Kunal Mehta
Guest Article

Swimming in the 'Shark Tank' for lessons

... and sharks are not as gentle and docile as dolphins.

If you want to swim with the sharks, then you better be a good swimmer because sharks are not as gentle and docile as dolphins and one wrong move can prove fatal.

This brings me to one of the shows that I love - Shark Tank. People who have watched the series will understand this article better.

Swimming in the 'Shark Tank' for lessons

Kunal Mehta

Now in its 10th season, the show has grown with every season. This show is all about dreams. A person dreams, comes to the show to sell his/her dream and the sharks then invest in his/her business if they see merit and value in the dream.

I believe that there are lessons in this show for everyone, whether you are a businessman, venture capitalist, entrepreneur, marketer or even a student.

1. Presentation: One of the key lessons that you learn from watching Shark Tank is the different styles and ways of presenting your idea. Some present their ideas as they would in a corporate Board Room, whereas others go over-the-top and present their ideas complete with playacting, costumes and voice modulation. The lesson here is that there is no right or wrong way of presenting, as long as you can tell the audience your story and make them feel involved.

2. Negotiation: Life comes with situations where you must negotiate. The amount of negotiation may be little or a lot, but if you do not want to be short-changed, you should have some negotiation skills that involve knowing when to draw the line, when the other person is bluffing and when they will take the bait. Shark Tank teaches amazing skills in negotiation, not only from the sharks, who are experts at this but also from people selling their ideas. The best parts of the show are when either of the two parties is raising or dropping the bait to see who falls first. It gives a good insight into human psychology and how desperation makes people do stupid things or how false bravado makes them miss their deals.

3. Innovation: The entire premise of this show is built around innovation. The sharks are not interested in investing in your business if you bring them run-of-the-mill stuff which does not have a competitive advantage or where the barriers of business are too low. This show opens your mind to the world of innovation and the kind of ideas that people are coming up with. It changes your perspective on categories and makes you think on a different dimension.

4. Consumer Insight: The most innovative idea is a waste if not built on strong consumer insight. Every idea should solve a problem/cater to a need in a consumer's life, even if the consumer is aware of their problem at that point of time or not. The kind of ideas that people come up with and the genesis behind them gives a fantastic lesson on how consumer insight can be mined. Sometimes, the insight that the presenter showcases on a category seems like an 'Aha' moment because it is so obvious and yet, it never struck you or any other company at the time.

5. Vision and Valuation: It is important to know your worth and for others to be able to see your worth. Shark Tank is a great place to see how people are able to carve out a vision, value themselves and then ask the sharks to invest in their vision. Sometimes the sharks agree with the vision and valuation; sometimes they do not and advice the presenters on what the right value should be. Some agree while others take it on the chin with a clear agenda to prove the sharks wrong.

6. Marketing: There are people on Shark Tank who come with sales figures already running in millions and it is a delight to hear their marketing approach on achieving those figures and reaching out to their audience. If you are smart, you can easily take some of those marketing ideas and adapt it to your own job or category.

7. Selling: Shark Tank also teaches you that you can still sell your idea or business even if you are a great salesperson, but not a great presenter. While a good presentation is normally a prerequisite, if that is not your forte, as long as you know your business and are able to serve your idea and passion to the sharks on a platter, their money is yours to grab. "I'm out" is one of the statements that no person presenting to the sharks ever wants to hear and only a good salesperson can avoid that.

(The author is global marketing communications manager, DSM Nutritional Products and former Nestlé and Britannia hand.)