“There are no limits to what you can accomplish, except the limits you place on your own thinking.”

– Brian Tracy

Selling art is a process that takes persistence and talent to get the results you deserve and desire. Art sales are rarely impulsive purchases. As a result, customers do not always know what they want. So when you learn how to sell art by leading, you close more sales.

A buyer has choices when they buy an artwork: they can buy it from you directly, find it through a dealer who represents the artist, or find it through a gallery either physically or online. When you have direct contact with a buyer, you are in a solid position to take the lead and help them decide to buy your art.

With COVID-19 restrictions lifted and more in-person events taking place, brushing up on your art-selling skills can help you help your buyers make a purchase decision that pleases everyone. Let’s get started.

Your Art Career Deserves Your Best Selling Efforts

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

The basic steps to selling art begin with creating engaging work. The process moves on to marketing to boost awareness, gain acceptance, and grow popularity for your art. The goal and conclusion are successful sales and the start or evolution of connections between buyers and you.

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



You Pay a Lot to Take the Shot, So Take Your Best One

There is always a cost to creating opportunities to sell your art in person: show, travel, marketing, networking, social influencing, and more. So, you want to be ready to do your best when you have the chance because you earned it.

Go with the attitude of “I’m here to help you” because you are. It’s your job to help them decide whether to buy your work. When you are genuine and authentic, it comes through. You owe it to your prospective buyers and yourself to do your best. They had a cost to get there, and you have an investment in them and their interest.

The best outcome is that your buyer loves your art and appreciates your thoughtful help in the transaction.

Learn How to Take the Role of Leading the Sale

Keep reading to learn how to sell more art by leading the sale. Your customers often need your help. They first need education on your artwork and you. That information lays the groundwork and allows you to help your customers make a buying decision.

Once a customer is engaged and interested, what happens next is up to you as the art salesperson. Many customers waffle at making the buying decision. Rather than rambling on about your work, you should use your time with your potential buyer to gather intelligence. You cannot help them unless you know what is causing them to hesitate. Is it size, which piece, price, or number of pieces? It might just be they don’t know how to get the artwork safely home and properly displayed.

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



Asking questions gives you information you can use in an information feedback loop. Your questions, obtained in a genuinely interesting conversational approach, will demonstrate that your interest in them runs deeper than making a sale. Have them describe where they live, what kind of home they have, and where they envision 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. Please introduce yourself and welcome your potential buyers with a friendly, confident smile and manner. Learn their name(s) and one other bit of information.

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

You can’t pepper someone with questions. Learn to mix in comments about the weather, notice, and comment on what they are wearing—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 own pace. Be ready to engage at the appropriate time. You want to come off as neither aloof nor desperate. When re-engaging, don’t ask a closed-ended question such as, “Can I answer any questions for you?” Use open-ended questions. “How long have you been collecting art?” “What other artists do you collect?” “What kinds of art do you own?’

Your Confident Advice Will Untangle Uncertain Thoughts

When there is an extensive collection of art on view at one time, it can be daunting for buyers. They will likely love more than one piece if they want your work. My thoughts on “Offering Big” are part of my new e-book, The Zen of Selling Art. But that only works when the budget fits the offer.

It would help if you honed in on what your buyer is thinking. This step is where your 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. Now is your chance to help them make the decision.

Become the Trusted Adviser

How often has a knowledgeable salesperson helped you make a choice? 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 ten years. But what you will truly love is the state-of-the-art gel comfort top.

You assume the expert role. Refer to how other collectors enjoy similar pieces. Remind them of the wall with the blue background in their home and how this piece will look hanging on it. Help them visualize the work you believe will be the best fit. Encourage them that this particular piece is not just a good choice; it’s a perfect choice. You may personally like it so much that you have a hard time parting with it.

Take on your leadership role to ask for the business. If you do this with the air that the sale is a done deal and that you are confident it will happen, show no signs of nerves that it will matter; if it doesn’t, you will close the sale.

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 a check or a credit card?
  • Would you like to use our free delivery and hanging service?
  • You can take it on a no-risk, seven-day return policy. Would that work for you?

Treat your customers with respect. Please take responsibility for helping them decide what to buy. Be confident and authoritative without arrogance, and you will earn their respect. They already like your work, and allowing them to enjoy and admire you will close sales.

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art, art career, Close Sale, sell art, Selling

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  • Great article! Artists want to believe they’ll sell just by creating great work. That just isn’t the way it works. There is a business side to what we do!

    • Hi Jeanne, Thanks for your words of support. If artists fail to take the business side of their career seriously, they should not expect anyone else to take it seriously either.

  • This is a great article =).
    I am new to painting, well, I should say the whole experience
    is new for me… I don’t have a lot of confidence in my work yet.
    I started fineartamerica with photographs, then modified photos
    and I have a few paintings pictured on there,
    http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/kathy-sampson.html. I have started
    a group an joined some others… I have put on 4 or 5 contests… written
    blogs, done question an answere interviews with winners….
    Where I’m going with this, is what more can I do to help promote sales,
    and/or interest in my work? I have this insane drive to be creative,
    I just don’t seem to have the ability to promote myself.
    What more can I do? The term starving artist really fits me….
    what “no cost” outlets do you suggest to get started?


    • Dear Kathy, Glad you liked my article on selling art. It reads like you are foundering on all fronts. What media is best for you? Where to market? How to market, and so forth. It’s not easy, but my advice comes down to one word: focus. You need to focus on a medium and develop an identifiable style or look. Your marketing needs to be focused, too. Concentrate on finding collectors and buyers. They come to you one at at time. Blog consistently about interesting things, not just about you and your work and you will find a following. Collect email addresses relentlessly and mail to your list regularly, at least monthly. I only suggest “no cost” outlets as a way to augment your more serious marketing. If you don’t have the money to invest in your marketing, you may just have a pleasant hobby. Read my book, How to Profit from the Art Print Market. Get Alyson Stanfield’s book, I’d Rather Be in the Studio. Follow top art marketing bloggers. Much of their advice is free. The cost is in implementing the advice by investing your time and sometimes money to make your marketing first class. You can’t build a clientele on free outlets.

  • Hi Barney – great post. I do have a question though. How do you figure out if someone is looking to buy a painting or is just enjoying the show and has no intention of buying?

    • Darn it Barney – I knew you were going to say this is a tough one and it is a gut instinct LOL! I do get a “gut” sense about someone who is serious about purchasing, I guess why I asked is that I feel I’m wasting opportunities to sell to people who take interest in or like my work but do not show any indications towards buying. I often feel that I didn’t do enough to “help” them to buy. However thank you for the suggestions they are helpful and I will put them to use. Do you think asking them ” Are you at the show looking to add to your collection – or just to enjoy the art?” Do you think that’s a fair question?

      • LOL, you know me pretty well.You also knew the question was a toughie. I think your question is okay, but too close ended? It can be answered in one word. Be more open and assumptive. Ask, “What kind of art are you looking to find or collect at the show? Most lookers will give you a short reply, but serious collectors will use it as a way to tell you about what they like buy. Another question could be, “What kind of art do you like to buy? or, “What kind of art is in your collection?” The more you practice asking open ended questions, the easier it becomes to establish a conversation. Get to that point and use some of the suggestions in my post, or in my e-book to elicit more information you can use to close a deal.

        • Thanks so much Barney – I agree my question was too close ended. I also like your suggestion to be more assumptive. I have another question – once they tell me the kind of art they collect – how do I then segue into ask them if they would like to purchase my art?
          Just because they tell me what type of art they own doesn’t mean they will want to buy mine.

          • You are welcome. Try something like this, “A number of my collectors have found purchasing a suite (or bundle or package – your words – you choose) of my art fits their needs and gets them a great deal. If you see something that interests you I can put together an attractive offer with some complementary pieces to go with it.” You are again being assumptive they want to buy, you are also being assumptive they have the interest and budget to accept a “Big Offer.” Keep refining this and offer big on every opportunity. Let me know when you hit with one because it is only a matter of time until you do. When you see it works, you will be eager to keep honing your offer until it is smooth as butter. It’s so much fun when you land a big one. And, you never know unless you try.

  • Thank you so much for you great suggestions Barney. I will indeed let you know when it works for me! Love your blog posts, I read them religiously and recommend you to my artist friends.

  • Barney, This is the article that I keep re-reading of all the material that you have provided in the Art Marketing Program. Helping people make the perfect choice without pressure is an art unto itself. You have given us the method. The rest is up to us to practice and nail it, so to speak. Thanx!

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