Chris Westfall | From Stunt Man to National Elevator Pitch Champion, Shark Tank, and Beyond

Chris Westfall 9:40

What was so strange John, I found out about this contest on Twitter, which is saying something because I’ve got 1000s of followers on Twitter and to see a tweet. It’s kind of unusual, but I saw this tweet about this contest that was being launched and looking for the best two minute speech in the country the best elevator pitch And I’m so I click through and I read the rules of contest. And I had to record a two minute video and to enter the contest, and I posted the video online and I had to raise votes via social media. And it was a nationwide competition. So there were entrepreneurs and executives and people from academia from all over the country. And so I raised votes on social media. But John, I came in second place in the competition, I lost to an entrepreneur from Atlanta. And I thought, well, you know what, I’m glad I went through this experience. I’m glad that I got my story out there. And I went through the exercise, and I feel good about it, but and then my phone rang. And it was a guy by the name of Jeffrey Hayzlett, a friend of mine, who but I mean, he’s become a friend now. But he had put together the competition. And he had sponsored the whole thing. And he had put together a panel of judges. And he told me, he said, Chris, I wanted to reach out because I know you were a second place in the competition. But you’re first place with us. You’re the national elevator pitch champion, congratulations. And they evaluated my video. And so anyway, from this place, where he called me and let me know that I was the national elevator pitch champion. That was when everything changed in my business. And that recognition brought brought some attention to me that, that forced me to think about what it is that I had done, you know, how did I do this? What? What was the engineering behind what I created, and from that place, it launched my career in terms of speaking and in terms of the consulting work and the coaching work that I do, because it’s all focused on helping people to communicate more effectively.

John Corcoran 11:35

And I won’t make you rehearse or repeat the the pitch itself, but but break it down for us. What exactly was it that made it successful?

Chris Westfall 11:47

The pitch was all about how it’s not enough to have letters behind your name, PhD, JD CPA, that those letters and those recognitions aren’t the most important thing, if you can’t express yourself, and describe your value proposition in a way that’s meaningful. So John, it was really an elevator pitch about why you need an elevator pitch. Meta, kind of meta very

John Corcoran 12:14

meta, yeah. No wonder the committee loved it. Right. speaks to us.

Chris Westfall 12:21

He gets us. Yeah. So that was that was what it was about. And I still believe that to this day, I mean, look, there’s a lot of folks say, our elevator pitch, that’s kind of an outdated concept and stuff like that? Well, it is, if you’re trying to speechify someone into submission, or you know, trying to have a conversation, it isn’t appropriate. But if you understand that a persuasive conversation is something that we all need, then that’s that’s an elevator pitch, or let’s just call it the start of a conversation, that that can be really powerful, really persuasive, and quite frankly, really effective.

John Corcoran 12:55

Yeah, it’s really interesting people that that make those types of remarks like, Ah, I don’t believe in an elevator pitch is like the same people who say like, ah, email is dead or things like that, that like, well, it’s clearly it’s not, you know, yeah. What do you say to people and people say that to an elevator pitch, the lady who needs that anymore?

Chris Westfall 13:16

Meet me on the stairs, and let’s discuss. The thing is the elevator pitch. It’s just it’s a construct. It’s it’s just a formula, it’s a form. And while you may say, Oh, I don’t need an elevator pitch, what I would, what I would say to them is, is do you ever need to persuade anyone? Do you ever have ideas that you’d like to share? And you wish that those ideas could be more compelling? That you can be clear? Do you have a challenge describing anything in less than two minutes? I know a lot of people like that. Yeah, right. So so if the elevator pitch term is the challenge, then drop it, you know, call that rose by any other name, and see if it smells a sweet if it’s a persuasive conversation, a conversation around engagement, the conversation around clarity. I think that’s a conversation that everybody needs.

John Corcoran 14:07

Yeah, yeah. You’ve done a lot of work with clients helping them prepare to go on to shark tank and the Dragon’s Den, which is the equivalent in Canada, I think the inspiration, the original inspiration for shark tank, and different Shark Tank franchises, pick a few of those and share for us a little bit of what that work looks like from the inside. I’m

Chris Westfall 14:29

fascinated. Well, it’s a very interesting process getting on Shark Tank. And you know, there are, I think, I think there are over 100,000 applicants each year to be on the show, and depending on how many episodes they film, and how long the segments are and stuff like that you’re competing for, I think I saw one time it’s about maybe 100 to 108 slots, and not all of those get edited and show up on television. So it’s a very, very special mall window in order to be on the show. And I’ve, I’ve had the good fortune of working with a couple of clients and the process of getting on the show, you’re vetted by producers who are looking for not just viable business ideas, but they’re looking for good television. They’re looking for good TV, right. And so, you know, as a speaker, you know, what, what makes a good story for TV? And these producers certainly do. And so it’s about tuning the entrepreneurs for that the medium of television, as well as preparing them for the business concepts that they’re going to be asked to address. And I had a client who I worked with this past season on season 12. on Shark Tank, and what we did to prepare him for going on the show not only to work with him on his pitch, oh, and by the way that producers John, the producers had given him a lot of, I won’t say bad information, but when he pitched, he got a pitch like this. He was like, they told me to be high energy. And so I and I’m like, Whose voice is that man? Who are you? You know, and he realized it too. I mean, he shows me the video, he’s like, This isn’t me I’m, I’m a persona in this video, I want to be a person. When I’m on the set, I’m like, that’s the only way to do it. So worked with him on that, and got him to kind of dial it back so that he could find because he’s somewhat of a soft spoken guy. But even soft spoken guys have an energy that can be communicated, we tapped into that form. But the part where it got really interesting was I put together a panel of judges and their friends of mine, their investors and folks from the entertainment industry. And I put together a panel of sharks. And they were all given instruction. I have played their parts, I didn’t tell them about the business idea. So they came into it in a similar fashion. For the sharks on the show. It’s not exactly the same, but it was a similar fashion. And long story short, what happened was the, my client got into a bit of a given take negotiating a deal

John Corcoran 17:03

with it in the rehearsal here with your friend or her Okay, okay.

Chris Westfall 17:07

But John, here’s what’s intriguing. That’s exactly what happened on the show. With which of the sharks. Well, it turned out with Barbara Corcoran, okay. And in the episode, which aired on March 26. And by the way, this is the company’s name, I’ll say it it’s bunch bikes. And my client, his name’s Aaron Powell, terrific guy. And you can watch his episode. And Daymond John warns me says, you’re about to get into it with with Barbara. And of course, Aaron, he’s a very nice guy. And he’s like, Oh, come on. Welcome. Barbara say that would be, you know, troubling to me, nothing’s nothing’s gonna bother. Daymond. John was like, wait and see. And sure enough, she’s a tough negotiator. And so they went round and round. But John, we had, we had gone through a version of

John Corcoran 17:53

Bangkok just accent scenarios. Yeah, at that, I find that to be probably the most challenging element of the business is like, they throw out some numbers really quickly. And I’m sure they edit it down. But it just like you’re running the math in your head, and you’re thinking negotiation, some of there’s multiple sharks there that you have to worry about, you don’t want to offend them. Because you see that happen all the time in the show, like, if you push back too hard, then they walk away.

Chris Westfall 18:16

So true, but you’ve got to, that’s the two things you’ve got to know, you’ve got to know your business backwards and forwards, especially if you get into it like he had, he had some dead on his books that they they didn’t like, and he needed to address that. So he had to be very articulate around the puts and takes of his business. But then he also had to be an expert communicator, because you know, you’ve seen it a million times, people get defensive, and they lose, or they or they try to, you know, you know, there are things that the shark just won’t tolerate. And if you step on one of those landmines, and we talked through it in the coaching of the things to avoid, and how to address people in q&a, and how to address these sharks, because the pitches are one and QA, bottom line. I mean, a good pitch gets you in the door, and it gets people interested. And they say, Tell me more. But q&a is is when that’s when the rubber meets the road. And luckily for Aaron, I was very proud of what he did. He was able to create an unprecedented deal because not only did he do a deal with Barbara Corcoran, but Robert Herjavec also got in on the deal with Barbara and the thing that makes this deal unusual to sharks have paired up before, but Herjavec was not on the show. You came into the deal later. Really interesting. Yeah. Yeah. So Aaron got a two for one as play. She

John Corcoran 19:37

brought him in later. Well, he

Chris Westfall 19:39

wanted a piece of it. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Interesting. Come to find out. He’s actually a customer of the company. He’s got a I think he has kids that are twins. I don’t know how old they are. Bunch bikes is a perfect product for families. You can put your kids in the front of the bike and carry them around. It’s like a cart in the front of the bike and yeah, like Quick bike, and

John Corcoran 20:00

we had ones similarly, which I sold my man, my, my third got old enough to ride a bike. But yeah, similar idea like, you know, ride them around the front. That’s really cool. Did he avoid any land? Did you when you watch the recording afterwards or when you talk to him afterwards? Did you see him avoid landmines that as a result of your coaching? Like was there anything where he was able to sidestep something or address a question that he anticipated that he was prepared for? Well, you,

Chris Westfall 20:30

I could tell that he was nervous, at least the way that they cut it and the you know, the shots that they use and everything, I didn’t see all of the footage. But when I watched it, I could tell that he was nervous. And I hope he doesn’t mind me saying that. But also

John Corcoran 20:43

  1. Yeah, of course, who wouldn’t be? Wouldn’t be Yeah,

Chris Westfall 20:46

here’s the thing on top of the nerves, he knew what he was doing. And he, he was very clear headed. Because when you when you go through coaching, and if it’s really effective, what you learn is not tips and techniques you access and identity, and identity, that’s not about believing in yourself or being confident. It’s, it’s just knowing who you are and what you have to offer. And even when you’re nervous who you are and what you have to offer, it’s still there. And that was the thing that was so cool, was to see that come forward. And when it got heated with Barbara and it did, he he stood strong, and and you know what he used. And this is right out of the coaching what was so great to see, he used the superpower of authenticity, he came straight at it, he did not dance around it. They said you’ve got some debt here, we don’t understand where this is coming from. He says Let me explain it to you. And just like like honest, Abe, he’s like, this is the way that it works. And, and you can tell that he was I mean, he wanted the deal. But he was also like, Look, if this doesn’t feel right to you, I understand. And if you make me an offer, that doesn’t feel right to me, you need to understand, I’m going to walk away from that. And he was, I mean, there was a moment there where it’s like, is he going to push back from the table or the sharks, what’s going to happen. But luckily, they came together. And it was really exciting to see, that’s

John Corcoran 22:08

really cool. And before we move on, I want to talk about your book that is coming out in a bit. But any other case studies or stories of either clients that have been on Shark Tank or Dragons Den who you want to highlight or other pitch competitions,

Chris Westfall 22:25

just to say that I’ve worked with dozens of folks who have tried to get on the show, and you know, many, many are called but few are chosen. But the good news is, even if you don’t get on Shark Tank, there’s still a great opportunity for you to go to traditional investment markets. And, you know, Shark Tank is an important marketing play, by all means it’s also a source of capital, but the marketing impact of being on a national television show is really, really powerful. However, you can still go out and find the the fuel that you need for your business idea. And it’s like I say to my coaching clients, what’s the easiest way to make a million dollars? The answer is learn how to ask for it. And just helping people to engineer solutions that help them to do that. It’s been a big part of my coaching. I love the work.

John Corcoran 23:12

Yeah, yeah. And just a few other tips on that for those who do want to raise money. You know, especially in the context of today, we’re coming out of this pandemic. You know, life is changing, in many ways, their labor shortages. It’s just it’s an unusual time. We’re recording this late August 2021. What are you seeing that’s working well for your clients? And I realized that’s an extremely broad question. But you know, who are raising money today? What Works effect what’s effective?

Chris Westfall 23:44

Honesty, honesty and authenticity. If you hype, you’re dead, if you fake you’re dead, you will be found out. So that’s the thing that I think is so important and to have the courage to step into a conversation, whether it’s in front of sharks or in front of a classroom, for heaven’s sake, say the most honest thing that you can say what people are thinking, have the courage to talk about what’s on people’s minds, especially if what’s on their minds, is something that you can solve or something that you can help with a challenge that you can help them to overcome. The first step on that journey is coming at it from a place of authenticity, and an understanding how to how to talk about what other people are thinking about rather than than just being focused on your own entrepreneurial journey. So many times entrepreneurs they fall into the trap of speaking in first person, I mean my or first person plural, we us our you know, talking about what it is that they have done and what it is that they have gone through. And the coaching that I deliver a big part of it is making the second person first and second person is you. I don’t mean you, John or You the listener, I mean, you, you in general, you your audience, and, and helping my clients to focus on the sharks in the room, whether it’s really, you know, Mark Cuban and Daymond, John, or, or whoever it might be that you’re trying to persuade. How can you create connection and engagement by understanding, not just understanding your audience because everybody says I know your audience, but how about knowing, knowing that humanity inside of yourself and inside of others, and using that as a as a lever, as a lever, not in a way that’s manipulative, but in a way that creates connection. And there’s a there’s a science behind that, but But it’s that connection, that drives engagement that creates curiosity, and, and really points towards the expertise in the room, because you’ve seen people that go on Shark Tank, and the one that I love is they try to come out and act as if they are experts on wine. And Mr. Wonderful makes it a pet project to let them know that they aren’t. Yeah, so a big part of my coaching is how do you leverage the expertise in the room? How do you acknowledge the expertise in the room so that you can introduce your own, because if you don’t acknowledge the expertise in the room, it’s it’s like coming in and kicking the door down. And just by sheer force of will, I’m going to get people to give me seven figures worth of cash. That’s not how it works. That’s not how it works. Yeah. So that’s, I mean, those are kind of some broad, general terms of some of the things that I talk about with the coaching clients that I work with. But it’s, it’s a game of honesty, not hype. Yep. Yep.

John Corcoran 26:34

That’s great advice, um, easier. Creating Your Life, Your way is the name of the book, tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind that.

Chris Westfall 26:43

Easier is unlike anything that I’ve ever written before, John, the inspiration, it’s a simple one. The idea is that anything in life, anything can be made easier. Relationships, business partnerships, entrepreneurships, whatever the case may be, whatever ship you’re on, can be made easier. And, and I don’t mean to say that it can be made easy like fixing a rocket traveling through space, that’s not easy. But it can be made easier. And this book looks in the direction of how to make anything in life easier. And I originally set out to write a book of tips and techniques. And I, I just, it just felt so typical, it just felt like everything else on the shelf. And I said, What can I do to bring this story to life in a new way? And how can I tap into my experience to, to elevate this somehow out of the tips and techniques realm. And so what I did was I wrote a story, a story of a client, who wants to leave his job, is a corporate guy, he’s frustrated, he wants to quit, he doesn’t have the courage to do so he wants to start his own business. He’s not sure how to do that. So he hires a coach to get started. Little does he know that in five days, he’s going to be fired from his job. So the story turns into a tale of life after career death, basically, as this guy is fired, and he finds his way, through the most difficult professional circumstance that anyone can ever face. And the book does not have a tidy ending by any means. It’s not a Hollywood ending. It’s a little messy at the end, quite frankly, but it’s also easier. And in the course of the books, events, and the conversations that the client has with his coach, and the realizations and discoveries that he makes on his own, including the support of his family. He taps into a deeper understanding of his own human nature, and, and a way of looking at at life that makes everything easier.

John Corcoran 28:56

Yeah, well, after the last 18 months, we’ve all had, I think we could all use something that’s a little bit easier. So there may be a groundswell of demand for that particular book. I hope that it is for you for your sake. Let me ask you a last question. So I’m a big fan of gratitude. If you look around at your peers and contemporaries, contemporaries, others in your industry, could you respect who you admire who doing good work?

Chris Westfall 29:21

Well, there are a few people that I really admire. There are many people that I really admire. But someone who I think is is doing some great work is an author and a speaker by the name of Phil M. Jones. He’s based in New York City area, and he is the author of a book called exactly what to say. And it is a terrific book about words and phrases and approaches to the persuasive conversation that I have found to be very, not interesting as the wrong word. intriguing, but, but impactful and so I want to give a shout out to Phil Jones see as a colleague and a friend, and send my respect as well for that book because exactly what to say, is a title that I think everyone should pick up. It’s a tiny book. It’s a short book, but it’s filled with incredibly powerful information.

John Corcoran 30:18

Excellent. All right, Chris. Thanks so much. Where can people go to connect with you and learn more about the work that you do? Well, you

Chris Westfall 30:23

can find me on my website that’s And that’s my name which is like the direction and the season you can also find me on my YouTube channel if you’d like to see some of the videos that I’ve created about communication strategies and that is That’s also my LinkedIn handle. Twitter and Instagram. At Chris Westfall online. Yes, it’s

John Corcoran 30:47

convenient. Excellent. All right, Chris. Thank you so much.

Outro 30:50

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