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Are Mormons Naturally Trained to Be Great Salespeople?

This is where the politically correct unload on me, right?  "What do you mean that Mormons could be better salespeople that other segments of the population?"  I could be called a lot of things I don't desire to be called in today's world.

But allow me to explain. I happened upon a documentary this weekend and watched some missionary work within the Mormon faith and uttered what has to be a business truth - "those kids look like they're going through the greatest sales training in the world."  Mormon

Missionaries in the Mormon faith get dropped into a part of the world they're unfamiliar with for 1-2 years and proceed to knock on doors for that entire time period to evangelize the faith.  They get paired up with one partner they ride or die with for that time period, and as I understand it, they are limited in the communication devices they have access to (no smartphones) and only can make limited/periodic calls back home.

The lessons and growth - as well as the entertainment - wait for them in 1-2 years of door knocking with limited distractions.

Sounds like sales training to me. 

A quick web search shows that some companies have attempted to build a salesforce using former Mormon missionaries.  More form the New York Times:

Six days a week, in fair weather and foul, two-dozen door-to-door salesmen, all of whom live clustered together in an apartment complex in this suburb west ofChicago, pile into S.U.V.’s and cars and head into the big city, bent on sales of home security systems.  And on Sunday, their one day off, they drive together to the nearest house of worship of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The salesmen are mostly former Mormon missionaries from Utah who cut their teeth — and learned their people-skill chops — cold-calling for their faith. In Chicago and in its suburbs where their employer, Pinnacle Security of Orem, Utah, has shipped them for the summer sales season, they are doing much the same thing, but as a job.

Managers at Pinnacle Security, founded in 2001 by a student at Brigham Young University, the Mormon Church-owned school, say missionaries simply have the right stuff. Many speak foreign languages learned in the mission field. All have thick skins from dealing with the negative responses that a missionary armed with a Book of Mormon and a smile can receive.

Mormon men are expected to serve a two-year mission in their early 20s, and about two-thirds of Pinnacle Security’s 1,800 sales representatives this summer have been through the experience. Former missionaries work for other direct-sales companies, too, though Pinnacle seems to be in a class by itself: It has deployed them in 75 cities nationwide.

“They’re used to knocking on doors, and they’re used to rejection,” said Scott Warner, Pinnacle’s manager of the Chicago sales team

Yes, that example is door to door sales.  But if missionary candidates can survive - and thrive - in the task they undertake in a foreign country, they're probably good enough to deserve a shot on your inside sales team as well, right?

A big part of recruiting is attempting to unlock pools of candidates that are undervalued.  I suspect many companies already use the Mormon missionary pool as a source of early career sales talent, but if you haven't, and you're struggling to fill any type of entry-level sales role, this segment is worth a look.

Note to the haters - I'm not suggesting that we build a salesforce of white guys who love white shirts, black ties and Joseph Smith, Jr.  I am saying that the hit rate recruiting leaders get out of this segment for early careers sales roles should be higher than average.  Your EEOC mix, as always, is your responsibility.

Mormon missionaries have done a sales job that's harder than the one you have peddling software, service contracts or widgets.  There were often angry dogs and heads of the household with guns involved.

There might even be a sales manager out there that was responsible for keeping these missionary flocks engaged and on the straight and narrow in the field. 

I'd give it a look.   

 

Comments

Dusty Litster

This is a very founded theory. As a returned LDS Missionary (Philadelphia 03-05) the skills learned along with the lessons of letting go of fears while knocking on doors and talking about subjects that are very personal provide an unmatched training for a 18-21 year old. A few corrections, you can get a new partner or "companion" every 6 weeks, doing with a new city or "area"assignment. Additionally, there is a leadership structure within the mission that can assist in managing skills after the mission.

Jared Barfuss, CustomBusinessSales.com

A Mormon mission is the finest sales training in the world. From a sales perspective a mission boils down to this: You pay your own way, to be cut off from family and friends, to be sent to a location you didn’t choose, to work alongside people you don’t know. You work 60 rejection-filled hours per week, generating your own leads, selling an unpopular intangible product, and for every “closed deal” you receive ZERO monetary compensation. It's a true test of endurance, character, and belief. Any sales manager would kill for reps with experience like this!

I served a mission 20 years ago “selling” the gospel. Today I sell businesses as the owner of a national open-service business brokerage. My 6,200 hours of “sales training” as a missionary has profoundly influenced my professional work. Serving buyers and sellers is literally a religious ministry for me, and l hire team members with the same attitude.

Rabadniertokentorer Marashiona

I'd be more interested in hiring someone who isn't indoctrinated into performing a mundane task into perpetuity - if you want to exploit that for your business, then go ahead. If that's perfect for a sales environment, super marvellous. I suppose you need that level of vacuity to drag yourself through the day.

I like how religious fundamentalism is considered a sales job here, though, I'm sure the Mormons would that notion levelled at them.

Kimberlee, no longer Esq.

I'd take issue with Rabadniertokentorer's remark above; first, yeah, some of every job is performing mundane tasks into perpetuity. Especially at the entry level. That's often what execution looks like.

But I'd also argue that nothing about this experience is mundane. It's people-work, which is always going to be richly varied in kind and difficulty, because people are so richly varied. (Also, Mormons are no more "indoctrinated" than any other religious people in America, of which most of the people we hire are, so let's not go down that particular path of judgement, eh?)

As you touched on a bit, Nick, Mormons also run some of the best language schools in the world. While Mormons can put in languages skills and preferences, the Church decides where each person will go, and often that means sending folks to, say, a Spanish speaking country with no knowledge of Spanish. I think they spend 2-3 months in language school, and come out with enough language to move to another country for 2 years and talk with people there for 60 hours a week. BYU usually tops the lists of "most bilingual students" because most of their students are returned and fully bilingual missionaries.

Like any other kind of recruiting, individuals matter. As in any other segment of society, there will be some Mormons that are perfect for your company and some that are not. But it's absolutely worth considering missionary work as relevant experience that would apply to lots of jobs.

Jerry Schmidt

Yes, as belivers in a restored gospel of Christ Jesus, LDS missionaries are about sales in the same way Peter, James, John, and Paul from the New Testament were about sales.

There is so much wrong with this it would literally take generations of humans to overcome this idea of sales-ship, and since people inside and outside the LDS church still believe in it even generations of time and effort to learn differently have not been effective.

CalledToServe

I served as a missionary nearly 30 years ago, and there is no doubt that I have been able to apply skills I learned as a missionary in sales. To those who bristle at the thought of proselyting being compared to sales, I assure you that I loved my mission and the good people I served. Some of them joined the Church. Most didn't. I didn't see myself as a sales person at all. But I absolutely learned things that helped me in sales throughout the years since. And along with my my fellow missionaries I acquired leadership, service, empathy, self sufficiency and many other skills that have served me throughout my life. My mission was one of the greatest experiences I've had, and I am truly grateful for it. Countless people have benefitted from it.

Rabadniertokentorer Marashiona

In response to the Kimberlee – “first, yeah, some of every job is performing mundane tasks into perpetuity. Especially at the entry level. That's often what execution looks like.” Well, it’s nice you’re open about exploiting people in this way.

“But I'd also argue that nothing about this experience is mundane” – Contradicts your previous statement and is also specious reasoning. I can’t think of a more mundane job. “It’s people-work” – yes, you summed up my previous point perfectly.

“(Also, Mormons are no more "indoctrinated" than any other religious people in America, of which most of the people we hire are, so let's not go down that particular path of judgement, eh?)” – Mormons are indoctrinated, as are all religious people, this is a central problem with humanity as a whole. If you’re fine with that then, sure, I guess that’s no problem for your workforce. Exploit this indoctrination to make yourself rich - go for it.

“Like any other kind of recruiting, individuals matter.” – And in steps the business spiel summary and the type of mindless corporate inanities that are part of a different brand of brainwashing.

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