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For the last few years, Shark Tank has been a hit among the nation’s TV viewers, and it’s easy to see why. Every week, hardworking entrepreneurs go before a panel of business moguls in the hopes of taking their venture to the next level. Each success story leaves the audience with that “anything is possible” sentiment that drives so many inventors to take their idea from concept to consumer. The million-dollar question, quite literally, is “What does it take to make the perfect pitch?”

Of course, this question isn’t exclusive to the televised success of Shark Tank participants. If you own a business, knowing how to successfully pitch it could mean the difference between absolute success and failure. Ultimately, most advisers will tell you that you simply need to be “prepared,” and they’re right.

However, how you prepare and what guides those decisions is what really matters. Consider the following tips to create a strong pitch for your business.

1. Develop a Solid Business Plan

A solid business plan made the top of this list for a reason: It’s that important. In one episode of Shark Tank, Mark Cuban — successful businessman, investor and Shark Tank staple — scolds two contestants for coming in with the “worst presentation ever.” Why? Their pitch didn’t include even a hint of a well-thought-out business plan.

A business plan proves that you’ve done market research and answered the who, what, when, where, why and how of your business. When you pitch your business, you’ll need to be prepared to answer in-depth questions about everything from marketing initiatives to production and delivery plans. If your answers are vague, the chance of success will be low.

2. Address the Need

The pitches that show products or services as meeting a perceived need, as opposed to only a want, are consistently the most successful, according to Bill Murphy, a contributing author for Inc. Magazine, an entrepreneur and self-proclaimed Shark Tank addict who analyzed 377 pitches that appeared on the show.

This is particularly true if you pitch your business as one that addresses a mass-market need such as food or clothing. When it comes to these items, the market is often oversaturated, and you’ll need to distinguish your product or service from the rest. The unique need your idea meets is where you will find your success.

3. Have a Story

If you’ve tuned in to Shark Tank at any point during its eight-season run, it’s likely that you’ve been moved, or at least reacted, to a product pitch or two. That’s not because the entrepreneur hopefuls are limiting their pitches to just the facts. Successful product pitches include the story behind the product, and in doing so, they are in a sense bringing their products to life.

Stories show development, success, determination, market research, credibility, etc., and when accompanying your well-crafted idea, they can add a human appeal that’s needed when you pitch your business.

4. Practice Your Pitch

Never go in without practicing. Ever. Practice in front of a mirror, convince friends and family to lend you their ears (and eyes), recite your pitch in your car on your commute … It doesn’t matter how you practice, just that you practice. You may be the most self-assured, confident, well-researched entrepreneur with a solid business plan and a great story, but if you don’t practice before you pitch your business, you’re doing a major disservice to yourself.

Practicing will help you identify gaps in your pitch, efficiently incorporate any props you have and ultimately increase your confidence during delivery.

5. Be Confident

Whether consciously or subconsciously, people react to the level of confidence, or lack thereof, that someone exudes. When it comes to how you pitch your business, this is absolutely true. Investors at all levels of commerce, including Shark Tank, expend capital to products and services they feel confident about. If you don’t feel confident when giving your pitch, it’s highly unlikely they will either.

Stand up tall, use strong language and diction, keep your head up, smile, use your hands, and be proud. All of these, when paired with the tips above, may help increase the likelihood of success.

In the hunt for the perfect pitch, it’s likely that you’ll find multiple suggestions and tips on how to obtain the funding you need, but at the heart of each and every one of those, you’ll find that preparation is a key component. Though you might not be pitching in front of the Shark Tank audience, you should treat your pitch as if you are because your product’s future depends on it.

[Editor’s Note: Having good credit can be instrumental when it comes to financing your business, because many lines of credit, including business credit cards, require a personal guarantee. You can view two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.]

Image: Boogich

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