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Shark musings

When he was 12, Mark Cuban sold garbage bags to pay for an expensive pair of basketball shoes. An entrepreneur was born and the business world hasn't been the same. Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association, Landmark Theatres and Magnolia Pictures, and the chairman of AXS TV. He is also one of four “shark” investors on the TV series “Shark Tank.” He recently answered some questions via an email exchange with Sales & Marketing Management.

SMM: Our cover feature in the issue I’m interviewing you for is about sales training, more specifically, the fact that so much sales training never translates to performance. Do you agree with that premise and what do you put in place at your companies in terms of sales training?

CUBAN: I think it has to be customized to the person. It is hard to have classes and expect everyone to gain. You have to understand how to put people in a position to succeed. In a small company that means a lot of attention. In a big company, it means you might have more attrition as you figure out what type of salesperson is the best fit for how you sell and how you train.

SMM: Our summer issue will have a cover feature on the most important high-tech tools for increased sales performance. Do you have some must-have technology that your salespeople are required to use?

CUBAN: Whatever tools our customers use and communicate via, those are the tools I expect our salespeople to use.

SMM: “Shark Tank” is essentially the classic elevator pitch brought to TV. A salesperson — or in this case an entrepreneur — has an opportunity of a lifetime to make the sale. Is the ability to sell in that sort of situation always going to be of tremendous value?

CUBAN: From the perspective of “if you can sell, your company always has a great chance of being successful” perspective, yes. That said, not many people are going to be in a situation where they are on camera on a hit TV show. So I don’t think it’s needed as a core competency.

SMM: What are the ingredients for an effective 60-second sale?

CUBAN: Put yourself in the shoes of the person you are selling. What do they need that you can provide and can you get the fact that you can fill that need across in 60 seconds?

SMM: Your blog (BlogMaverick.com) is always interesting and often insightful. In an entry last August, you gave Dallas Mavericks fans a behind-the-scenes look at your attempt to sign Dwight Howard as a free agent and assured them that your team would be fine without him. In that post, you stated:

“What I do know, at least what I think I have learned from my experiences in business, is that when there is a rush for everyone to do the same thing, it becomes more difficult to do. Not easier. Harder. It also means that as other teams follow their lead, it creates opportunities for those who have followed a different path.”

What companies do you think stand out for taking a different path and reaping the rewards?

CUBAN: I think Starbucks is a shining example. I think our Magnolia Pictures, which changed how films are distributed, is another.

SMM: Speaking of taking different paths, I was surprised when the Sacramento Kings became the first team in pro sports to accept Bitcoin. As the preeminent NBA owner for adopting new technology, I was thinking you would have been there first. Is that a case of “I love new technology, but I’m not dumb ”?

CUBAN: We considered it and are still considering it. When you are selling perishable inventory like tickets and you have a lot of it, there is no reason not to take it. When you have the longest sellout streak in pro sports, it’s a different perspective.  

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