Start learning to sell more art.

Art is not an impulse sale. It requires discretionary income and careful consideration. Most often, it is a complicated process for both the buyer and seller. Art often is sold because a competent salesperson took the lead in the sale.

Buyers Are Often Unsure about Buying Art.

They look for help in making the right decision. They appreciate that someone took leadership and guided them to a satisfactory sale. It does not make a bit of difference if you are both the artist and the seller. They are separate roles. In any given situation, you can act as either or both at the same time.

If You Are Genuine You Can’t Go Wrong.

When you bring your authentic self into the sale, you cannot and will not take advantage of a buyer. If you use selling and leadership skills to help the buyer make the decision to buy your art, you have done them and you a favor. If you have a fair return policy, you should never feel as if you used your selling skills to force a sale to an unwitting buyer.

Yes, there are galleries and cruise lines where salespeople prey on unsuspecting customers. You have no control over those scenarios any more than you do whether one auto dealer is above board and another is unscrupulous. That this happens is unfortunate, but it is not relevant to how you go about selling your art.

Selling Is a Learned Skill Set.

You need to recognize that selling is a skill at which you can improve. You need to embrace that having and using selling skills is not a bad thing.

Successful selling is not about being selfish and putting you first. It’s not about taking advantage of someone because you use sales skills with intelligence. You are selling to adults with free will. You are not forcing a sale on a clueless buyer.

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy



You Own Your Opinion about Selling.

Any negative or insecure thoughts about selling are yours by choice. You own them. No one forced you into your belief. When you accept ownership of your view on selling, you realize you can decide to choose a different perspective. One that will help you sell more art.

Changing your attitude about selling to a proactive stance does not make you a bad person – it is, in fact, quite the opposite. Improved selling art skills will make you a stronger person and a more successful artist. You owe it to your career, and to others who you support through it to make the most of the opportunities to sell your art.

Feeling Insecure Is Neither Fatal or Unfixable.

I understand some artists have feelings of insecurity about selling. That is because they have not sharpened their selling skills. You can overcome the negativity you may have towards selling. It takes applying PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) and a desire to learn and improve your selling skills.

The way you arrived at your outlook towards selling may not seem like it is a choice, but that does not alter that it is. Regardless, you can choose to view learning and employing selling skills as a positive attribute. Doing so can make a tremendous impact on your career.

Here is an edited version of a post published in January 2013 how to sell more art with selling skills and leadership.

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy



Success in Selling Art Takes Persistence and Talent.

Art sales rarely are spontaneous purchases. Customers do not always know what they want. When you learn how to sell art by taking the lead in the process, you close more deals.

Your Art Career Deserves Your Best Selling Efforts.

You work hard to make work art designed to fill your creative urge and meet the desire of your patrons. If you take as much care in selling your work as you do in making it, your art career will flourish.

There are countless aspects to selling art with leadership. It starts with engaging work. It moves through vigorous marketing geared to gain awareness and popularity for your art.

You Can Learn Effective Ways to Sell More Art & Close More Deals.

All this activity leads to selling art in person by closing the deal on each piece sold. Yes, the Internet represents enormous, but elusive, art sales opportunities. The degree of difficulty in making online art sales to total strangers is super high. I guarantee it’s easier to learn how to sell art in person.

Artists who master selling art face-to-face flatten the ascent to long-term art career success. Those who ignore improving direct sales techniques make the climb to success much steeper.

This post covers just one powerful tactic you can learn to help you sell more art by leading the sale. Your customers often need your help. They first need education about your art and you. This lays the groundwork and allows you to help move your customers toward making a buying decision.

Take the Role of Leading the Sale.

Once you engage a customer and gain their interest, what happens next is up to you, as the art salesperson. Many customers waffle at making the buying decision. Rather than ramble about your work, you should use your time with your potential buyer, to gather intelligence.

You cannot help a prospective buyer unless you know what is causing them to hesitate. Is it:

  • Size.
  • Which piece.
  • Price.
  • Should they buy more than one piece?
  • How to get the piece home.
  • How to display it.
  • Perhaps they need a payment option.

Asking questions arms you with the information you can use in an information feedback loop. Be genuine with your questions. Be conversational in your approach. This will prove your interest in the buyers runs deeper than making a sale.

Be Casual in Asking These Things:

  • Ask them to describe where they live.
  • What kind of home they have?
  • Where they see your art hanging in their home?.
  • Do they own other pieces of original art?
  • How long have they been collecting?
  • Are they local or visiting?

Meet, Greet, and Retreat.

The classic approach is to meet your prospect. Introduce yourself; welcome them with a friendly confident smile and manner. Learn their name/s and one other bit of information.

Then retreat to let them browse. Don’t stare at them or follow them around. Be available without hovering. You can come with comments on a piece they seem interested in, and use the segue to gather more intel.

Don’t Be a Needy Pest.

You can’t just pepper someone with questions. Learn to mix in comments about the weather, notice, and comment on what they are wearing such as an unusual piece of jewelry or clothing. Perhaps something special is happening in your area. Did this bring them in? Are they sports fans, golfers, foodies, hikers, or do they like visiting museums?

Give your prospects time and distance to view the art at their pace. Be ready to engage at the appropriate time. You do not want to come off as aloof or desperate.

When you re-engage, use open-ended questions such as,

  • How long have you been collecting art?
  • What other artists do you collect?
  • What kinds of art do you own?
  • What did you like most about the pieces you’ve seen today?

Never use conversation killing closed ended questions like, “Can I answer any questions for you?”

Your Confident Advice Makes Sales.

When there is an extensive collection of art on view at one time, it can be daunting for buyers. If they want your work, it’s likely they will love more than one piece. My thoughts on “Offering Big” are part of my e-book,  The Zen of Selling Art. That only works when the budget fits the offer. If you learn to “Offer Big” on every sale opportunity, your results will improve beyond your imagination.

No one ever got hurt because they suggested a large order, maybe two 0r three pieces and a commission. Will it work every time? Of course not, but it will work often enough to make stiffening your resolve and asking while your empathic self holds its breath in terror.

You need to hone in on what your buyer is thinking.

This is where your practice, confidence, and expertise will help you lead the sale. Your intelligence gathering may have helped you discover the buyer’s budget. Perhaps you heard their indecision in comments to you, or a spouse or partner. Their wavering is your opportunity to lead the sale.

This is your opportunity to help them make the decision. Instead of asking a generic and rather lame, “Can I answer questions for you?” Try being more direct. Use their name, “Tell me, Barney, what are you thinking?” Or, “I can see the question on your face, tell me what’s on your mind.” Do this with a friendly smile and direct eye contact. You will get results.

This is not the time to lose the sale because the customer is waffling and you are too weak to lead the sale. You put in too much effort to be in the position to make the sale. It’s time to step up and take charge to make it happen.

Become the Trusted Adviser.

How often has a knowledgeable salesperson helped you make a choice in situations like this:

  • This suit flatters your figure, but I recommend this color. It will look fabulous on you.
  • These speakers are perfect for your room size.
  • This coffee maker is not the highest priced but is the best made and makes the best coffee.
  • This firmer mattress will give you excellent back support and last for ten years. You are going to love its state-of-the-art gel comfort top.
  • That model looks sportier, but it is not as reliable and gets terrible mileage. I suggest this model instead.

Assume the Expert Role.

Refer to how other collectors enjoy similar pieces. Remind them of the wall in their home they told you about earlier. Paint the mental picture for them how spectacular this art will look against their blue background.

Help them visualize the piece you believe will be the best fit. Encourage them this particular piece is not just a good choice, it’s a perfect choice. If it’s true, let them know you had a hard time putting it up for sale because it is one of your favorites.

Take your leadership role to ask for the business. Learn to assume the sale is a done deal. Show your confidence it will happen. Do these things without any signs of nerves, or that it will matter to you if it doesn’t, and you will close the sale. Don’t use it unless you feel it is the only way to close the deal, but in those situations, remind them of your easy return, satisfaction guaranteed policy

In Selling Art, Leading the Sale Leads to Closing the Sale.

Move to the last step with a closing question:

  • Can I wrap this up for you?
  • Would you like to take it with you or would you prefer to ship or deliver it?
  • Would you like to pay with cash, check or a credit card?
  • Would you like to use our free delivery and hanging service?
  • You can take it on no-risk seven-day return policy. Would that work for you?

Treat your customers with respect. Take responsibility to help them decide what to buy. Be confident and authoritative without being arrogant and you will earn their respect. They already like your work, helping them like and admire you will close sales.

Save Money and Learn More Methods to Selling Art.

I have written about selling art for many years. I have sold art in two galleries and at Costco Roadshows. I earned a six-figure plus income as a commissioned salesperson for most of my 30 years in the field.

I Had to Learn How to Sell. It Did Not Come Easy.

I had to overcome my own feelings of inadequacy when I first started selling magazine advertising to Fortune 500 companies and their ad agencies. It is intimidating to walk in an ad agency just like those you see on Mad Men. Clients like Disney, Westin Hotels, Safeco, Nike, Intel and many more were also scary to call on at first.

It’s Challenging to Feel Everyone Here Knows More Than I Do.

I had to learn to stand my ground with tough negotiators who saw their role as one of how can I squeeze this guy standing in front of me. I had to learn to put aside my empathy towards my prospect and ask for the sale and then shut up until I got an answer.

I taught myself how to prepare before I went into a selling situation. I went in knowing:

  • What I wanted from the meeting.
  • What questions I wanted to ask.
  • How I would answer the questions and objections I knew were coming.

By Preparing and Studying, I Gained Confidence.

As my confidence grew, and I became comfortable with using the selling skills, my sales increased, too. The result was I was able to live a splendid life from my selling skills.

My selling skills gave me new cars with no monthly payments. My wife and I built a big home in a great area. We took fun vacations and threw fancy parties. I’m not bragging, I’m just saying if I had chosen to not improve my selling skills, none of those things would have happened. I probably would not have kept my job that led me to write and teaching artists how to succeed.

I learned to get out of my way and to work at getting better at something that was crucial to my career. My selling skills elevated my lifestyle beyond what I could imagine when I was a young man out of the Army, working in warehouse and factory jobs, or even in my years as a firefighter.


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  • What if I don’t have a gallery/place to sell my work? All of my art is online. I have millions of viewers and followers on Google+, Facebook and Twitter, a website, and just started selling on Saatchi Art. However, I have not sold more than a few pieces to friends. I am working on getting a gallery in a prestigious spot, but that won’t happen for some time. What do I do about selling art online in the meantime? People have asked about buying my art but I can’t see to close a deal.

    • Selling online is hard to do. Without being a name brand artist, just having exposure isn’t enough to get sales. The artists I see who are able to sell online are making relationships with their followers and sales result from that activity. If you sit down and list everyone you know personally, (the average is 150), and ask yourself how many have seen your art? How many have bought your art? How many even know you are an artist? You will find if you are like most artists that you have barely dented your warm/local market. If just 10% of those 150 refer you to 3 people, you are more than halfway to 100 potential collectors who know you. It’s easier to sell to people you know than strangers. That is never going to change even with millions of views of your art online. You need to get to know people personally, or by second degree, get them on your email list where you can establish a relationship that goes beyond the bits and bytes of Internet marketing to strangers.

  • Awesome. Thanks Barney. Just what i need right now. Get’n er done!


  • I enjoyed both articles. Much of your suggestions were for a gallery but I bet I could tweet it a bit and use it under my sales test at my art shows! Thanks.

  • Best damn article I have read all month.

    There are times people contribute on this site that don’t make much sense. Been there, none that, and I need to seek people “with the expert knowledge” to help me tweet my sales. This article does exactly that. MB.

  • Great article and summarizes everything I have been studying over the last couple of years. Its wonderful to see it all in print in one place. Implementing and not falling into old patterns is the challenge in the growth.

  • Great article. Took screenshots so I can study sequence & questions to ask. Art is the hardest product I have ever had to sell mostly because of the customer’s view & education on artists and art in general. ?

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