Maria Merce Martin helps Fortune 500 clients improve sales
By Kevin Gale | Makeup and Hair: Julie Soubielle | Photo: Lynn Parks
Optime Consulting CEO Maria Merce Martin has one key goal for clients: converting human behavior into sales growth.
Evidently, she is succeeding, given Optime’s list of Fortune 500 clients, including HP, Intel and Cisco. Optime, which is based in Weston, has blossomed over 19 years into a company with $11 million in annual revenue and 130 employees.
Optime services are a combination of advising, providing technology and analyzing business. Its process starts with consulting with clients about their needs, goals and challenges, including who is buying and who is selling, Martin says. That’s followed by brainstorming and presenting a solution that outlines how Optime will help improve key performance indicators and a return on investment.
“We are going to be an extension of your teams. Because you have a goal, we have a goal, too,” Martin says.
Martin likes to develop simple solutions and then let the clients know how they can add other services if they are happy with the initial results. “In the end, it’s about growing trust,” she says.
The Go Between
The sales process can be complex for Optime clients who rely on external sales channels. Optime serves as an intermediary that provides e-learning modules for sales representatives, tracks their performance and offers incentives for success.
“We give them education and motivation, engage and reward,” Martin says. “It’s not just money. It’s the intrinsic awards about how you can grow your professional brand. All the millennials, these new kids on the block … we need to make sure we are motivating them.”
Optime’s systems also generate vast amounts of data for clients and then explains what it means.
“With the data and business intelligence, they can see trends, how people react and measure return of investment,” Martin says. That can provide opportunities for upselling and cross-selling, launching key products or reducing inventory.
A second strategy provides lead generation for internal sales forces, which involves a healthy dose of marketing automation.
One example of Optime’s creativity was a themed promotion it devised called HP BlueCarpet, a web-based incentive program sponsored by HP. Optime conducted a sales behavior analysis of products, categories and regions to help set goals. Sales reps were engaged with a treasure map that allowed them to discover prizes through the sale of different products. Optime’s website reports the result was a 189 percent growth in revenue from the previous quarter and a 107 percent growth in sales.
Doing all of this requires a heavy dose of technical know-how. Half of the 130 employees at the company are programmers, Martin says. Optime offers real-time dashboards and 24/7 web and mobile platform applications.
Optime also has a lot of in-house capabilities in the area of marketing, such as producing videos with 3D animation.
“We don’t have everything in a box and everything can be tailored,” Martin says.
Optime is investing more than $1 million to offer software as a service. It’s developing the system in Brazil, where it works with Amazon Web Services.
While Optime has a lot of tech clients, including South Florida’s Citrix Systems, it is also branching into new verticals. Amazon is a new client and Optime landed a global project for Stanley Black & Decker after a previous client moved there from a tech company, Martin says.
Roots in Venezuela
Martin founded the company in Venezuela, where she grew up in Caracas, in 1998. Her father was a chemical engineer from Spain who emigrated to Venezuela to work in the oil industry but instead became a university professor.
Martin graduated with a computer science degree from the Universidad Central de Venezuela.
Working after graduation at Lagoven, part of the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, gave Martin a foundation for some of the expertise that Optime provides now.
As an IT user-support analyst, Martin developed help desk training guides. As the IT communications co-leader, she led the strategy to show how the 14,000 members of the IT team were important to the overall success of the company. That involved presentations and the production of magazines, videos and events.
That expertise was a springboard to becoming the first executive account manager for Novell in Latin America. After two years of that, she spent two years as a channel sales manager for 3Com and exceeded sales quotas by 200 percent.
Her technical background let her propose and configure the best solutions, she says. “It was less about selling and more advising, which is what we do here at Optime,” she adds.
By 1998, she was ready to go out on her own and founded Optime in Caracas.
In 2001, as conditions in Venezuela became more challenging, Martin and her family moved to Weston, which has a large Venezuelan population.
Optime has an airy headquarters with plenty of symbolic green. Martin says it’s a motivating and energizing color that also symbolizes how people should be responsible about the planet.
Optime green is in full evidence at the annual Optime 5K run, which raised $35,000 for charities last year. ♦