My Scariest Sale

Steve and I had been working on our serious games company, Distil, for quite a few months. We had narrowed the product and market down to a single focus — providing games for business certification. Our pitch was to save time and money while getting a more accurate assessment of an individual’s skill by observing how they did their job in a virtual environment.

Steve had been calling his contacts in the business certification world. We had a few companies that were actively talking with us. One of these was NQI in Toronto. NQI seemed the most likely to result in a sale. They were close to us (Toronto is only a few hours away by car). Plus Steve had been a trainer and consultant with them for years, so he understood their curriculum extremely well.

After many phone calls we had a meeting where to pitch their Director of Training. Needless to say we were very excited. So we could gave something more than PowerPoint slides and talking points, we put together a very simple demo around their training material. It took us a weekend to build and it was very rough.

We left Ottawa at 5 AM so we could arrive in Toronto with plenty of time for the late morning meeting. It started well: pleasantries, chit chat, small talk, an overview of game based learning. Then we launched into our demo. During the demo I felt that it wasn’t going just quite right. Our audience seemed engaged, but it felt like they were playing along rather than being really interested. It didn’t seem like it was connecting.

After our demo, the Director of Training leaned back, folded his arms (not a good sign) and said “that’s not quite what we had in mind.” My heart sank. We had blown it. Steve started thanking them for their time, when something unexpected happened. The Director started asking questions.

He brought up different training scenarios. We batted around ideas for different types of games and how they could be integrated into their training. At the end of the meeting the Director said “I think this is a direction we want to go in.”

That was it, we had closed our first sale. Sure, we still needed to work out the contract details, but we were going to get a contract. We were going to close this deal. Steve and I shook hands with everyone and prepared for the long drive back to Ottawa.

Half way back to Ottawa we stopped at Wendy’s to grab a really late lunch. We were exhausted. The adrenaline rush was wearing off. Over hamburgers we looked at each other and let it sink in. We had our first sale.

Then it became, oh shit — we have our first sale. Up until this point it was all hypothetical, what might work, how it might look. Now we had to build something and it had to be good.

We would need a team to build it. How would we pay them? NQI wasn’t going to pay us until after we built the game. And how would we design the game? Ensure that the game actually teaches what it claims to?

As the questions piled up it became clear we were in over our heads. It was very scary.

We eventually figured out how the details. But to this day, the scariest sale is always the first. Because that is when it ceases to be a dream and becomes real.

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2 Responses to My Scariest Sale

  1. Stephen Davies says:

    The phrase was a little more colourful that “oh shit” 🙂

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