I was watching Shark Tank last night and one of the teams pitching the sharks was floundering.
Made up of two young, enthusiastic Silicon Valley types, the team focused its pitch on the features of its breakthrough brain supplement, which amounted to little more than a coffee-flavored sugar cube.
Words like “L-Theanine” and phrases like “placebo-controlled” liberally peppered their presentation. Lori later confessed to rolling her eyes back in her head at all the scientific phraseology they used. “I didn’t understand anything you were saying,” she added.
As they launched into their third round of explaining how amazing their product is, Mark finally stopped them.
“Listen guys,” he said. “You need to tell us your story. I don’t care about all the features of your thing-a-ma-jig. Tell me your story.”
They looked like two kids who just got caught sneaking back into the dorm past curfew and hadn’t bothered to solidify their excuse on the way in. Because the show is edited, I don’t know how much time elapsed between Mark’s request and their response. What the viewing audience saw was this.
After a beat or two, the camera zoomed in on one of the guys who stated (yet again!) a previous feature of the product and then tacked on the word “story” at the end of his sentence the way you might grab a Snicker’s bar impulsively as you go through the grocery store checkout. Despite claims to the contrary, both leave you unsatisfied.
More eye rolling ensued, only this time, all the sharks participated.
“Guys,” Mark said, exasperated. “This isn’t going to work for me. I’m out.”
The rest of the sharks weren’t far behind him.
Learn How to Tell Your Story
Learning how to tell your story is a fundamental part of doing business today. It is no longer optional. EVERY business needs to get this piece down whether you appear on Shark Tank or not. This video supports my point:
Getting to the heart of your story requires answering some basic yet powerful questions.
To do this exercise, you will need your favorite writing utensil (pen, pencil, keyboard, finger) and favorite type of writing platform (e.g. journal, notebook, moleskin, napkin, notes app on your Smartphone) PLUS 20-60 minutes of uninterrupted time. Everyone is different so I won’t suggest finding a secluded place with zero distractions as I recognize some people do their best work in a noisy space like a coffee shop or subway train.
Here are 3 simple steps for how to tell you story:
Step 1. Answer these questions:
What is your business/product/gadget/service about?
Who is your business/product/gadget/service for? (What’s in it for them?
Why should anyone care so much about your business/product/gadget/service?
Step 2. Take your answers and combine them into one page of narrative.
No need to go on and on for pages and pages. The key to a great story within the context of pitching is brevity. Hit the right angles in as few words as possible and you will score. Think more Twitter and less Tolstoy.
Step 3. Practice that son of a bitch. Then practice some more.
Just because you have something written down doesn’t mean you can recite it. Your story needs to become second nature to you, at the ready when an opportunity to share it comes up. Don’t be lazy and think you “know” your story now that it’s on paper or in a file somewhere on your laptop or Smartphone. Do the behind-the-scenes work to own your story in a way 99.9% of people never own anything related to their work.
The Moral of This Story
The moral of this story is, if you are in business, any kind of business, you must learn how to tell your story. It is the focal point of who you are and what you do.
Sadly, more aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners never get their story straight and thus, lose out on opportunities big and small.
Sometimes in front of Mark Cuban and millions of Shark Tank enthusiasts.
While most business owners will never face the sharks, they are in front of potential investors all day long. Why not take the time to learn how to tell your story so well, they can’t do anything but say yes to you the next time you ask?