Very few people out there realize what a difficult job being a salesperson is. Even most salespeople themselves underestimate the special qualities they embody in order to be successful. I believe this is due to the fact that you don't need an academic degree from an institute of higher education to sell. So we believe that anyone can do what we do. But what I want all of my fellow salespeople to realize is that selling is not just a job but an art that requires talent. During my years of service in fashion retail I have had much time to reflect on the meaning of my work, with my yoga practice being the beloved culprit of my analyses. One day while doing some yoga exercises on the sales floor (albeit modified), I made the most meaningful discovery, or you could say I reached a state of enlightenment with respect to my work.
My attitude about my job at the time was as a tolerable nuisance, something I enjoyed doing and did well but that I wasn't too proud of. I carried an internal bumper sticker that read "I'D RATHER BE DOING YOGA." This desire to take care of my body daily, due to the fact that standing on my feet all day was beginning to take a toll on my posture and leg circulation, led me to weave yoga into my daily duties. I created strengthening and stretching exercises I could do on the sales floor during down time. I also brought a new awareness to any repetitive movements, attacking them with a yoga perspective on skeleto-muscular balance. If I found myself always carrying merchandise with my right arm, I would switch to my left. Or when opening the heavy door that led to the stockroom which I entered countless times per day, I would concentrate on engaging my arm, side and shoulder muscles rather than compensating with less efficient parts of my body. Well let me tell you that by bringing yoga fitness into my work, I immediately started to feel a lot better as it gave me a boost in energy and kept menial tasks interesting, eliminating some of the brain drain I was feeling.
After doing this for some time, and getting accustomed to hearing "What on earth are you doing?" or "There she is stretching again," I began to feel a bit hypocritical for using yoga for its physical benefits while having only a vague idea about its philosophy. I always felt a sense of unease at the proliferation of yoga at gyms around the country with the focus being on achieving a "yoga butt" or the necessary creation of "power yoga" to make as attractive as Western forms of exercising. I knew there was more to it than that, without having to go off the deep end and run to an ashram. As I began to study the real aims of yoga, I discovered that yoga should not only be used as an escape from real world stress, but is also the perfect tool for dealing with its challenges and finding contentment within it. And pertaining to my present situation, I found the solution I was looking for when I realized that what I do for a living, selling, is a holistic endeavor for which yoga is its perfect mission statement.
So how is yoga perfect for salespeople?
Selling tests the mind.
Unlike other occupations that have set tasks, selling carries a unique kind of stress in that its execution relies on many factors that are beyond our control such as: the economy, weather, client disposition, product trends, quality control, competition, etc. In addition, when business is slow, the mind wanders and loses focus, and when it is busy the multitasking can be overwhelming. And let's not forget how stressful it is to compete for commission with your coworkers!
Yoga teaches us that the best thing we can do is to do our best and the rest will take care of itself. By learning to detach from the end result of our actions we accumulate less stress and allow karma to do its thing.
Selling tests the body.
Standing on your feet all day -- need I say more? Most of us are required to stand on our feet for a long workday in "nice" shoes, bringing pain and fatigue, back, posture and foot problems, as well as spider and varicose veins, and all the while, we must look good doing it! (Because image is all important! I still wish I could work in MBT's!)
There are many Hatha yoga postures which counter the effect of gravity that we can all do every night, with the simplest being legs-up-the-wall pose. Hip openers are also very important as hips become tight when standing. Poses that target the back, shoulders and core are great for maintaining good posture. And foot stretches help keep the toes and foot ligaments aligned.
Selling tests the soul.
Providing the high levels of customer service demanded by the industry is stressful as it requires salespeople be supremely patient while being genuine with their emotions on a consistent basis. Having to constantly adapt our approach to clients according to their needs and personality while being charming is draining.
Yoga teaches us compassion. Putting ourselves in other people's place allows us to feel a natural sense of urgency in assisting others and being kind and genuine so customer service is less stressful, allowing us to smile from the heart. Now that's real service with a smile!
Well, my dear colleagues, I hope that in reading this you have gained a new appreciation for the hard work you do everyday and how valuable you are to your company. Each day we come to work to have our mind, body and soul assaulted by the demands of our job and yet we are able to rise above it all with incredible strength. Our ability to maneuver with skill through unexpected events on a daily basis while keeping our cool and a desire to come back to work the next day is truly an art and what turns every salesperson into a yogi, whether knowingly or not. But now that you know, how could you not?
Stay tuned for more from the world of retail + yoga and for my selling-specific yoga sequence.