Over the weekend, I was sitting around my kitchen table with my dear friends, Sloan and Yanira. We were just out of the pool and a bit swim-hungry so we enjoyed a snack of watermelon and popcorn—a snack menu I came up with myself. I didn’t bother to present utensils or plates during this snack time. We ate our watermelon right over the table and the juice dripped off our chins. We made little piles of popcorn next to the stacks of watermelon rinds and ate it off of the table, too. Or at least that’s what I was doing. I don’t actually remember the two of them doing much dripping or popcorn-piling. Now that I think of it, they both managed to handle the whole thing with incredible politeness, considering that their hostess didn’t give them much to work with…but that’s not the point. The point is, it was casual and relaxed and I didn’t worry for a second that they might be concerned about my manners or food presentation. That’s how comfortable I am with these people.
We were slowing down on the snack and Sloan asked me how yoga is going. I said “great,” because that’s the way I feel about it. I love that I get to teach yoga. Then, I started to think about where my yoga teaching is going. What are the areas that I want to grow and develop and what is the next aspect of teaching that I have to offer? And because these are both favorite AND very smart people, I mentioned that I want to do more individual yoga sessions, but I’m having a hard time making that happen. And as I hoped, they were willing to take a look at this with me.
Sloan and Yanira are both self-employed. Sloan has his own State Farm Insurance agency and Yanira has a biz selling beauuuutiful jewelery. They believe in what they do. They are selling things that people need, appreciate and make their lives better. They are doing good work and they are really good at it, plus, these two are creative, connected to their family, friends and community AND they are getting ready for a baby (!!!) so work isn’t all that they do. Work time can’t consume all of their waking hours. They want to make those working hours count so they have time to do the other things that they love.
This sounds a lot like me — self-employed, I believe in what I do, and I’m offering something that people need, appreciate and that makes lives better, AND I like to have plenty of time to hang out with my girls and family, friends and books. But there’s a difference between the way I do what I do and the way that Sloan and Yanira do it. They know, embrace and have honed a skill that I have yet to develop. I am in denial about a very important aspect of being a yoga teacher, and I’ll tell you what it is: Sales.
We yoga teachers are very passionate about what we are doing. Yoga is so beautiful and we want to spend all of our time practicing, reading, breathing, and teaching yoga. I’ve seen this happen to artists, writers, crafters and teachers, too. We are all so enchanted by our passions, it seems somehow diluting to devote as much time to maintaining the business as we do to practicing our skill. But here’s what happens when we don’t get comfortable or good at the sales part of the gig. We struggle as business people. We depend on other people to grow our business and sometimes, many times, that doesn’t happen fast enough or at all. If the growth doesn’t happen then the money probably doesn’t either which means… eventually… we get tired of the struggle and the no money and the passion-as-work thing just can’t sustain itself.
I can talk about yoga, the benefits of a regular practice, the subtleties of breath and meditation. I am happy to share the stories of how yoga makes my life and relationships better. If someone says, “Amanda, are you available to teach here, there, this day, that day?” I’m on it… But recommending to someone that they do a private session with me is SO HARD, even when it’s exactly what I think they need to move forward in their yoga practice.
Sloan gave me a sales pep talk and he put it in very simple terms. He said that if I’m not working to build and grow my business and meet more students, then it is a dying business. There needs to be time spent every day growing the business. Things like flyers and email are “soft sells”. If there’s a person out there who is in the perfect mood when they receive one of these things then maybe they reach out to set something up with me. But that’s a pretty small sliver of us who is going to respond to a postcard in the mail from someone you’ve never met before. He also said, “Unfortunately, knocking on doors really works.” He said I need to get comfortable talking about how great individual sessions are, and get comfortable asking people to make the appointment. I also need to be comfortable with someone saying “no.” Writing that is so weird because part of me is like, “yeah. Oh yeah. I’m good with all of that. No problem.” But I guess I’m really not, as evidenced by how little of it I actually do.
Yanira gave encouraging nods as Sloan said all of this and then she’d come up with an amazing example of how to actually say to someone that they should practice with me. She’d express it in a way that was clear and sincere and so good. Sloan said I should sell hot tubs for a few months, something I don’t care that much about, so I can get comfortable with salesperson skills. This was a hilarious thought but a good reminder that this sales stuff takes practice, just like the other skills I’ve worked hard to develop, and I’ll get better at it over time.
I need to be comfortable talking about and sharing what I have to offer. In order for my yoga business to grow, I need to hone some skills. It’s not going to come from another yoga training. It’s not found in additional teaching hours. I’ll grow as a yoga teacher as I grow as a business woman, as a salesperson. Even with my bouts of insecurity, I believe whole-heartedly in what I’m offering–the yoga and my teaching. I know students who would get SO MUCH out of just a couple of one-on-one sessions. I’ve had the priveledge of working with a few individual students on an ongoing basis, and the learning and growth that happens in that setting is so great to be a part of. The relationship that develops allows deep work to happen. Working individually with students is so great, I want it to be most of what I do. Now, I need to share that in a way that is clear, sincere and effective. I need to make the sale.
There’s a woman, Cailen Aisher, who is all about helping yoga teachers develop empowering business practices. My friend suggested I check out her blog and after a quick read, I signed up for her newsletter. She’s got great tips and boy does she know how to market herself well. CLICK HERE to read her blog, Calm Biz.
Sloan says, “The best book for someone at this moment in their self-employed business is The E-Myth Revisited. You can read it in a weekend.” HERE is a link to the book.