Back in 2013, I was on the cusp of closing a massive account – it would have been LeadSift’s largest deal to date, with one of North America’s most prominent media companies.

I hustled day and night to make it happen. Flew to their head office to demo our platform to a room of over 20 team members. I met with all the right decision-makers, from directors and managers to VPs. Even managed to impress them with our product, its benefits, and the data it provided. And when I flew back to my team, I was so confident in the sale that I told them we’d be landing it soon.

But a week went by, and I didn’t hear a peep from the company. Then another. And another. During this time, I sent follow-up emails and voicemails, but got radio silence in return.

Frustrated, I reached out to one of our investors at the time, Derek Smyth. He had connected us to the media company, and I asked him if he could touch base with his contact to find out why they weren’t responding.

Derek obliged, and eventually discovered that the company was not actually clear on the value proposition that LeadSift offered, and so was dragging its feet.

While I wish I could say I remained cool and calm, I didn’t. I got angry. Why had they made me waste all of that time and energy preparing presentations, demoes, meetings and more if they were just going to stall at the last minute?

Being ever so wise and to the point, Derek wrote this one line to me in response:

“Tukan, customers that don’t get a company’s value proposition don’t owe them any explanation.”

It’s been four and a half years since that email landed in my inbox, and I still return to the message over and over again.


Lessons Learned


Harvard Business Review says that not explaining their value proposition is one of seven top mistakes that salespeople make, and it doesn’t surprise me. Here’s what I’ve learned about effectively explaining our value proposition and closing deals since 2013 – tips that would have probably helped me close that fateful deal.

  • Qualify hard, close easy. As salespeople, we are naturally excited to close deals. But this can cause us to neglect the qualifying process – narrowing down on the pain point of the customer and making sure they are a good fit. This focus makes closing easier, as you can articulate a clear solution to their problem.


  • The 10x promise. One you have shown that you can address their pain point, you must convince your customers that you can address it ten times better than the competition. Whatever that looks like to you (ten times lower cost, ten times more efficient, etc), show why you’re the best.


  • Examples, examples, and more examples. Giving concrete examples of how other companies – ideally in their space – are already using your product goes a lot farther than marketing decks and brochures.


  • BAMFAM (or book a meeting from a meeting). Wrap up any meeting with firm plans for the next meeting. Summarize everything you discussed, and ask if you can meet again next week. Have your calendar open and ready to schedule a day and time for a follow up.


Derek left our board in 2013, and sadly passed away earlier this year. I have many great memories of him, but this one line is my favourite. He opened my eyes to the idea that I was too focused on us, and not on our customers. Since then, I’ve made it my mission to understand each customers’ pain point, and show how our solution can not only solve it, but solve it ten times better than any others.

Have you encountered last-minute resistance from customers? Share your story with us in the comments below!