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.
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.
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.
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.
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 opportunities to sell your art.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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,
Never use conversation killing closed ended questions like, “Can I answer any questions for you?”
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.
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.
How often has a knowledgeable salesperson helped you make a choice in situations like this:
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 a 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 deal, but in those situations, remind them of your easy return, satisfaction guaranteed policy
Move to the last step with a closing question:
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.
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 overcome my own feelings of inadequacy when I first started selling magazine advertising to Fortune 500 companies and their ad agencies. It is an 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.
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:
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 that 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 writing 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.