Yogi Salesmanship: 3 Tips Every Teacher Should Know
Steve, the head of sales at my first job out of college, was a seasoned "garmento"— one who truly understood the ins and outs of the fashion industry. With over 20 years of experience in accessory wholesale, he was a master in the art of selling ice cubes to Eskimos. How sweetly ironic that one of my most well-used mantras ("There is what you show and what you know") is a page torn right out the hymnal from the Church of Steve.
It's a luxury to choose one's teacher, and an even more valuable gift to understand their lesson. A fine line, often taken for granted, separates teachers from salesmen, and I absolutely despised my teacher. Steve was the main reason for my abrupt departure from a promising career as a salesman after my first year. An epitome of conviction, every word he spoke had an angle slanted toward the almighty dollar. The path of every conversation finalized a deal, whether spoken or otherwise. The thought of turning into a Steve and taking up a life built upon ceaselessly maximizing commission kept me up at night. In the end, I chose sleep and left the entire profession behind.
Arguably more influential than any yogi, acrobatic coach, or spiritual guru, Steve has become one of my greatest teachers because of a lesson he didn't even know he taught: There is what you show and what you know. Maybe you don't have that particular style in stock at the time. Perhaps you never will. Just because you can't fulfill the order doesn't mean you can't write it. Thus rang the gospel of Garmento Steve, the patron saint of profit and loss.
The true intention of both professions comes down to a question of integrity. What are you selling, and how much do you believe in it? As a salesman, I was more interested in customer experience than the bottom line. I loved helping people, yet didn't care too much about selling fashion accessories. My clients loved me; Steve did not. Even though I managed to do quite well by being open and honest, what Steve proselytized was monetary success. That was not the life for me. I was simply holding someone else's place in line.
We bridge the gap between what we show and what we know through learned experience, by challenging ourselves to grow. Sometimes a leap of faith is necessary to make it to the other side, especially when there's no real way of knowing how to cross. With luck, there might be a clear target to aim for. Both teachers and salesmen help people realize these targets and share the proper tools to achieve them. Either role can use their skills for personal or universal gain.
How can one maximize their karmic commission?
1. Create trust internal.
Give the first jump strength, make the flight smoother, and create a greater chance for surefooted landing. Study hard, practice often, and continually search out better ways to connect with your love for whatever practice you wish to share. You're your own first student, so don't hold back from learning as much as you can. Similarly, make sure you would always buy what you're selling — consider it quality control. What you show is enthusiasm, what you know is gained experience.
2. Inspire trust external.
Open the journey up to others. Don't just keep all the good knowledge to yourself. Share as much as you can with whomever will listen. Those who aren't good public speakers and truly wish to teach must overcome that hurdle. Be the student you wish to reach so you can truly understand your audience. You'll be more comfortable speaking to a group of like-minded individuals. If you think everyone is out to get you, remember that your biggest critic is yourself. What you need to show is authority while knowing a humble commitment to constantly learning. If don't believe in your product, who will?
3. Establish trust eternal.
Ensure your show/know bridge will continue to support everyone who decides to cross. As a teacher, there are times when what I know is doubt and what I show is confidence. The Church of Steve has taught me the show must go on. A good yoga teacher or salesman can admit they don't know everything. A great one won't have to. They can keep you engaged on other important areas while they figure out how best to answer your questions. It is perfectly ok to tell a student that you don't know something yet — "yet" being the most important aspect of service. Just make sure not to write an order that your karmic warehouse has no capability or intention of fulfilling.
The skill of creating unique impressions is not one to be be handled lightly. Sharpening one's teaching skills is an edge in need of constant refinement. A strong practice and the gift of gab does not make one a good yoga teacher. True yogic salesmanship takes love, commands respect, begs acceptance, and possesses an unlimited capacity for positive change.