Selling Art at Shows with the Be Back Offer

Selling art is rarely simple. Successful art sellers use every technique available to makes sales happen. The “Be Back” is an easy-to-use, powerful one.

Success in the art business requires success in selling art.

be back offer

“Be Back” Offers Create a Virtuous Circle

Sounds simple, right? Of course, you know selling art is rarely simple.

The most successful artists, galleries, and art dealers know it takes repeated exposure to convert a prospect to a buyer. Settings and situations vary in selling art.

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Use the “Be Back” to Sell More Art

Here is one scenario that will help you sell more art. It is one of those practical ideas that costs very little, but will help you from losing some sales. I call it the “Be Back Offer.” It combats something all consumers do. That is, get momentarily excited about buying something only to get cold feet and promise to come back to make a purchase.

Sometimes this with good intentions, other times to save face, we promise the salesperson we will “Be Back.” Having an effective “Be Back” offer can combat lost sales for you. It won’t always work, but it will always give a you better chance than if you just let a prospect walk away with a only a “Be Back” promise.

Lessons from Years on the Tradeshow Floor

For the nearly 20 years, I sold booth space at some of the biggest art tradeshows in the industry. I wanted my exhibitors to be successful and satisfied, so they would come back next year and buy more space. When it worked, as it often did, it created a virtuous circle resulting in win-win-win for exhibitors, buyers and me.

One powerful and affordable idea for my exhibitors was to have a “Be Back” offer. This works any time you, or your salespeople, meet a prospective buyer. A tradeshow booth is a perfect example. A buyer comes in, is shown the latest and greatest, but is not ready to commit now. In most cases, the best that happens is business cards are exchanged, and sales materials supplied,  with promises to be back from the buyer.

Business Cards Are a Useless 20th Century Artifacts

That is a bad way to do things, in my humble opinion. I think business cards should be called blow off cards. They provide an easy way for the buyer slip out of making a buying decision now. Sales materials are a little better because they have images, are larger and bulkier and maybe get some extra attention later on from the buyer. Neither are effective, in fact, nearly useless.

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At shows, and in any selling art situation, I recommend having a “Be Back” offer ready to provide to a buyer. Never leave your offer in plain sight. You do not want a buyer to see it unless you give it to them.

Some suggestions for your offer are:

  • Free shipping
  • Discount
  • Tax paid
  • Free hanging service
  • Any otherwise unavailable attractive proposition

At shows, make sure your offer has your company name, your booth number, and perhaps a map to show where your booth is at the show. Include a description of the offer and ALWAYS have an expiration date in mind for it.

Use the “Be Back” Offer to Get a Commitment and Email Address

Get a commitment from your be back prospect. When are they going to be back? How long are they going to be at the show? I suggest handwriting a time limit on the offer. It could be good until the time they plan to leave. Or, you could extend it for a week or two depending on how you want to structure the deal. The point is your offer should be encouraging and enticing with a definite deadline.

If your “Be Back” offer  extends beyond show closing time, ask for permission to send a reminder email prior the offer expiration. That gives you a specific reason to contact your buyer at a specific time. When you keep your committment, it shows your professionalism and dedication. If you use this idea, make sure it says in your subject line states something like this:  Special Offer Expiration Reminder. Doing this informs and encourages the buyer and encourage thems to  open your email.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

Use the “Be Back” Offer Creatively to in Selling Art Situations

You can create “Be Back” offers for almost every selling art situation you encounter. It won’t always work, but no matter. It’s an easy, inexpensive selling art tool that can only help. It could cause a prospect to take the time right now to make the purchase immediately.

Give it a try, I bet you will be glad you did.


The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.


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  1. I like this concept.

    I wonder if instead of handing the potential buyer the “Be Back” offer you pulled out a piece of paper wrote a discount or offer on a piece of paper, folded it in half. Ask for the potential buyers name and email and wrote it on the paper on the outside, then put it in your pocket. Give them your contact info and tell them if they come back to buy the piece before someone else buys the piece they can have the offer in your pocket.

    Sometimes, this sort of thing can be extremely powerful. But don’t show them until they come back and commit to buying. I would make the offer pretty good so they aren’t disappointed.

    If anyone tries this out I would love to hear the results.


    Richard Hoedl
    Art Guy
    [email protected]

    1. A lot of times my customers know each other – especially in cities where I’ve been very successful in past sales. I’ve always sold like- size paintings at the same price and sold them this way, at the same price to each customer so no one feels cheated. I wonder if some people who get a “be back offer” would spill the beans either to past customers, ones who already bought at the booth that day with the regular price, or others catch wind of the “be back” and start going this route, automatically knowing they can get a discount. I have a friend who, when customers start to hem and haw, say that if they buy right now she will give them a small, unframed original. I’m guessing like an 8×8 or 10×10. Not necessarily her top work, but the customer feels they are getting two paintings for the price of one.

  2. I wonder if anyone has any suggestions for making this seem like a “special treatment” for the customer rather than appearing “desperate” for a sale.
    Examples of conversation (or things to say) are welcomed.

    1. I came up with the concept back in the day when I worked for Decor Expo. I had hundreds of exhibitors who bought show space from me. I taught or talked to all of them about the “be-back” offer. It never occurred to me, nor did any of them ever mention that doing this would come off as desperate. You’re about to have someone leave your booth without making a sale. Some who showed interest will tell you they will be back. Those are the ones who you want to know about the offer. Giving an incentive with clear instructions on how to find your booth is not desperate, it’s smart. Just be yourself. To be authentic, use your own words. In a friendly tone, neither blase nor desperate, tell them you appreciate their interest and you hope to see them before the show ends. Then give them the offer. You can be straightforward with them. “In appreciation of your interest with the genuine hope to see you again, I have a special offer to incentivize your return.”

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