Paul Boross

Member Article

Tips for taming the dragons

Paul Boross is the “Pitch Doctor“ and shares his expertise in the art of communication.

I’ve been helping professionals to develop their pitches for 25 years, and in that time I have seen a huge range of approaches. The first Dragon’s Den episode of this series is no exception, with each potential entrepreneur trying something a different to get the dragons’ attention.

Here I unpack the good, the bad and the ugly to show you some tips to tame the hungry dragons.

Tip 1: Attitude.

The first to keep in mind is that pile of money that they have in front of them should indicate that they really do want to invest. I watch some people enter the den with an attitude that screams – ‘I’m sure they won’t like me or my product and they won’t want to invest in little me’. Remember; they have come to invest and to be impressed .The dragons invest in people who believe in themselves. Show a positive attitude and they will listen intently.

Tip 2: Be succinct

If there is one thing that is guaranteed to get a dragon breathing fire it is someone who waffles on and takes an age to get to the point while not having a grip on the numbers. On the first show we watch a woman called Bea ‘winging it’ about her hair extensions company. Bare in mind that her naiveté showed weakness to the extent that four of the dragons in turn quickly said “I’m out”. It was only Hilary DeVey’s exceptional empathy that eventually gave a chance and got her an investment. However, it was at four times the amount of equity she had originally wanted to give. The Dragons are busy people. Know your numbers and then chunk your thoughts down and give them smart bite-sized verbal treats.

Tip 3: Look the part

There has been considerable social science research into how long we take to make a decision about people. It’s between two and three seconds. So when anyone walks into the den the dragons are, consciously or unconsciously, making instant decisions about them. It certainly didn’t escape the dragon’s notice that all the Skinny Dip boys came to the den wearing suits and ties. In terms of psychology, James, Richard and Lewis had already ticket the first pitch box and understood the essential pitch protocol that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. If you want people to invest in you make sure that your look investible.

Tip 4: Be passionate

One thing that you couldn’t fault inventor Clay O’Shea on was his passion for his Abspack. Had it not been for his passion, I believe that he would have been dismissed from the den pretty early in the process. However, his passion kept the Dragons interested and amused and they gave him every chance.There is a saying in psychology that ’if you want anyone to go into any state, you have to go into that state first.

If you want people to be passionate and enthusiastic about your product – you need to first display all the signs of passion and enthusiasm yourself.

Tip 5: Be realistic and flexible

If you come into den with an unrealistic valuation of your business you had better be prepared to watch all the dragons breathe fire. When Adam ‘Send My Bag’ Ewart came up with his unrealistically high valuation it was a high risk strategy which spectacularly backfired.

Contrast that with the Skinny Dip guys who came up with perfectly formed answers about “not being adverse to change” that had Theo Paphitis beaming and clapping saying it was “the best answer he had heard in the den.” When you enter someone’s domain you have to respect them and their rules. Having realistic numbers and a flexible attitude will work wonders with the famous five.

Tip 6: Understand your U.S.P

If you want to succeed you not only need to be special but you also have to show that what you have is special. The people who win in the den all tend to understand what differentiates their product from the rest. If a dragon says “anyone can duplicate this product” it generally means that your mate downstairs should start to call you a taxi. As charming as Clay O’Shea was, there was no way back for him once Peter Jones pointed out this key flaw. Do you homework about your product. Ask yourself the simple question ‘Could anyone make this product?’ If the answer is yes, you might want to think about coming up with something else.

Every series Dragon’s Den shows us, time after time, that there is no set formula for the pitch, but there is a core of information that the dragons need, every time. Yes, they like to be entertained once in a while, they like to be engaged, and they like to be surprised. But above all, they want to make an investment.
It’s exactly what they’ve been waiting for.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Paul Boross .

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