December 15, 2014

5 Sales Lessons from ABC’s “Shark Tank”

12.15 shark

Photo credit:

I’m not usually a big fan of reality television, but I’m guilty of making a significant exception for anything competition-based. I occasionally enjoy light-hearted competitions like The Voice and Biggest Loser, but my favorite show by leaps and bounds is Shark Tank. ABC’s big hit, which aired its 100th episode last month, features real entrepreneurs pitching their product and service ideas to a panel of successful business executives willing to invest in new companies. An investment from a shark could make or break the lives of these fascinating people, many of whom have spent years creating a product and more often than not, invested their own life savings, too.

Of the group of five rotating judges that frequent the show, including NBA Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and the Queen of QVC Lori Greiner, I most enjoy Robert Herjavec. Herjavec is the founder and current CEO of the Herjavec Group, Canada’s largest IT security provider. The son of an immigrant family, he knows what its like to work hard and often promotes the show by sharing bits of his own knowledge and advice. He was recently recorded teaching a group of young entrepreneurs about these five classic sales techniques:

  1. Standing Room Only: Explain that the product is in great demand and that people are lining up by the dozens to purchase it. No one will want to be the only guy around without your life-changing product.
  2. Artisan: Speak highly of the quality, emphasizing the art and craftsmanship of your beautiful product.
  3. Compliment: While pitching your product or service, point out the customer’s great qualities.
  4. Concession: Offering an incentive, or bundling products with a purchase, is a frequent way of closing the deal.
  5. Best Time: Create a sense of urgency by conveying how there is “no time like the present” to buy your product!

Many times, you may not have the opportunity to use one or more of these techniques in a full sales pitch. Instead, you might find yourself with a 30 second opportunity to make a sale. Herjavec has three tips for the perfect elevator pitch:

  1. Make an Impact: Don’t be forgettable.
  2. Tell a Story: Make the pitch personal and tell a complete story.
  3. Know your Facts: Be prepared for any questions by knowing all the facts.

Besides all the knowledge I soak up from Herjavec and the other sharks, my favorite part of the show is the follow-up segments that detail what happened to the entrepreneurs after they received an investment. I must not be alone in loving this piece, as ABC just announced an upcoming spin-off of these stories called “Beyond the Tank.” I can’t wait.