I love our Australian Sharks in Network Ten’s Shark Tank and you can learn a lot from their decision making.

Andrew Banks’s urbane style appears a second away from saying ‘Come, come, Mr Bond, you get as much pleasure out of making a killing as I do’

Queensland’s Steve Baxter’s warmth belies that he looks like the kindly, younger brother of Wolf Creek’s Mick Taylor.

Janine Allis’s smiling pitch assassinations are masterful and John McGrath quashes the idea that Real Estate people don’t have a heart.

Naomi Simson is the voice of Aussie common sense, even if it channels Julia Gillard when it’s time to say ‘Oim out’.

However, these seasoned, successful, single wardrobe wearing multi-millionaires would have you believe that their decisions come down to getting a serious return on their investment based  a lot on numbers together with the perceived passion of the business owner.

Perhaps not.

Here’s why and the significance for you in your pitches.

Numbers aren’t the magic solution.

 Putting aside the funsters who couldn’t count to 21 unless they were naked, there have been plenty of pitches for reasonable businesses where the requested investment wasn’t too high, the presentation was professional and the valuation modest enough to comfort the most anxiety ridden bean counter.

Yet they didn’t get a single Shark’s money.


The Sharks couldn’t be stuffed working with something not sexy enough.

Most people (except for Naomi) thought a business selling Pegs with a hook was about as exciting as visiting your ex-partner’s Nanna.

The Sharks have limited time and the cost of mentoring was greater than the raw numbers in the business.

Let’s face it, some people could suck the energy out of a room as soon as they walk in.

There have been nine times already when a Shark has said something like ‘It would help if you listened’

(Do your clients think you are coachable or a pain and difficult to deal with?)

The Sharks liked the presenter, but didn’t ‘loooove them’.

Not fickle. Practical, given the amount of time they’ll spend together.

So it isn’t just about the numbers.


It is or isn’t ‘Them’.

 Janine is drawn to food and beverage businesses like a half price Jimmy Choo sale.

Apart from a weird bottletop thingy, Andrew seems more interested in eating the food than investing in it.

Everyone blinked at a baby showering chair except John McGrath, the Real Estate guy who knows what really happens in rental and new properties.

Even the emotionally charged Disabilities Based Child Care Centre only received two offers out of five because certain Sharks felt they weren’t best fit.

If it’s not ‘them’ they won’t do it, no matter what the spreadsheet looks like.

So, what does all this mean for your pitches?

Your pitches can learn more from Shark Tank than passionate presentation skills and getting the numbers right.

Your clients are like Sharks.

Base camp is getting the numbers of the deal right, the ROI, the cost/benefit story.

Presenting persuasively and engagingly is important but only the next rung up.

The really great pitches tap deep in to the history, patterns, egos, personalities and emotional peccadillos of their clients.

Great pitches are steeped in emotionally connected strategies for individuals, not business to business strategy.

Great strategists know that if the client has never bought high end consulting services before, they need to come up with a tonne of proof and comfort to assuage ‘we don’t normally do this’

Great Pitch Leaders have learned how to sell Transition from their experience watching deals sour despite making ‘business sense’ because the client couldn’t be stuffed transitioning from one supplier to the other.

Next time you watch Shark Tank, note what you think really drove one person’s decision over another.

Then look at your own upcoming deals and ask yourself about your strategies.

After all, you don’t want your new, high potential client saying ‘I’m Out’

Elliot Epstein is a leading Pitch Consultant, Keynote Speaker, Corporate Trainer who gets sales results rapidly.

He has coached and trained high profile corporates globally in presenting, selling, negotiating and pitching.

He has spoken at over 1500 conferences and workshops for leading companies such as HP, SEEK, Avaya, Hitachi , Computershare and CUB.


If you would like to improve your win rate (our clients’ rate is 79% over 10 years) on highly contested, competitive bids,

Email directly elliote@salientcommunication.com.au

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