The story behind Virtual Sales Lab
The initial seed of the idea
The initial spark for Virtual Sales Lab was conceived during a late-night dinner with one of my business mentors.
The exquisit but now defunct restaurant Margaretha's in Oudenaarde/Belgium was where it all happened
- Me: "I have a solution for you to save time online: http://notimeforinternet.com"
- Me: "It's a solution that will guide an help you to manage your online presence, by suggesting articles, answers, replies based on AI"
- He: "Not interested. I'd be interested if you could provide me customers"
- Me: "I don't have any knowledge of mergers and acquisitions, so that would be hard"
- He: "Ok, how about properly qualified leads?"
A few days later
On a Friday night, as I was bartending for my son's soccer club, I saw one of the owners of a veranda producer walking in, and suddenly all of it clicked:
- Me: "You have a minute?"
- He: "Sure, what's up?"
- Me: "I have this idea: you potential customer walks around with a tablet in his garden, and he can see the veranda he wants projected on his house; he clicks a button and you receive his email and the picture"
- He: "Sounds interesting, I've seen someone last year who was also talking about this, but I've never heard of him again..."
- Me: "Ok, thanks. Give me your email address and I'll send you a demo on monday".
Not having built anything like this before, I spent 3 days in a row building something presentable from scratch, but on Monday by 10PM I sent him a link to a demo that looked like this:
I have deployed the original demo here for your enjoyment.
While the demo was a bit rough and lacking in functionality, the owner was literally knocking on my door the next day by noon, which was the start of an interesting journey...
Fast-forward to a few years later
After learning some basic business lessons the hard way - make sure your billing does not depend on things you cannot measure yourself, always have a contract - I noticed that running a business on your own is hard, and that my non-technical skills were subpar to my technical skills. So, I did the obvious thing to do: I attracted a co-founder: Alexander.
We spent a lot of time getting to know the market and our customers by attending events in Belgium and Holland, while visiting a lot of potential customers all over the country. Finally, in June 2016, we got our first paying customer... Phew!
It have been a few interesting years with a lot of challenges, but it looks like we are finally on a roll now; we know what our customers want and need, and do everything to provide an optimal service.
Our pay-per-lead approach took a while to get right (and it might evolve even more later on), but for now this win-win deal seems to be the way to go.
Our customers are extremely happy with our tools, and come back for more and ask for better features, so traction is finally kicking in.
We will continue to update you on our story in the many years to come...