Faculty Profile: Jill Slupe

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Jill is CEO of Verde Martin, a sales consulting firm based in Omaha, Nebraska. She earned her MBA from Creighton University, where she is now an adjunct professor of business, and teaches sales and leadership in the Midland MBA program.

Hi, Jill. Tell us a little bit about your background.

Right out of college, I worked with the Air Combat Command turning around Department of Defense facilities that weren’t making money—think golf courses and bowling alleys. I developed a training program to help them monetize, and over my time there I managed 33 bases for Air Combat Command. That’s what initially stemmed my interest in the sales process.

I went to Creighton for my MBA in Finance and it’s about that time that I really started looking into business owners, how they looked at the sales process. All that time I spent with the Air Combat Command (and other sales positions after it) gave me a strong understanding of how businesses approach sales. It also gave me the opportunity to develop a scientific approach to the sales process that helps accelerate sales and monetize business. 

In 2007, I started Verde Martin—a sales audit firm. I used the foundation of knowledge I built up from my other experiences to develop what we call a ‘sales audit,’ and I’ve worked with a couple hundred companies since then, helping them examine and fix their sales process. 

Could you go into a little more detail about your work with the Air Combat Command? What did your process look like for turning those facilities around? 

More than anything, it was absolutely collaborative. If I was going to, say, Arizona, I’d arrive and meet the team, the people who use the facility, and the management of the base in order to understand where they felt their facility had value, and what it gave back to military personnel. I’d do some analysis, study their business and operations (and how they compared to their peers), and then identify deficiencies and strengths. 

From there, I’d give them training in each of those areas. We went through a pretty rigorous training process and would then go back and make sure everyone was integrating that training across the facility. That’s all very similar to what my firm does now—we analyze, provide advice, and measure results for a year to see how we’re moving the needle and helping them meet their goals.

What is it that draws you to sales? 

Well, certainly the work I did for the Air Combat Command gave me a foundation that drew me to sales throughout the rest of my career. I think the most interesting part of my career was developing the sales audit process, and listening to the clients’ stories. Every business owner has a different story, which I like hearing, but I also started to wonder if there wasn’t a specific process I could identify and use to help business owners fix their problems. 

That idea of developing a scientific process was exciting to me, and it became even more exciting when I realized I had a process that worked. It’s a systematic process that works for those many different business owners I just mentioned. To me, there’s a lot of appeal in helping businesses overcome their problems, which I suppose is what has kept bringing me back.

To take things in a different direction, what do you currently teach at Midland, and what drew you to teaching?

I teach sales and leadership in the Midland MBA program. I’ve been teaching for about 5 years at a variety of colleges. I’m not sure the best way to describe this, but for me, the best aspect of teaching is seeing that moment when the light bulb goes off in a student’s head. Helping someone understand a new concept is extremely rewarding.

What’s your approach to teaching your sales and leadership class at Midland?

I try to give the students perspectives they’re not used to hearing about sales. I talk a lot about the psychology of sales and why someone buys—which isn’t always taught in courses about sales. I also approach the course with real-world case studies that show how a company is currently selling. From there, I incorporate the leadership aspect that students need to actually be able to sell products, services, and ideas to people in order to accomplish their organization’s, as well as personal, goals.

Of course, I bring in that scientific approach to the classroom, too. I teach that analysis I mentioned earlier as a way to show students that there’s more to sales than they might think. And I’ve found that a lot of this is new to the students. We teach marketing, but we don’t always teach the sales process. My goal is to make sure everyone in the class walks away having learned something new.

One thing that’s unique to Midland specifically is the hybrid approach. Is that beneficial to you as a teacher?

Absolutely. Having a combination of online and in-class teaching is amazing. It’s still a significant investment of time, but it’s much easier to balance. The hardest thing with any course is juggling work, class, and free time, and the hybrid format works exceptionally well for that. In the past I’ve only taught in the classroom, but this format gives me much more freedom to manage the rest of my career while teaching. I think the same is true for the students as well.

Why would you recommend earning an MBA?

It opens up new avenues for networking with and learning from people like you. Some of my best networks are people I got my MBA with. And for employers, having an MBA shows a lot of drive and desire to learn. One last thing: an MBA is great for entrepreneurs. An MBA covers so many topics that are so beneficial in regards to opening and running your own company, so especially for entrepreneurs, an MBA is a great option.

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