Dragons Dent more ill-prepared

Still addicted to my favourite show, more on frolics from inside the Dragons’ Den.  I thought I was going to miss it, as over the preceeding weekend a London-Summer thunderstorm saw lightning knacker my aerial, but rescue came from the bbc broadband offerings which, although lamentably sparse and currently impossible to get onto my pda, do indeed have the full 60 minutes of fun.  Five sales lessons emerged from this episode:

Demo Disaster – Do you need to demo something as part of your pitch?  The first guy was peddling a helpline to get you around London quicker, and confidently handed over a phone to Dragon Peter.  Yet no-one picked up.  Disaster!  He was battered after this, and the message is clear, if you’re going to demo something, you gotta make sure it works, and if something can go wrong – it will, so prepare for the eventuality.

Condescending Preaching – And then there was the sun lounger towel-cum-beach bag.  The mom did the demo, the pop the chat.  Well rehearsed, so started well.  Yet Dragon Theo had sold something similar 8 years before and there was no market.  To try and dig themselves out their hole, they majored on potential cruise liner contracts, but handled every question by beginning something like “you see, in business you find…..” and passed on general tips before getting anywhere near an answer.  I was cowering behind the sofa after the second such response, and the Dragons slaughtered him.  After they even told him to lose the habit, he continued to do it!  Avoid!

Money Back – One question I loved to hear was “how am I going to get my money back?”. It made me realise that you can easily say this in pitches, by turning it around and saying to prospects, “…and how you get your money back is….” and hopefully then some.

Risk Focus – In my experience sales people are next to useless when it comes to negotiation.  Yet Dragon Theo used a belter of an approach when holding firm on equity stake percentages.  He justified his stance by listing all the areas of risk he considered existed, coupled with liberal spreading of that emotive word ‘risk’ itself throughout his answer.  Again, turning this around towards the angle of risk removal is a sales winner.

Failure Reasons – Chairs edged forward during the sonar man-overboard pitch which appeared to be a patented life saver.  Dragon Deborah, unfamiliar with the market, asked a terrific question, along the lines of “what would make it not work”.  This is a question I feel you’ve always got to be prepared for when pitching.  I’ve only been asked this once, by an IT & Telecoms Director at serviced office leaders Regus.  It took me by surprise then and I reacted just as this fella did, by pausing and quizzickly saying “well nothing really”.  Not I must admit, a textbook response, but if it happens again, I’ll nail it don’t you worry 🙂

And on a personal note, I now deduce the mix of Dragons is interesting this season for one reason. Although I’ve not yet personally made my way to match these guys (I hope that day is not far off 😉 ) I can say with confidence that from a business perspective, four of them are light on introducing earth-shattering wisdom.  For instance the annoyingly token woman Deborah (I s’pose a ‘mumtrepreneur’ is out of vogue) is actually the most traditionally masculine, without an ounze of genuine compassion for or interest in the individuals pitching, she only seems out for herself, and her regular disdain and lack of passion irritates in a way that the inventor of the posture, Simon Cowell avoids.  Even Dragon Peter (who I’ve learned is on the American Inventor panel as well) so good in the first series, now makes sure he comes up with a pun-filled insult at every turn.   The real star for me though, is newbie Richard Farleigh.  Unfortunately, he happens to be an Aussie, but putting aside this poor choice of birthplace, he shines I believe, precisely because he is not an entrepreneur.  Making wads from fund management, he ‘fell into’ investing in small businesses and has developed a niche for himself with what he calls ‘disruptive technologies’.  The fact that he has never sweated over mortgaging everything on a business idea and start-up, merely investing in other’s ideas, adds to the show in a way that aforementioned Cowell does, despite the similar fact he’s never sang behind a mic on stage and released his own ode. Let’s hear more Richard!

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