tank (US) are different titles of the same show: entrepreneurs apply for the chance to appear and pitch their idea to a group of investors in the hopes of getting their money in return for a share in the company.
So, what three essential skills does Kevin O’Leary think you should have in order to be successful?
1. Explain Your Idea in 90 Seconds
- 1 hour: the actual time it takes to film a pitch session for an episode of Shark Tank
- 10 minutes: the average length of pitch sessions when they air
- 90 seconds: how long an entrepreneur really has to make an impression
Much like the first 90 seconds of an interview, investors also make snap judgements. If you don’t have the confidence, statistics, or innovation they’re looking for, then they aren’t going to invest in you. When preparing a pitch, focus on the first 90 seconds; you can worry about the further details once they’re hooked.
Nicholas Boothman offers a more detailed explanation describing how his mentor explained what should be covered in those 90 seconds:
- Attention: the hook that grabs them, like a news headline
- Interest: what’s in it for them? They aren’t investing in you out of the goodness of their hearts
- Desire: get them to want to work with you - desire you - by giving them the facts and figures in a way that captures their imagination
- Action: have some action; enough talking. If everything sounds good, then as a film director would say... "Action!"
2. The Best Person For The Job
"Um... I... I’m the right person to execute this plan because it’s my idea." No. You’ve had the idea, and other people have probably had similar ideas; now it’s time to prove why you’re the person who’s going to make it happen. You need to know how you’re going to combine your knowledge, experience and passion, with your close understanding of your customers to create success.
Your confidence needs to be infectious and make the investor want to jump on board with this tangible idea that is definitely going to work. Additionally, you need to be able to prove that you can run a business and that you’re ready to persevere, if you aren’t an overnight success.
3. Know Your Numbers
Every business needs a business plan, and every business plan has numbers; expected profits, an awareness of the size of the market, how much is needed in investment and how long it’ll take to pay it back. These are all things you should know; you’re pitching to this investor for them to invest money, and not in teaching you how to be a businessman.
Maybe those numbers are market interests that you know how to turn into profit if you just had the investment money. Show that you’ve done your homework and that you only need the chance. At the same time, however, don’t be greedy and try to ask for too much, or offer too little.
One pair of brothers who appeared on Shark Tank couldn’t answer basic questions about revenue sources and their potential market and got branded as the "worst pitch ever", on national television.
See Also: Top 10 Elevator Pitch Rules
Are you a fan of Shark Tank and/or Kevin O’Leary? Have you had any experiences of making/seeing a successful or unsuccessful pitch and want to share your advice? Do so in the comments section below!