C-Suite Insider

Here’s What You Need to Know If You Want To Appear On Shark Tank

Seneca Hampton

Landing a coveted spot on the hit ABC show, Shark Tank, is a dream from many entrepreneurs. But it’s not easy. According to USA Today, the show receives 35,000-40,000 applicants each season. Of these, only 1,000 advance to the next round and in most seasons, only 88 contestants will appear on the show. Many of the show’s inner workings are confidential and contestants sign a non-disclosure.  No one outside of the entrepreneurs who have been on the show really knows what takes place.

From the moment you step foot inside the first set of doors at Shark Tank, everything is being recorded. As a past contestant, I can tell you that there is a ton of anxiety around ruining your pitch. If you mess up, they can literally chop it up and splice it to be whatever they want it to be for their audience.  Even once your pitch is complete, you aren’t safe. The sharks are firing questions away one after another. And as you start to answer, you get cut off with another question. If you aren’t prepared, your appearance can spiral quickly.

If you end up making the cut, you need to know how to make an impression with the Sharks. While I’m sworn to secrecy about a lot of things, there are tips I can give you that will come in handy.

Here’s What You Need to Know BEFORE You Appear on Shark Tank: 

  1. Have Your Plan Vetted Before You Present to the Sharks
    Before you step in front of the sharks to deliver your pitch, it’s extremely important to get your pitch vetted by an outside investor of a similar caliber. Think of it as a dress rehearsal. At the very least, you’re practicing how to respond to questions, objections and feedback so that you won’t make a fool of yourself on national TV. Best case scenario, you’re taking a great plan out for a test run.

    Remember, this means knowing your numbers like the back of your hand. It should go without saying that any entrepreneur should know their numbers inside and out. The Sharks will expect you to know how the numbers work and how their investment will make an impact.  When I appeared on Shark Tank, we were talking about numbers and data a lot. And that’s what got them to be very comfortable.  It proved that I knew what I was doing.

  2. Know Your Secret Sauce
    The Sharks like to invest in a product, but they also like to invest in the entrepreneur. You have to not only have a great product, but you have to be unique and have a special expertise. If you just have one or the other, they aren’t going to bite. Spend some time thinking about what sets you and your brand apart from your competitors and figure out how to flaunt it.

    For example, when I was on the show, Mark Cuban told me, “If you had come in here and asked me for 50 grand to be partners, I would have done it in a heartbeat.” For him, he wasn’t looking for the company I had built, it wasn’t a huge value to him. He was more interested in the knowledge I’ve built selling on Amazon. You need to know your secret sauce, or what sets apart you and your business.

  3. Have An Understanding of the Sharks’ Portfolios
    Instead of “selling” to the Sharks, convince them to see your business the way you do.  When this is your approach, understanding what they are likely looking for is important. What is unique or valuable to them? If you can find out what they want and need in their portfolio of businesses, it’s going to be easier to figure out how your business would fit into the picture.

Once you’ve positioned your company to have synergy with the rest of their portfolio, the language and messaging that you use in your pitch will be that much more effective. 

Written by Seneca Hampton.
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Seneca Hampton
Seneca Hampton is an entrepreneur with multiple 7-8 figure businesses, from eCommerce to Logistics, Consulting, and Speaking. Seneca's recent appearance on ABC's Shark Tank demonstrates how he built Hampton Adams, an online eCommerce-based business that serves a rapidly growing customer base.

Seneca Hampton is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through LinkedIn.