With a nod to ABC-TV’s “Beyond the Shark Tank,” a new series that follows the outcomes after entrepreneurs strike a deal on “Shark Tank,” Professionally Speaking follows up on the outcome of Tom+Chee’s successful 2013 pitch to the Sharks.
When you’re facing a high-stakes presentation opportunity, getting it right can be a life-changing event.
That’s what happened to Corey Ward and Trew Quackenbush, founders of the hit grilled cheese and tomato soup restaurant chain Tom+Chee. After starting with a food tent in Cincinnati and building their quirky idea into 2 thriving locations, in 2013 Corey and Trew found themselves in front of ABC’s Shark Tank moguls with an opportunity to convince the Sharks to invest $600,000 in their growing business.
Talk about high stakes! In spite of the pressure, the budding entrepreneurs hit the mark with their smart pitch and down-to-earth presentation style, and walked away with the cash. Today, Corey and Trew have opened 33 new restaurants with the help of Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran, including one in my own backyard of Chapel Hill, NC. The exposure on Shark Tank and other TV shows has helped Tom+Chee gain recognition as one of “25 brands to watch” at the 2013 Brand Innovators Made In America Summit.
I remember being thoroughly impressed with Trew and Corey’s sales pitch 2 years ago, so I was excited to have the opportunity to speak with the owners of the new Chapel Hill franchise, Craig and Scheryl McDavid, and their daughter Jessica McDavid, the GM of the new restaurant. According to Jessica, having the chance to work side-by-side with the Tom+Chee founders was “an awesome experience.”
5 High Stakes Presentation Lessons from Tom+Chee
So, what exactly did Corey and Trew do right that convinced the Sharks to invest in their budding business and help them grow it into a rapidly expanding franchise empire?
Watch for these 5 lessons that you can use to up the ante in your next high-stakes presentation:
1. Don’t let them see you sweat. It must have felt mighty hot in the tank, but notice how both Corey and Trew kept their cool. They were clear about what they had and what they wanted to accomplish, and sharp enough to match each Shark’s rebuttal despite the heat. Their ability to stay cool under pressure allowed them to seal the deal with real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran and entrepreneur/Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and walk away with $600K.
2. Be shark-centric. Smart entrepreneurs appearing on Shark Tank know that their “pitch” is not about their great product; instead, it’s about how the sharks can make money. For Corey and Trew, it was not only the delicious food, but sales exceeding $1M in the past year that got the attention of the Sharks. Anyone wanting to convince the Sharks to invest must be prepared with the information that matters to them:
— What does your product sell for?
— What are your sales?
— How much money did you make?
Knowing your audience and understanding what moves them can make the difference between walking out a winner and being eaten alive.
3. Make a personal connection. Corey and Trew were able to use their own personal story to illustrate their brand. Like many hopefuls on Shark Tank, their story was one of families emptying their bank accounts to reach for the American Dream. But they used that story along with their folksy delivery to convince the Sharks of the value of their goal to create a place for families to “eat what’s fun” at a reasonable price.
How can you develop your personal story and use that to accomplish your goals? For inspiration, think about what you want to accomplish, how you got interested, and what hurdles you’ve had to overcome.
4. Show as well as tell. The Sharks love it when entrepreneurs give them a chance to touch, feel, or consume a product. As Corey and Trew’s presentation began, the Sharks initially laughed at their ask of $600K. But those doubts quickly turned into “yums” as each of them bit into Tom+Chee’s award-winning Grilled Cheese Donut. Letting the Sharks experience what makes Tom+Chee special turned the tide of the pitch.
You can do the same by thinking of ways to let your audience experience what you’re talking about. Even if you can’t give them a sandwich to taste, you can get your listeners involved by asking them a question, soliciting volunteers or inviting someone to share an example.
5. Make it memorable with a strong finish. Have you noticed how every “Shark Pitch” ends with a resounding call to action? While some of them may sound hokey, they work! Trew and Corey did a great job of summarizing the value of their business. But then they took their closing to the next level by promising, “Whoever makes this deal is not only getting a good opportunity but we’re going to name a sandwich after you!” And sure enough, you can visit a Tom+Chee and order a Barbara Blue (blueberry compote + ham + brie + doughnut) for $5.49.
To make an impact on your audience, be sure to conclude your presentation with the same strength and determination. Consider a closing that refers back to or compliments your opener, ending on a strong and memorable note and leaving no doubt about the purpose of your presentation.
Without a doubt, those Sharks are a tough crowd to please. Chances are, you might be facing an equally challenging audience with big-time consequences on the line. These lessons from Tom+Chee can help you come out a winner from your next high-stakes presentation.