“When someone tells you that something can’t be done, all it really means is that it hasn’t been done before.” ~ Lori Greiner
The digital age has transformed how business is conducted in powerful ways. Thanks to new technology, more educational resources, and alternative fundraising options, it’s now easier than ever to start a business. With so many people launching new startups, savvy business investors like Shark Tank’s Lori Greiner are speaking out and advising entrepreneurs on how to be successful in this digital age.
I had the unique opportunity to interview the “Queen of QVC” about how entrepreneurship has evolved, mistakes to avoid when pitching investors, and her surprising advice for women entrepreneurs.
Greiner took advantage of the digital stage early on when she launched “Lori Greiner’s Clever and Unique Creations” on QVC in 2000. “There are so many venues that can play a role in your selling strategy, but in my opinion, there is simply no better selling medium for a new inventor than a shopping channel like QVC,” Greiner told me. “Once you know how to market something out of a certain medium, then it becomes easier to continue marketing other products out of that same medium.”
Using her flair to communicate and present well on air, Greiner leveraged her QVC success into becoming a Shark Tank investor and a mentor and role model for entrepreneurs worldwide.
“The emphasis on entrepreneurship has grown tremendously over the last five years,” says Greiner. “Everybody can relate to having an idea they think could be worth millions, but several years ago people probably never seriously considered that it would be possible to get it off the ground, but now we’re showing that it can happen.”
What makes a great Shark Tank pitch?
Having witnessed hundreds of pitches on Shark Tank and thousands personally, Greiner concisely revealed what constitutes a great pitch. “Be energetic, captivating, honest and informative, but brief. A great pitch is when a person can describe what their business or product is within two sentences,” Greiner advised. “Draw the investors in with enthusiasm and passion. Remember that whoever you’re pitching has spent either little or no time thinking about your product, which you may think is the greatest on the market. Be succinct and to the point, but make it exciting and informative.”
When I asked Greiner if she felt that investing in the entrepreneur was more important than investing in the product, she responded, “I look at both the product being pitched as well as the entrepreneur pitching it, as they are equally important to me. For the product or business, I look for several different things…
- Something that has broad mass appeal
- Something that solves a problem
- Something that is unique or different
- Something that can be made at an affordable price
“For the entrepreneur, I love to see someone who is energetic, passionate, honest and driven. I want to feel that they will do whatever it takes to make their business a success,” Greiner said.
3 biggest pitch mistakes
As viewers know, negotiations on Shark Tank can quickly get heated and, even though the drama makes for great entertainment, I was curious to know how those moments can affect the relationship with the entrepreneur after the deal is made with the investor.
“Heated moments can come out in a positive way for the entrepreneur,” claims Greiner. “I think so because you always learn from your experiences. There are always valuable lessons to learn from every experience, and I think that even though sometimes the questions from the Sharks or what happens can seem quite difficult, I think you will walk away learning a great deal and correcting what went wrong. You learn the most from what you consider failures or difficulties. I look at them as the greatest and most valuable lessons. There are no failures in life, just great lessons.”
When asked what she believes is the biggest mistake people make when pitching investors, Greiner shared not one, but three fundamental mistakes every entrepreneur should avoid.
1. Being unprepared
According to the QVC queen, the biggest mistake individuals make is that they don’t know everything there is to know about their own product and business. “You should know your product or business inside and out, and be prepared to answer any question about it,” says Greiner. “Whether the question involves finances, manufacturing, inventory, or processes — you should know every single detail.” Not being prepared, Greiner says, is her biggest pet peeve. “It shows a lack of commitment and caring and is reflective of their work ethic. It also lets me know that they would probably not be successful.”
2. Lacking enthusiasm and passion
“I’ve seen the greatest ideas fall completely flat when presented by someone who lacks enthusiasm,” explains Greiner. “But, on the other hand, I’ve seen great entrepreneurs convince others to buy or invest in things that they would never have under any other circumstances, but for their passion.”
When I asked if there was a single pitch or experience that impacted her, she replied, “The craziest pitch was that squirrel zapper! Michael DeSanti, an aerospace professional turned entrepreneur, created a squirrel-proof bird feeder that deters squirrels from eating bird food by delivering a harmless static shock.”
“Ryan ‘Cowboy’ Ehmann was one of the funniest and most crazy,” Greiner also recalled. “I couldn’t figure out what he was selling, and Daymond John gave him a deal for his rodeo-themed Cowboy gym — go figure!”
3. Having an arrogant attitude
“Remember, if you’re trying to convince someone to invest in you, they need to not only like what you’re asking them to invest in, but they also need to like you and believe in you,” Greiner told me.
“If entrepreneurs don’t listen to questions asked during a pitch, they aren’t going to hear you down the road, and they’re not going to be a good partner.” Greiner also mentioned that it’s a big turnoff if they appear difficult to work with. “It doesn’t matter how great a business idea or product is, if the entrepreneur is going to be a problem, nothing is worth it.”