Beginning entrepreneurs have asked us if pitching a product to a major retailer like Walmart is like being in the Shark Tank. Not even close. If you are in the Shark Tank and have five sharks staring you in the face, you have a different kind of pitch problem than when you are selling a retailer.
The Shark Tank is a unique, artificial situation. First and foremost, it’s entertainment. Pitching a major retailer is all business.In a retail buying office, you will never pitch a group of buyers with different personalities and agendas competing for attention. Buyers don’t have grand titles like “Mr. Wonderful” or “The Queen of QVC.” Most buyers are regular folks working for a salary and doing their best.
On Shark Tank, it’s not unusual for three sharks to pose different questions simultaneously and get their noses bent out of shape if you don’t address them first. Each one sees something different and their questions represent different needs.
And remember, these sharks are not buying products for their store, they are deciding whether to invest their money in your company. They want to know about your profit margins and long-term growth plans. Retailers don’t care about that.
In a pitch meeting with a retailer, your questions come one at time. At Walmart you meet the buyer in a room about the size of a modest walk-in closet. Your buyer is not a celebrity and is not weighing an investment in your enterprise. She, or he, is imagining how your product fits into her store, if it will wow her customers and if she can get it at the right price.
You don’t need to put on a show. Unless you have a complex line of products and dozens of SKU’s (stock keeping units) you won’t need a slide deck. All you need to bring to a pitch meeting is a product that fits her customer and respect for her time.
If you need to demonstrate your product, you might need a video, and you will need a sell sheet to leave behind. There are no cameras, no hot lights, and over the past 40 years we have never encountered a buyer who called us cockroaches or said we were “dead to them.” So don’t worry. Retail store buyers are sharks when they’re on the job, but just the people who live next door to you on weekends.