Photo by Indian Yogi (Yogi Madhav) on Unsplash

I have long been a devotee of yoga. With business travel limited and most sales calls moving remote in recent years, I’ve relied on my practice to power my technical sales. How? I find yoga and meditation can help me keep my composure and work towards the desired result: The Sale.

The teachings of yoga and meditation can help improve your performance during stressful video calls. After all, some of the key ideas are:

  • Use controlled, deep breathing to stay relaxed and focused.
  • Remain in the present.
  • React to events in a detached, non-judgmental manner.
  • Practice and prepare to perform at your best.

All that translates in technical sales

As we know, technical sales require selling value and not pushing product features. Selling value starts with understanding customers’ needs. One of the best ways to uncover customer needs is through in-depth interviews. Unfortunately, inexperienced or poorly trained sales people often find these customer conversations extremely stressful. When people are in what they perceive to be stressful or dangerous situations, fight-or-flight instincts kick in.

I’ve seen it happen. I was with a process sales engineer when the customer made a relatively innocuous comment about a different idea for the process filtration and drying solution. The engineer lost his composure and began arguing with the customer. Needless to say, the meeting did not go well. With more discussions and e-mails, and without the sales engineer, I was able to re-establish the customer trust. This example highlights the need for staying relaxed and focused when conducting effective customer-needs assessment sessions.

Applying the four yoga principles

  1. Leverage the power of the breath

When under stress, we take shorter breaths. Yet, research has proven that taking longer, deeper, slower breaths has a calming effect. Knowing that, engineers should do some slow, deep breathing prior to any customer conversations.

  1. Be in the moment.

The best customer interviews can never be fully scripted. So, paying attention to what the customer is saying is vital. By being in the moment you will also be able to ask appropriate follow-up questions. A good way to start is by minimizing distractions. Turn off your phone. Minimize excess motion such as wiggling your leg or clicking a pen. Consciously maintain eye contact and watch the customer’s mouth move. Before you respond, take a moment to absorb what they are saying. Then ask a follow-up question. Writing the purpose of your visit at the top of your pad can also help you stay in the moment.

  1. Avoid being judgmental

To ensure our survival, we have hyper-developed our ability to identify and flee from danger. This helped people avoid becoming a saber-toothed tiger’s meal. Still, it is counterproductive when we want to have a learning conversation with a customer. We tend to overreact to customer comments (our modern version of danger), take them personally, and potentially misinterpret them. If a customer makes a negative comment, recognize it for what it is. Instead of focusing on the implications of the customer’s comments, focus on understanding the customer and his or her goals and challenges. The customer’s expressed concern may not be the real issue. Instead of reacting, focus on asking some probing questions, listening sympathetically, and seeing it from the customer’s point of view.

  1. Practice and prepare to perform at your best.

Yoga and meditation are known as practices. As we do them repeatedly, we get better at them. Confidence gained through repeated practice can help you keep focused on your goals for the sales call and get the most out of it.

Some of the things to prepare prior to a technical sales customer conversation include:

  • A statement of the purpose of the conversation, including how the customer will benefit
  • A list of hypotheses you want to test
  • A conversation guide to keep things on track
  • A process to ensure that action items don’t get dropped

Namaste and signing the dotted line

These four principles of yoga and meditation–breath control, remaining in the moment, avoiding judgment, practice and preparation–can help you relax and perform at your best in customer conversations.

Let me know any other connections you see between yoga and technical sales. For me, combining the two together is a foundation  for productivity, efficiency, and growing personal and business health.