Think You Can Pitch? Creatives Break Down Their Art

Guests

Lori Greiner, inventor and judge on ABC's Shark Tank
Bridget Whalen Hunnicutt, senior vice president, National Geographic Channel

When creative thinkers develop a concept, they must convince others their idea is worth backing. Pitching skills are needed in the newsroom, and in the worlds of entertainment, fundraising and invention. But what makes a pitch successful?

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The fine art of the pitch can be difficult to master, but all of us take a shot at least from time to time. We try to convince the boss on a great idea, persuade investors to back our invention, sell an editor on a story, a producer on a film or a TV show, an employer on yours truly.

Everybody knows you're supposed to keep it short and strong, but like a sharp curveball, a well-intentioned pitch can sometimes wind up in the dirt. So we want to hear from those of you who get pitched all the time. Bosses, editors, producers, investors, tell us: What have you heard that turned your head or turned your stomach? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Go to npr.org and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, Fred Korematsu's portrait goes up in the Smithsonian later this week. His daughter tells us how she found out her dad was a civil rights hero. But first, Lori Greiner has been called the queen of QVC, where she hosts the show "Clever and Unique Creations." She's also one of the sharks, the judges on ABC's "Shark Tank," and she joins us by phone from Westchester in Pennsylvania. Nice to have you with us today.

LORI GREINER: Hi, Neal, nice to be here.

CONAN: Also with us, Bridget Whalen Hunnicutt, a senior vice president at National Geographic Channel, with us here in Studio 3A. Nice to have you with us, too.

BRIDGET WHALEN HUNNICUTT: Thanks so much for having me.

CONAN: And Lori, let me ask you first. I know you have about 110 patents. So what's the most important lesson you learned about making a pitch over the years?

GREINER: Well, I think the most important thing is to have something that will grab the attention of who you're pitching to in one sentence. You've got to get them fast and immediate.

CONAN: So the high concept, as it is.

GREINER: Yes, the high content, I think, and doing it with confidence and passion.

CONAN: So the person pitching is as important. Great ideas don't sell themselves.

GREINER: No, great ideas don't sell themselves. I think it's equally as important who's doing the pitch and that they are passionate about what they're pitching and very confident. I think people don't like when you're not confident about what you're pitching, and they don't want to invest in you or get behind you.

CONAN: Now, as one of the sharks, you are the recipient of pitches, and what do you see people - can you give us an example of something somebody did wrong?

GREINER: Well, I think a couple things that I noticed people did wrong, one was having a lack of enthusiasm or confidence in what they were pitching. If they don't believe in it, you're not going to. And I think when doing the pitch, missing opportunities.

So when you see that people are reacting and they're ready to give you an offer, or, you know, they say when you've already gotten, that they're sealing the deal, walk away, say yes and take it, I think many people miss opportunities by continuing to haggle or dicker about little points.

CONAN: Bridget Whalen Hunnicutt, because you're in the studio here, I could see you nodding when you say missed opportunities.

HUNNICUTT: Yeah, I think that there is an art to listening in the pitch that sometimes people forget. Oftentimes you've got great sales people going in to give the pitch, and they forget I can listen and ask questions and really jump on those opportunities that do come up, get to know the buyer and what it is that they're looking for and learn how to position yourself as the problem-solver, their problem-solver, because really at the end of the day a lot of the people with deep pockets and money to spend, they want to invest in their own idea.

So if you listen, you can figure out, all right, how do I make this seem like it was their idea. And that's the master, the people that can really get a lot of things through, that's the way they do it.

CONAN: So how many pitches do you get per week?

HUNNICUTT: Oh, goodness. Well, right now we're at a conference, and I've probably received about 50 this morning. That's unusual. Typically it would be more about 10 to 20 a day.

CONAN: And how - given that many, what makes one stick out?

HUNNICUTT: You know, technology is becoming more of a - playing a larger role.

CONAN: Not a PowerPoint, please.

HUNNICUTT: No, no, definitely, not for us. For National Geographic Channel, you know, we need amazing visuals, and we want to be in business with the most creative people that can also execute. So before, when I started at Geographic about eight years ago, it was all verbal pitch, and it was a four-page treatment, and that was it.

So you had to have a good title, you had to have a good tagline, but beyond that, you know, you had to just go on faith. Now there's really sophisticated demo reels that are put together, and people that do those and do them well probably end up getting more business.

CONAN: It takes money to make money. You have to make the demo reel.

HUNNICUTT: It's true. Investing in your own pitch is important.

CONAN: Lori Greiner, is that something that you've learned over the years too, the technology has shifted?

GREINER: Well, I think not as much for what I do. You know, products can actually still just be sketched out on a piece of paper, or ideas, and then sent over to your factories, and they can make you up a sample or a prototype.

So I think it's a little bit different just because of the different industries that we're in.

CONAN: We want to hear from those of you who get pitched all the time. If you're an editor, a producer, well, a boss, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And I wonder, Lori Greiner, as you've developed this talent over the years, do you find that it serves you well in other walks of life?

GREINER: Oh, absolutely. I think running a business, doing what I've done for the last - since 1996, has taught me so many things because I started from just an idea and then had to figure out how to make it, market it, every single thing from soup to nuts on how to get a product done and out there.

CONAN: 'Cause we think of that product, well, of course the person knew every aspect of the production process. No, as it turns out, you just had an idea and had to learn everything else.

GREINER: Right, exactly. I had to figure it out for myself. I think today there's a lot more available to people, a show like "Shark Tank" and different websites where people can give their idea and have people that can help them get it to market, whereas back when I started, there really wasn't much like that out there.

CONAN: You're - Bridget Whalen Hunnicutt, you mentioned you're at this conference, the Real Screen Summit, where reality television producers from all over the - and we don't think of National Geographic as reality TV, but it is, and even a project like "Restrepo," the great documentary that was - well, let me put it bluntly, should have won the Academy Award...

HUNNICUTT: Thank you.

CONAN: ...that was pitched to you too, and that kind of programming. So it runs the gamut. And those kinds of programs, but for people pitching ideas, something like the Real Screen Summit, I mean that's got to be, you know, Nirvana.

HUNNICUTT: Uh-huh. And one of the mistakes that oftentimes people make is that they think that they know National Geographic because it's an amazing brand, it's been around for 100-plus years. But oftentimes they filter their ideas then. So they - I can't tell you how many ideas on Everest I get.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HUNNICUTT: At every meeting, somebody comes in the first time, they have a great Everest idea. But we have evolved, and we're always evolving, and it's important to get to know the buyer. I think the first time - you have to be persistent as well. You have to get in the door, and that's difficult...

CONAN: Getting the meeting is hard, yes.

HUNNICUTT: Getting the meeting is hard, and so if you have more than one idea beyond Everest, make sure that you're not filtering those through. Let the buyer kind of go through the ideas with you.

CONAN: Oh, so if you have three or four ideas, you've got the meeting on the Everest proposal, but wait a minute, there's this K2 proposal, it's even better.

HUNNICUTT: Oftentimes I say, all right, you pitched me those ideas. What else is in that bag? What are you pitching to other people that you think that I wouldn't do? Because we are - we're evolving, and you can't think of where we want to be nine months from now.

CONAN: I wonder, Lori Greiner, is that aspect true in your business too?

GREINER: Absolutely. You never know what's going to be the next great thing, whether it's a product or a business. And I think that people just sharing every idea - and I agree completely with Bridget - sometimes something that somebody thinks maybe is their worst thing that they were going to pitch, it's their number 10, and they give you one, two, three and four, number 10 could be great.

And so I think being open and hearing everything and looking at everything, you can tell, I think instantly, whether - as I said on "Shark Tank" - if it's a hero or a zero. But if you don't hear those things, you won't be able to know.

CONAN: Is pitching an investor different than pitching, well - I don't know, Lori Greiner, if you have a lot of experience pitching editors, but I assume you have a lot of experience pitching investors.

GREINER: Yes, I've had a lot - I have pitched, and I have had a lot of people pitch me. And I think I agree with Bridget. An interesting other facet it is knowing who you're pitching to, the same as knowing how to pitch. Listening, as she said, is important because I've seen times where there might be several decision-makers in a room, and if one person gets slighted, it could change the mix of the whole reaction to everybody sitting there.

Whereas, you know, if you're sure that you're making your pitch to everybody and engaging everybody, I think that's very helpful.

CONAN: Bridget?

HUNNICUTT: You know, that also brings up or makes me think of picking your pitching partner is also important. Oftentimes I see people come in with someone who's very similar. I mean we all like working with people that have a similar background and you can relate to.

But there is an advantage to having a pitching partner who might be a different age or who might be a different gender because you can appeal to a wider base. You don't know who's going to be in the audience all the time.

So for - in the entertainment world, when I was on the producing side, I could go into MTV and I'd be on, but my maybe more seasoned boss, when we'd go to PBS, he'd be on. And you can play off each other that way and make sure that you're reaching a larger audience.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get John(ph) on the line, John calling us from Detroit.

JOHN: Hey, how you doing?

CONAN: Good, thanks.

JOHN: As a - I'm an event promoter, and one of the biggest things that annoys me, and I get several pitches daily, is the lack of originality. I get so many people that want to take an existing product. I promote events. I get so tired of people wanting to bring the same kind of events in or the same products, just changed over their way.

You know, I'm looking for fresh new things, not the same old stuff just reproduced.

CONAN: So somebody might say it's just like this except with a twist.

JOHN: Well, what they'll do is they'll come in and they'll say, well, I have this line of apparel that I'd like to sell at your events. And it's just like the other three brands that I have already for sale at the events. And there's no originality to it. They're just putting the same kind of graphics on there and just a different color.

CONAN: So maybe they did the research and say, oh, he must like this kind of brand and nothing else, but they haven't done enough research.

JOHN: Right, just a pure lack of originality.

CONAN: John, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it.

JOHN: Thank you.

CONAN: And that's probably going to ditch my pitch for Bridget Whalen Hunnicutt for mid-afternoon talk show with a picture of Everest behind the host.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: She's a senior vice president of global development and production for the National Geographic Channel. Also with us is Lori Greiner, known as the queen of QVC, one of the judges on ABC-TV's "Shark Tank." If you get pitched all the time, give us a call. How do good pitches go bad? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. If you're incredibly lucky, you'll come up with an idea that sells itself, for an app that offers a tidy solution to a universal problem, for a restaurant that launches the next big fad, for a product that's perfectly timed to hit the shelves now.

If you're not - and let's face it, most of us aren't - crafting the perfect pitch to drive investors to their checkbooks is your best hope, and that's where today's guests come in. Lori Greiner is known as the queen of QVC. She's one of the sharks on ABC's "Shark Tank"; and Bridget Hunnicutt of National Geographic Channel is the brains behind the reality show "Witness" and the documentary "Restrepo," which was nominated for an Academy Award.

They know what it takes to make a good pitch. So if you are pitched regularly, as a boss, an editor, an investor, what's the pitch you heard that absolutely flopped? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

We have an email from Juliette(ph) in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin: You invited comments from bosses and businesspeople, but parents hear more pitches than any typical person in a day. So I suspect she's right about that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line, though. This is Victor, Victor with us from Charleston in South Carolina.

VICTOR: Hello, Neal, how are you?

CONAN: I'm well, thank you.

VICTOR: Good. I was a circuit court judge for 12 years. I have had people pitch stuff to me on a daily basis that those folks that you're talking to have never heard of.

CONAN: These are people pitching, to some degree, for their lives.

VICTOR: Yes, or certainly their freedom, or their fine.

CONAN: And what works - well, I'm sure that, you know, the proper amount of deference, the proper amount of taking responsibility for what they did, I'm sure that's something that worked in your, or may have worked in your case that might not be applicable in other cases.

VICTOR: Well, it's always interesting because, you know, realistically speaking, when you're dealing with that particular environment, whether it's white collar or DUI or anything else, you're talking about education, mental health. You're talking about employability, all of those kinds of things come into play.

And I find that the people, the lawyers especially, that pitch to me were the ones that stuck to the facts and put together something that was extremely verifiable. And that tended to be a lot more effective than someone utilizing social or poor me or I didn't do it or the victim was as bad as I was type thing.

CONAN: Bridget Whalen Hunnicutt, stick to the facts, verifiable, that's got to be important in your business.

HUNNICUTT: Absolutely. We want that kind of credibility. We demand it. And I think that also just honesty. When you're working, or when you're receiving a pitch, you get a sense of how close is that person to the actual content. How knowledgeable are they? And you get that sincerity, and that's also important, and it'll come through in the final product. So that's also important for us.

CONAN: And Lori Greiner, integrity, well, the people who come up with products are - some are charlatans. That kind of integrity, verifiability, that's got to be critical in your business.

GREINER: Absolutely. I would never invest in or want a business partner who I didn't feel would have integrity and that I could totally trust and was a good partner for me. So I think it's absolutely critical.

CONAN: Victor, can you remember one occasion that was either spectacularly good or spectacularly bad?

VICTOR: Me?

CONAN: Yeah.

VICTOR: Oh yeah. Quite frankly it was very interesting to hear someone plead for life in a death penalty case, and the lawyers did a very, very good job. The unfortunate thing was his record certainly did not verify any sort of mercy with regard to that particular case. And it (unintelligible) to me.

The more difficult ones are things like accidental deaths and driving accidents in South Carolina, when you can wind up with a homicide scenario, where in reality it was truly an accident. Anything involving alcohol winds up being a homicide.

CONAN: Well, Victor, thanks very much, and it's nice to have you remind us of the importance of this craft from time to time. Appreciate it.

VICTOR: Verifiability is the one thing that I think is most important. Anybody that's either applying for a job or a guilty plea or anything else needs to certainly have verifiable documentation when they make their pitch.

CONAN: Thank you. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Steve, Steve with us from Jenks in Oklahoma.

STEVE: Hi, Neal, how are you doing?

CONAN: Good, thanks.

STEVE: Well, I just want to say that I am constantly amazed at the pitches I get as a small community newspaper in a suburb in Tulsa that don't even have anything to do with even Oklahoma a lot of times. I get stuff from FEMA. I get stuff from - on just disasters that happen halfway across the country or even local events, you know, 50 miles away. They just seem to send news releases, and they don't take into account the audiences that they're sending those to.

And I guess they think that if they throw enough, you know, at the wall, something's going to stick somewhere, but you know, a lot of times I can call and find out, OK, yeah, there is a local angle, there is a resident of Jenks or Bixby or Glenpool, Oklahoma, the three towns that I write for, but I don't have time to call them all the time.

So I think a lot of times if the PR people, you know, would maybe take a little bit more time to, you know, figure out a local angle to pitch these stories, especially to, you know, community newspapers, I think that would help them get their message out a lot more.

CONAN: Steve, that's very interesting, thanks very much.

STEVE: OK, thank you.

CONAN: You were talking earlier, Bridget Whalen Hunnicutt, of - you want people who are convincing you that in fact the idea was yours to begin with and in fact that maybe they can solve your problem. I wonder if you could overdo that, if somebody can come in who says, you know, you've got a real problem at 8:00 at night and I can help you with that. You know, that could be a little too much.

HUNNICUTT: Absolutely. You need to walk that line very gracefully. But I think at the end of the day, if you can figure out what the buyer's problem is, and you can position yourself as the problem solver, you'll have a lead for the next pitch. Even if you don't have the perfect fit in that meeting, the next time around you'll be the one that they call, and you can come in prepared and more in line with what he's looking for in Tulsa.

For us, you know, we're looking to get a wide appeal, and so, you know, you can't go too niche, and you just have to walk those balance - walk that balance very carefully.

CONAN: And it sounds like there's another part of this, and I wanted to ask you, Lori Greiner, about this too. You can't take it too personally. No is a perfectly acceptable answer. Next time it might be yes, so don't get too upset.

HUNNICUTT: Right. I think you also have to worry about - you know, sometimes some buyers aren't comfortable saying no. Like on "Shark Tank," that's fabulous because they just let them have it. But in reality, a lot of buyers will kind of go, huh, that's interesting. So as a pitcher, you have to learn how to read between the lines, and you need to be able to say, oh, that one's not going anywhere, this one is the one they like.

CONAN: Lori Greiner?

GREINER: I think that when - sometimes you're helping a person by saying no. If they don't have a good idea or something that you don't think is going to make it, if you tell them no, you might be saving them a lot of time and money. Sometimes putting out a lot of money and effort, people have lost their homes, they've destroyed themselves financially. So sometimes you're actually doing them a favor and being nice by saying no if you really think it won't work.

CONAN: Have you ever had a situation where you get pitched something, and it's terrible pitch, but you say wait a minute, there's an idea there that maybe we can work with?

GREINER: I think yes, that has happened, and I think sometimes the person is so appealing that maybe what they're pitching isn't great, but you believe in them, and they're so creative and charismatic and hard-working and passionate that I want to be involved with them, and so I might try to bring them in and then see what can we do with them and where can we go that might be different than what they first came in with.

CONAN: Let's go next to Marianna(ph), Marianna with us from Houston.

MARIANNA: Hi there. You know, it's fascinating listening to this. (Unintelligible) and I work as the marketing and community relations director for a local firm. And my pet peeve when being pitched is when someone assumes that I'm not the one to make the decisions because I am a young woman.

I love when they tell me, well, can you go check with your boss, or can you go check with the person who needs to make this decision. And I sit there going, well, you're talking to her.

CONAN: Or it ain't getting there, even if there is somebody else higher, because, yeah...

MARIANNA: Right, absolutely. Well, you know, the buck stops with me, and my company's bucks stop with me, and you know, it's a real shame when someone assumes that I'm there to show them to a conference room or serve them some water as opposed to I am the person they need to meet with and who will be making that decision.

CONAN: Bridget Whalen Hunnicutt, I'm sure you've never had that problem.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HUNNICUTT: Well, you know, I think it's actually - she's probably in a rare situation. Most of us do have to go back and report in to other bosses. Even when you get in sometimes with the GM, they have to report to the CEO what they're doing. So actually, I - you don't want to let the person you're meeting with realize what you're doing, but you do want to plant soundbites for whoever you're meeting to be able to take to their higher-ups.

And you also want to be able to follow up and make it very clear and concise so that they can communicate and advocate for your project on your behalf with the higher-ups. But you never want to let the person you're meeting with feel that that's what you're doing.

CONAN: In other words, it's important to point out somebody may pitch you for, I'm guessing, 10 or 15 minutes. You then have to pitch your boss for five minutes or three minutes. So you need to have that kernel of the idea that you can communicate very quickly.

GREINER: Exactly, and...

other words, it's important to point out somebody may pitch you for, I'm guessing, 10 or 15 minutes. You then have to pitch your boss for five minutes or three minutes. So you need to have that kernel of the idea that you can communicate very quickly.

HUNNICUTT: Exactly. And then my boss needs to go to our ad sales department, and then they need to go pitch sponsors. So, I mean, it gets shorter and shorter and more concise.

CONAN: Yeah. It's always bad when the advertising or marketing people come back and say, what's this about?

HUNNICUTT: It happens.

CONAN: Interesting. Thanks very much for the call, Mary Anna.

MARY ANNA: Thank you.

CONAN: Here's an email from Paula in Sebastopol, California: I've come up with some very original product ideas that I'm sure would be successful. In fact, many have actually been produced years later by someone else with great results for them. My quandary is how does one present these ideas to a company or an investor and protect it from being stolen?

And, Lori Greiner, that's your bailiwick.

GREINER: Well, that is a difficult thing. I always recommend, if you can, to patent or protect whatever your idea is. If you can't, you have to make your best judgment. Sometimes people don't get anywhere because they sit on something, so afraid to reveal it. And yet, in the reverse, sometimes if you expose something too widely, you can risk losing it. So I think just be careful and be discriminating in who you reveal it to in the beginning.

CONAN: And there are products and ideas that can be protected by patent.

GREINER: Yes, yes. Absolutely. There - it's something that a good intellectual property attorney could tell you whether or not they feel your product is protectable, and they can do searches in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to see if it is.

CONAN: Let's go next to - I'm sorry. You were going to say?

HUNNICUTT: Well, I think for entertainment, oftentimes people can become too precious with their ideas, and you've got to throw them out there because it's so fast-paced, and you can miss an entire trend because you're being too precious with the idea. No network executive is going to make their career or do a channel any favor if they're taking ideas from people. That's not the business that we're in. We're looking for talented people, and we're going to treat them well and as partners.

CONAN: I think I saw a TV series based on that very idea of people stealing ideas. Of course it didn't turn out too well for the executive involved. Anyway, Bridget Whalen Hunnicutt is senior vice president of global development and production for the National Geographic Channel, a panel member at the Realscreen Summit's "So You Think You Can Pitch." Also with us, Lori Greiner, known as the Queen of QVC, a judge on ABC TV's "Shark Tank." She holds about 110 U.S. and international patents and is also the host of "Clever & Unique Creations" on QVC TV. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Let's go next to Mike, and Mike is with us from Cottonwood in Utah.

MIKE: Hello?

CONAN: Hi, Mike. You're on the air.

MIKE: Hi. Thanks for having my call.

CONAN: Sure.

MIKE: Yeah. I just want to make a comment about the whole thievery of ideas. I'm a rock climber and an explorer, and I've pitched to people such as National Geographic and had some success with different companies in the outdoor world, but I've also seen my ideas come up a year or two later with other people. And I think it's pretty interesting because my ideas are places to go on the planet where no one's been to, to climb and to explore. Yet a year or two later after the idea is pitched, they're going to that exact spot. I just wonder if there's any comments on that.

CONAN: Bridget Whalen Hunnicutt?

HUNNICUTT: You know, it's difficult. I think a lot of people don't realize the volume of material coming in to us and the number of people pitching. And oftentimes when you're pitching, you think this idea is so original. It's so unique. I will tell you that I got a pitch on lightning, and we did do a show five years later on lightning. But when - the original producer did call me and said, you know, I pitched you a lightning show five years ago, and I saw what was on air. And I was like, I've been pitched lightning shows a hundred times. And I think what's really important also in getting pitches is why this? Why now? What about this idea is relevant? And timing is a lot to it, but oftentimes it's the town. It's the person who you're talking to. But nobody is in the business of taking other people's ideas and just - it wouldn't do anybody any favors.

CONAN: Mike, I'm not sure that's - that may be cold comfort.

MIKE: Yes. I think it's the unique situation I have. It's more about the location of planet and being an explorer. And it's just curious to know when you research the places for years and years, and then somebody else is going there after you've pitched it, when it's almost impossible to find the same contact and the same location on the planet. But anyways, thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: All right. Well, good luck, Mike. Hang in there. All right. Let's see if we go next to - this is Sonny(ph), Sonny with us from Grand Rapids.

SONNY: Hi. Two quick points. First is, I'm the parent of two daughters, and one daughter gets her way far more often than the other without us really realizing it because she's a far better pitcher.

CONAN: Ha.

SONNY: For instance, the other day we were trying to decide where to go to dinner, and my one daughter, who gets her way more often, said, Dad, you know, don't you love the steak at Texas Roadhouse? Well, my other daughter was just back there, pounding the feet, saying, McDonald's, McDonald's, McDonald's.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SONNY: So we went to Texas. And the second point I'd like to make is one of the importance of creating an opportunity, and I'd like to actually demonstrate that by proposing that I send a sizzle reel about the Arizona cowboy, the modern Arizona cowboy, over to your National Geographic guest.

CONAN: I'm sure she would find room for it.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Sizzle reel is about TV production proposals. It has nothing to do with steak.

SONNY: That's right.

CONAN: OK. Sonny, thanks very much. Good luck with that.

SONNY: Thank you.

CONAN: All right. Bye-bye. When, Lori Greiner, did you realize you were good at this?

GREINER: Oh, I think probably within the first year. I was fortunate enough to - with good pitches, which I think was very important - get into JCPenney nationwide and to get on the shopping TV network. But it was a very key thing that I did when I would call people because it's very difficult to get buyers at any store or shopping network to pick up the phone.

And when I finally did, I had one second literally in which to grab their attention. And I would tell them that I had the greatest earring organizer ever. Nothing else was out there like it. Could I have five minutes of their time? I'd be in their town on thus and such a date. And by giving them a way in which to see me quickly and trying to intrigue them, almost every single one of them allowed me to see them for five minutes.

CONAN: Hmm. Bridget Hunnicutt, I'm sure there was a time when you sat quaking in somebody's office and were ushered in and then realized, hey, I can sell this.

HUNNICUTT: Oh. The first meeting was a disaster. I remember being very intimidated by the building I was going into, and I had a whole binder full of ideas that I was ready to pitch. And I went through - he was very generous with his time. He spent, like, an hour and a half, but I went through each pitch. And he said, no, because, no, because, no, because. So it's very disheartening. But I think that with persistence, that made a huge difference, and so it got better.

CONAN: Bridget Whalen Hunnicutt, now senior vice president of global development and production for the National Geographic Channel. Thanks very much for your time today. We appreciate it.

HUNNICUTT: Thank you.

CONAN: Also, Lori Greiner, good luck with the sharks.

GREINER: Oh, thank you. My first episode's February 10. I hope you can tune in.

CONAN: Lori Greiner, queen of QVC and now on ABC TV's "Shark Tank." She joined us from her home in Westchester, Pennsylvania. Coming up, Karen Korematsu joins us to remember her father, civil rights champion Fred Korematsu. Stay with us. TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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