The Servant Salesman Approach
PROVO, Utah – May 07, 2021 – In 2001, sitting in a tiny three-hundred-square-foot office south of BYU campus, Jason Christensen worked unceasingly to build his company, NorthStar Alarm. Eighteen years later, right before he retired as CEO, Christensen’s small company had grown to hundreds of employees and tens of thousands of customers in thirty different states. Now as an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at the BYU Marriott School of Business, Christensen strives to instill the same ambition within his students that propelled his own success.
Christensen first joined BYU Marriott as part of the Entrepreneur Founders Organization at the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology. These Founders mentor students who want to start their own business ventures. Some Founders also choose to teach in the classroom, where they can share their entrepreneurial wisdom and expertise. Shortly after joining the Founders, Christensen designed the curriculum for his class, ENT 490: Entrepreneurial Sales, which is open to both entrepreneurship and non-entrepreneurship majors at BYU.
“The entrepreneurial sales class focuses on a service-based approach to selling and the importance of ethics, psychology, and creativity throughout the selling process,” says Christensen. “The principles taught in the class apply to a variety of situations the students may face, whether they pursue sales, marketing, or leadership.”
Christensen has encountered several of these situations in his own career. His success in sales required hard work and determination. “I first entered sales as a recently returned missionary. I moved to Central California to sell pest control, but the first two weeks were rough. I only sold two accounts and ranked dead last in our office,” he says.
“I arrived at a crossroads where I knew that I needed to either give up on sales or change my strategy. I decided to keep going and make specific changes in my sales pitch based on trainings the company gave us,” he continues. “I formulated several questions to ask after I introduced myself on someone's doorstep. I went out that following Monday and started asking these questions immediately after the person answered the door.”
Asking these questions completely altered how receptive people were towards Christensen’s sales pitch. “On that same day, I sold three accounts—a crazy amount!” he recalls. “I returned to the office at the end of the day, and no one believed what I’d done. From that point forward, I remained the top salesperson in my office every single day, and I broke companywide sales records.”
This transformative experience not only invigorated Christensen but also became a story he tells to motivate his students. “When I talk to my students about the summer I spent selling pest control, I ask, ‘What if I had gone home after two weeks? If anyone had asked me about my time as a salesperson, how would I have labeled myself?’ I would’ve believed that I was no good at sales. But in the end, sales completely changed the trajectory of my life. Sales opened up doors for me to step into other roles of leadership and eventually start a company.
“One thing I encourage my students to do is, if they ever tell themselves that they can’t do something or that they aren’t good at something, they need to add ‘...yet,’” he continues. “We can all become better at the things that we desperately want to do if we’re willing to keep improving.”
Christensen’s past and current students have shared with him that they feel empowered by his mantra of personal improvement. “Professor Christensen’s entrepreneurial sales course significantly impacted my understanding of personal accountability in business and in life,” says James Taylor, a 2020 entrepreneurial management graduate from Salt Lake City. “The course helped align my personal ethics and core values with the decisions that I will make now and in the future.”
Christensen strives to tie personal ethics into sales by incorporating gospel principles into his lectures. He loves teaching at BYU Marriott because he can apply these gospel topics to each of the business principles in his curriculum. He also emphasizes what he calls the “servant salesman approach,” where students focus on making a positive contribution to each customer by serving them and focusing on their individual needs.
In addition to encouraging service, Christensen hopes his class also helps students understand the importance of ethics in sales. “Most people don't associate sales with moral principles, and sales has plenty of negative connotations,” he says. “I strive to help my students understand that they can be successful in sales and still maintain good, moral principles. I hope they leave my class feeling inspired to continue their personal improvement and to positively influence the lives of the people around them.”
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert