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Every Stage of the Sales Funnel, A Founder’s Story with Jill Ulvestad

Jill Ulvestad has spent over 25 years helping organizations achieve critical business goals. Jill’s passion for sales and sales leadership led her to the field of sales performance consulting and training, where for almost a decade, Jill served as Vice President of Sales for a leading sales performance improvement company. In 2008, she founded Funnel Clarity, a sales performance improvement company that helps organizations of all sizes exceed their sales expectations.


Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I grew up in Naperville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. During this time, it was a small town but has since grown to become the 2nd largest city in the state. My childhood was idyllic with a Norman Rockwell kind of experience. I loved school, played a number of sports, and participated in as many activities as my parents would allow. After graduating High School, I chose to stay in Illinois and attended the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana.


How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
Growing up, I was one to follow the rules – Yet I was and still am motivated by both recognition and success. Being a “corporate soldier” was easy, and comfortable. However, in 2008, during a time of disruption at the company where I was working, there was an opportunity to be part of a vision for helping sales professionals, sales leaders, and teams collectively not just be good but to be great at selling. With no backing, a few initial clients, and an incredible business partner and team, we’ve exceeded my expectations for what we’ve been able to accomplish. It hasn’t been easy and every day there’s something to consider, think through, or try to get ahead of – however, I wouldn’t want to do anything else.


What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
It is impossible to overstate the importance of having customers, even before you actually open your doors for business if it is possible to do so. I have seen many entrepreneurs, filled with optimism, rent office space, hire personnel, purchase tech stacks, etc., without having a single paying client or even any opportunities in the sales funnel. It is remarkable how fast these enterprises run out of money before even having a chance to get airborne. In fact, a significant amount of research shows that startups with customers lined up before they open for business succeed three times more often than those who start with nothing. I advise startup entrepreneurs to regard their enterprise as either a hobby or a waste of money until they have customers. Once you have customers, spend as little as possible, and focus obsessively on improving your operation and delighting your customers. Expansion and profitability will inevitably follow. Believe me; I am aware of how obvious this all seems. Yet, the number of entrepreneurs that ignore these truths makes it all the more astounding and important.
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