Martin Beauclair is the CEO of Toronto-based Access2Sales sales outsourcing company. He has nearly 25 years of sales and channel management experience and has managed numerous technical offerings throughout his career. He agreed to share his story with Beeleev’s Community. Hope you’ll enjoy the read!
Hello Martin. Thank you for speaking with Beeleev today. Could you start off by introducing yourself and your inspiration for Access2Sales?
I’ve been in sales and sales management for around 25 years now. My undergraduate degree was in marketing and finance and my first MBA was in international business management. Then I went to Harvard Business School where I earned alumni status. I started off working for large corporations like Edwards / GE Security, managing sales for their technology, communications, and security portfolio. My job was to expand the company and bring those products to foreign markets. At the time, we had a policy of sending successful employees abroad for a two to three year stay. This is great for salespeople in terms of knowledge enrichment and cultivating their leadership skills, but from a sales standpoint performance is rather poor- especially considering these are some of your top salespeople at home. Around this time, I started thinking it be great if there were an organization abroad who we could work with who already knew the markets, network, and dealers and who could take care of payroll, local legislation, and employment requirements. Basically, take the football (American football that is) and run with it! I looked hard, but never found anything. Fast forward to 2004, I founded Access2Sales Inc. and developed its unique business model based on a combination of my personal and educational experiences.
Our original target was mainly to help European companies penetrate North American markets. In certain areas of security, communications, IT, healthcare, and more, Europe seems to consistently be ahead of North America. I wanted to create an opportunity for them to bring these product / service offerings here. Unfortunately, a lot of Europeans didn’t know where or how to start. We endeavored to build a business model that would act as a turnkey sales operation for Europeans wanting to penetrate the North American market. Generally, companies start in the United Sates then move to into Canada second because it only represents 10% of the North American market. Throughout the years, we have built a huge network of resellers and distributors so companies can go to market through direct sales or through channel sales.
What is the difference between direct and channel sales?
Direct sales are when you sell a piece of software or any product / service directly to the end user. When you go through a channel, there is an in-between to provide a local point of service and local point of sale. Today our database has been built up to over 24,000 distributors and resellers and around 300,000 end users. This database is constantly growing and enables us to know the good dealers from the bad when it’s time to bring a product to market. We also know who the best dealers are for your industry, whether that be hospitality, retail, education, manufacturing or healthcare. Because of our knowledge of who’s successful at selling what, where, and in what sectors, we can accelerate the go to market and drastically reduce the sales cycle.
“Because of our knowledge of who’s successful at selling what, where, and in what sectors, we can accelerate the go to market and drastically reduce the sales cycle.”
So it’s your impressive network and expertise that set you apart from classic sales outsourcing?
Correct, but we don’t stop there. Providing sales representation is only the tip of the iceberg. We hire senior sales representatives, regional and national sales managers. We carefully qualify each inbound and outbound opportunities to a point where a representative meet with end users and resellers alike and present offerings to decision makers. To make our offer a real turnkey solution, we offer our clients a dedicated sales rep. I insist on the word dedicated because we are not manufacturing agents who work on different products every day. Each sales representative is dedicated 100% to our clients. The name Access2Sales does not appear anywhere on our clients’ social media, LinkedIn, or email and sales reps use the client’s sales cards and report directly to their head of sales. However, we still provide support our salespeople internally. Presales are typically the ones making cold calls to pre-book appointments for the regional or national sales manager. Sales reps also have access to a sales and marketing support team who do market research and prepare a list of prospects. The last thing we want is to call our sales reps and find out they’ve spent their day looking for leads on google. That’s not their job, their job is to present, be in front of decision makers, and close deals. We also have corporate sales management with weekly coaching to make sure we hit our sales targets.
“To make our offer a real turnkey solution we offer our clients a dedicated sales rep. I insist on the word dedicated because we are not manufacturing agents who work on different products every day. Each sales representative is dedicated 100% to our clients.”
How does your recruitment work?
We do not charge for recruitment; it is a part of the investment we make in our clients. We establish what type of profile is required to do the job and what those individuals are worth on the market, then our internal recruiters start searching. Typically, we go through a series of interviews and background checks and present the top two or three candidates to our client. By this point it’s a very hard choice to make because we would hire any of the two to three we put forward. We then decide together with the client who will be hired because we have a vested interest in the performance of our sales representatives. This separates us from traditional recruiters because generally they recruit someone, you pay their fees, then they’re off to their next client. We stay involved in the process because that’s how we make our money. People have told me “You didn’t go to Harvard Business School to only make 1 or 2% of clients’ top-line revenue and recruit for free.” This would be true if I was only generating 10 million dollars of business for my clients, but once you start generating 200-300 million dollars it starts to make a whole lot more sense. We drive on volume and do not take on clients if we will not be able to generate over a half million dollars of sales per year. However, if we can grow the company between $800,000 and 1.2 million dollars or more the first fifteen to eighteen months, it starts getting interesting to us.
We also charge a base fee in addition to commission. The base fee is typically the base monthly salary of the sales rep. Let’s say your sales rep is making $60,000 plus commission, we would charge a client $5000 plus commission. What makes this even more attractive for our clients is that our base salary fee is fully inclusive. You do not have to pay a car allowance, cell phone, laptop, healthcare benefits, fringe benefits, legal benefits, etc., all that is fully covered under our B2B business model. Our client from overseas do not need to manage employment laws and taxes in a foreign environment. On top of this you get backend support, free recruitment, 40 hours of presales, 40 hours of sales, marketing support, coaching, and more. Basically, for the price of a single individual you get an entire team. You can also get a business office and address in the USA and / or Canada.
“Basically, for the price of a single individual you get an entire team”
We offer all of this to enhance what is already provided by our client, we do not do everything alone. Companies generally have their own marketing and technical staff to support the sales staff, we just enhance locally what people would get for the same spending. In addition to our successful sales practices, we provide advanced technology, state of the art customer relationship management (CRMs), inbound lead management, and advanced sales analytics.
Who is your typical client?
We usually work SMBs. Our standard clients have been in business for more than three to five years, have between 10-250 employees, are very sound from an operational standpoint, and have more than two million USD in business figures. They have been successful selling and delivering products in Europe, or in their region and want to expand. We do not tend to work with start-ups, except on very exceptional cases when they are backed by some sort of funding or program that allows them to grow and add resources to their sales program.
What was your international experience before you started Access2Sales?
My entire professional life has been spent bringing products to market. With Edwards / GE and GlobeStar Systems, I spent my career bringing products abroad from North America. Now I’ve flipped that model on its head to open the North American market to European companies. Before I spent the bulk of my time in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Even though I am also French speaking, I spent less time in France, Belgium and Europe in general than other parts of the world.
Today Europe is your focus. What is your plan to grow there?
Setting expectations abroad has been challenging. One of the main reasons I’m interested in Beeleev, is that we haven’t been very successful tapping into the European channel. We have European customers, but not to the extent that we have Americans going to Canada and Canadians going to the United States. We also have many Americans and Canadians looking to grow in other regions of their own country. I’ve approached French companies with amazing technology and offers, but they preferred to use French programs that send people abroad. These are great programs, but they are not being used efficiently and I believe Access2Sales is a solution. Penetrating a country is not a six or twelve month endeavor. You need a three to five-year plan to enter a new market, especially if there are already well-established competitors in the same market.
Where are the companies you are working with today?
Historically, in terms of dollar value, 60% of our clients we European and 40% were North American. Fast forward to today, 80% of the revenue comes from North America and 20% from Europe. Persistence is key here. What Access2Sales’ North American clients did that European clients did not do is to increase the numbers of sales representatives as we hit certain milestones. There’s a certain ratio required to optimize coverage in the USA and Canada and that must be part of the plan right from the start. Our objective has always been to work with more European clients and leverage export / business development program. Reaching the right audience and networks that allow us to tap into the target clients I described before has been a challenge.
What suggestions do you have for other entrepreneurs looking to expand their companies and work across borders?
“My main comment would be to make sure that you are successful in your own local markets before expanding abroad or in other regions of your own country.”
Some people have the vision of expanding and becoming a global company. If you haven’t been successful in your home market or markets, don’t think about expanding right away. You need to have matured to a certain level from an operational/delivery standpoint before looking at expanding abroad. Exceptions should be made for offerings that are built “for the world” right from inception and that requires minimal locale market adaptation and customization.
Another piece of advice is to put aside money for marketing and sales. A lot of people spend all their money on R&D and build great technology, but don’t keep enough to commercialize their application or product. Thinking that you will be able to recruit a distributor or seller yourself, or find a salesperson to work for commission only, is an absolute mistake because these people are not dedicated exclusively to selling your product or services.
Any final words of advice?
Yes, an old president of mine used to say “Everything starts with a sale.”
When sales are there, other issues are less important.
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