How to Sell Art: Use the Five “C”s for Success

When it comes to selling, some basics fit every situation. Success in selling is both psychological and tactical. And, yes it can be these things without being diabolical or deceitful. Success does require a word that does start with a “D”, which is DESIRE.

It may seem rudimentary to say, because it is fundamental, but without a sincere desire to succeed there will be no measurable success. The facts are those things we actually want to attain are often challenging and require a commitment and a way of going about things that give you the strategically best chance to achieve your goals.

Learning how to sell art is a process

Art Business Book Club

In 30 years of selling, I have learned many things about the art of selling, including how to sell art by working in galleries and observing the art marketing and sales techniques of countless successful artists. In my day job, I perform customer appreciation for a high tech company. It requires contacting new buyers to thank them for new orders and renewing customers to thank them for their continued support and business.

Although upselling is not a goal, roughly 25% of those we contact either extend their current contracts to get better rates or add new products, or both. Because we have a growing array of 55 products, of which almost all are developed to help small businesses, we only have to make a sensible presentation that outlines the features, advantages and benefits of what we offer, give a price and quietly wait for a response. (Click the link to read about how to sell art with silence.)

Top sales producers share common traits – you can use them too

If you had a chance to study the top producers where I work now to learn how they hit high marks day after day, the Five “C”s would be evident. What they do is transferable to what you do. Along with a big dose of DESIRE, the high achievers all incorporate these five things in their daily routine:

Art Business Book Club

  1. Courage
  2. Confidence
  3. Conviction
  4. Consistency
  5. Control
  1. Courage – It is interesting when you look at some of these folks where I work because it is quite easy to tell many of them are not natural born salespeople. What they do to get results is have the courage to get outside their comfort zones. That means learning how to be direct and how to tell people what to do. Unlearning not asking for approval is one of the hardest things for many to overcome. For most it is the crucible with the difference between success, mediocrity and failure being a very fine line.

Success comes by accepting you have to change from asking for permission to asking for action. You don’t hear them using weak closing questions such as: “Would it be okay?” “How do you like this?”, or “Do you think this would work for you.”

Instead, you will hear, “I highly recommend this product, it is the best solution for you. Let’s get this done. It is only $xxx and we can put it on your card now.” The psychological difference to the customer is enormous. You have removed the agony of asking them to make a decision and instead have given them a reasonable conclusion.

When you stop asking for permission to sell, you begin giving permission to buy. Is this high pressure? Not in the slightest! If it were, our sales closing would be closer to 50% and our refunds would be enormous. Because we don’t resort to high pressure and we always offer practical solutions with useful products, our refunds are minuscule.

Art Scenario: This painting/print is going to look fabulous in your home/office. Let’s wrap this up and get a shipping/hanging date nailed down.

  1. Confidence– The only way you can act this way with a customer is by having first established credibility and trust with them. That begins with an innerconfidence that comes across in your voice and demeanor. You can be politely assertive as long as you are equally confident in yourself and your products.

Here again, the psychological aspects of decision making are in full bloom. The signals you give as a salesperson when a potential transaction is on the table will make all the difference in the outcome. If you convey confidence in yourself, in your products, and in how the end result will be beneficial to the customer, you will have mastered a key component in becoming a high producer.

Art Scenario – You have to think it through to the end result. Paint that picture in your mind so you can then paint in your customer’s mind. That is, the artwork is going home with them and you know they will love it. You tell them what your return policy is and then say it never gets used, or only to get a bigger, better piece, or whatever is genuine and believable.

  1. Conviction– We have all met someone who seemed confident in themselves, but it came across as a facade, or it was all about them. Conviction is holding the sincere belief that what you are offering is an actualbenefit to the customer. It then becomes not a sale, but a way for the client to enjoy using the product and perhaps profit from it as well.

Art Scenario – In other words, when you truly believe what you are offering is an excellent thing for your customer to own and that this is true for multiple reasons on multiple levels, then your conviction works hand-in-hand with your confidence. They are going to enjoy it now. It can become a family heirloom for future generations to enjoy. Or, depending on you and the piece, it might be destined to be investment art. If that is your reality and your conviction, then use it to your advantage.

  1. Consistency– the best salespeople have taken the time to study what works for others in the same profession. They then blend that knowledge, those words and techniques into their own methods of presenting products and asking for the sale. Ultimately, they refine what they do and say until it is second nature to them. By staying consistent with their message and process, they are calm and this helps keep their customers calm in what is sometimes a stressful situation merely because they haven’t bought high-techservices and products before, which is often the same with art.

Our salespeople come to realize while the process may be new, if not a little confusing and intimidating for their customers, that there are really only a few situations with slightly different parameters that come up over and again. Being able to recognize the situation and consistently react to it makes them more competent and confident in the process.

When you realize that you can climb the mountain and take the same trail every time, you pretty quickly become adept at what was once daunting and challenging. You may get off on a tangent or side path, but you remain calm because you know you are headed back the tried and true trail very soon.

Art Scenario – when you paint or create, there are certain tried and true techniques you will use no matter what you are making. It is no different when you are selling your art. Stick to repeatedly doing and saying those things that have given you the greatest success.

  1. Control – Having a goal in mind for every one of these similar situations and knowing what the best way to move towards a favorable outcome helps you stay in control of the selling scenario. You are going to begin to rely on using catch phrases that get consistent reactions from your customers.

For instance, I might ask if my customer has any questions or concerns about the product they just bought. There are only two responses. The first is yes, tell me more about this aspect, etc., in which case we are off and running because interest has been displayed. By my asking more questions, it is possible then to make great recommendations.

The second response is no I do not have questions or concerns. Poorly played by you and it becomes a great conversation killer. I answer this way which often elicits a laugh, “Great! That makes my job easy.” Getting a chuckle relaxes a customer and lets them know you are a real person, not some sales machine. You have just subtly said you are not there to push something on them.

At that relaxed moment, it is your job then to move the conversation along. After a brief wait for whatever the response is you move to say this, “I do have a couple of questions for you.” I might ask, “I see you are paying full price for your product. Is there a reason you chose not to take advantage of one of our lower priced business plans?” The response here can easily lead to a sale when a customer realizes there are ways to get the same product for less money.

Alternatively, I might ask what productivity tools they use, or how do they generate direct interest in their business. People like to talk about their businesses, if you ask questions that show you are actually interested in their business and not just another peddler pitching products, you can start a conversation, which can uncover distinct needs.

Art Scenario – If your prospects ask questions, answer them and move to ask your questions. If they answer they do not have questions for you, then you also might respond with, “That makes my job easy. But, I do have a couple of questions for you.” It could be, “Is there a reason you have not joined my Collector Society that gives members unpublished discounts, sneak previews, and chances to win free stuff from me?” Or, you can try, “I have an elite, exclusive arrangement with my all my top collectors who have purchased multiple works at the same time. Let me give you the details of how it works?” “Did you know that I have an art leasing program for businesses?”

With above the Art Scenarios, you are getting broad-based suggestions, which may or may not apply to your business. But, they should stimulate some thinking on your part. If you commit to working on improving your art sales by using these suggestions here, you quickly will be able to develop questions and scenarios that are both accurate and beneficial to you.

See you at the top!

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Art Business Book Club

Barney Davey

I help artists and photographers find buyers, sell more art and operate profitably.

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