If you want to grab Mark Cuban's attention, follow a simple rule: Make it as efficient for him as possible. Don't use one second more of his time than you need, and you will raise the odds that the Shark Tank star and Dallas Mavericks owner will give your pitch his attention, though there's no guarantee he'll invest. In the podcast Raising the Bar, and a resulting article on CNBC.com, Cuban explained just how to catch his eye. It's a strategy you should use any time you're pitching someone busy, in other words, pretty much anyone.
The secret is to follow the "No Waste Rule." Begin with the knowledge that the world's most precious resource right now--at least in developed countries--is people's time and attention. If that's true of you and me, it's exponentially more true of a billionaire and TV star like Cuban, who says he gets between 750 and 1,000 emails a day from people pitching him things.
If you want Cuban to pay attention to your pitch, here's how to do it.
1. Don't waste time with phone calls or social media.
Cuban has made it very clear on many occasions that his preferred form of interaction is email. Meetings and phone calls take too much time, he explains. Emails, and perhaps texts, are more efficient because he can deal with them on his own schedule, and they're much faster. There's another advantage to email--it provides an automatic record of who said what and when. If you and I both take notes at a meeting, our notes could wind up being different and we could easily misunderstand each other. Cuban says he's kept some emails for decades and that gives him a clear record of what transpired.
Cuban is not hard to reach. At least two email addresses he's said to read are easily found via Google, and last year he actually gave out a phone number, inviting people to text him--although he definitely doesn't want you to call. And despite getting up to 1,000 email pitches a day, he says he at least glances at them all.
2. Get right to the point.
Cuban says he spends two to three hours a day reading his emails and another two hours responding to those he's interested in. If you want to catch his attention, you have to do it fast. "Ninety percent are delete, delete, delete, glance, and delete," he said on the podcast. He says it usually takes him about two seconds to decide whether to delete your email or answer it. He may only read the first paragraph or two.
So don't waste time telling him where you first got the inspiration for your product. "The longer the back story, the worse the deal," he said. That said, if there is something truly unusual about you that differentiates you from the 1,000 other people emailing him that day and that strengthens your pitch, do mention whatever it is high up in your message.
3. Skip the hyperbole.
You can claim that your new company will be the Uber of whatever industry you're in, or that it will "revolutionize" the market. But don't expect over-the-top claims like these to impress Cuban. In particular, he noted, he's gotten innumerable pitches from founders who say they are "reinventing the mask." Instead, be direct and straightforward and say exactly what your product does.
4. Don't waste time on frequent follow-ups.
Persistence is generally considered a strength among entrepreneurs, but you'll annoy Cuban big-time if he doesn't answer you and you send daily follow-ups to remind him about your pitch. He said this is the worst thing you can do because if you aggravate him enough, he'll set up a filter that prevents him from seeing your emails.
The only time you should follow up with Cuban, if you haven't heard back from him, is if you have important new information to share. For example, since the first time you emailed him, you've built a successful prototype or launched your product in the market or learned something that substantially changes the pitch.
5. Don't waste time wondering whether to pitch Cuban.
Not too many billionaire investors invite strangers to email them and then read all those emails themselves. Cuban is an anomaly, so if you have a product or idea or pitch that you want to put in front of him, you should absolutely do it. If he decides not to invest, he may still give you some useful advice that will help you get off the ground. (If that happens, be sure to let him know, as he says those are his favorite emails to get.)
But he just may bite. Years ago, Box founder Aaron Levie got one of his first investments from Cuban after sending him a cold email. And many other founders tell a similar story. So go ahead and send Cuban a pitch, following the No Waste rule. Maybe one day you'll be able to tell your own story about how he invested in you.