As an artist who sells art, you gain fresh insights into the reasons people buy your art. This part is easy because they let you know. You can review the history of your sales and learn from the patterns what it is about your art that makes people buy it.
It is a valuable idea to develop your research and analysis to go beyond understanding why people buy your art. How is your art purchased? Make a list of where your art sells. Is it online, studio sales, networking, and referrals, galleries, juried shows, or fairs?
After you lose a sale, you have nothing more to lose and lots to gain by asking why it didn’t happen. Any feedback you get is another piece of the puzzle.
Look to find the commonalities in your channels. Is it subject matter, color mixtures, sizes, prices, medium or other factors that sell consistently in individual channels? For sure, you will find it is a combination of the determining factors. The point of this exercise is to help you make better decisions about what art to produce for each of the selling channels you use.
When it comes to why people don’t buy your art, it is harder to ascertain the real reason. Most times, when you get to a closing situation where you ask them to buy, (You are asking them to buy, aren’t you?), and they slip off the hook with a lame excuse, you have not discovered what indeed is holding them back.
When a prospect tells you they need to think about making a purchase, they are not revealing their actual complaint. It means you may have rushed the sale. It might be you have not asked them enough open-ended questions to discover their needs and doubts about making a buying decision.
If you count permutations, there may be millions of reasons why some potential art buyers don’t buy art. Here are some typical suggestions on how to sell art when customers initially balk at closing the deal.
They are unsure about their tastes. They may be new to buying art. You wouldn’t know unless you asked. Regardless of their buying status, digging into what they want to do with the piece they are considering will help you assist them to make a confident decision.
This situation will not be your desired one call close, which is the case for most fine art sales. Likely, you need more information about the space where the art is will hang or be displayed.
My art marketing broadcast partner, Jason Horejs, wrote a post about how using Photoshop helped sell a $5,000 piece of art from his Xanadu Gallery. His persistence in wanting to help the buyer and a willingness on the artist’s role to create a painting based on the subject matter, size and space considerations, along with Jason’s innovative use of technology were the reasons for getting the sale.
They don’t know if your art is worth what you are charging. As with some other points here, there is a crossover in the reason for not buying and the result. This point is one of them. In part, buyer assurance happens when your marketing, your presentation and your appearance and demeanor, or that of your gallery, has set the table.
If your prospects are new to your work, they need to be educated with comparisons to sale prices of similar artists, with your bio, with your sales history. Working this information into the conversation with your buyer, or even better having your targeted marketing make these points for you, will work to take away this possible reason not to buy your art.
They cannot afford your art. This situation can be a question of unfocused marketing. If you cast a marketing net too wide, you will waste time attempting to sell art to those who actually cannot afford it. If that is the case, fix it immediately. In the buying process, you subtly need to learn enough about your prospect to determine if a sale is possible or if you are wasting your time. Have they made other fine art purchases? Do they collect art? Where do they intend to display the piece? Part of your job is to sort through those not ready to buy and keep them in the sales funnel while removing those who are not prospects for it.
If a buyer wants to own the piece, you can offer a layaway plan. You might negotiate a first-time buyer discount. If your work is in the print market, offer one as an alternative. As an alternative, try providing a commission for a smaller, more affordable piece.
They don’t understand your pricing model. If you sell through multiple distribution channels and do not have uniform prices on similar artworks, you confuse your buyers on what is the real cost and value of your work. Are your prices are fluctuating in ways that there seems no logic to the amount? For instance, how can you price four times more for a piece that is only 25% larger than other works in your portfolio?
In addition to pricing logic problems, lack of focused marketing, or no marketing, leads to confusion and uncertainty. Your artwork, your pricing, your marketing and your presentation all need to be in harmony. Your goal is to remove all doubt from your buyers before a closing situation occurs.
Post-cognitive dissonance is the fancy way to describe the sense of regret buyers often have after they have made a purchase. There are situations where customers are anticipating remorse, and it kills a deal even though part of them wants to own your work. Let’s call it pre-cognitive dissonance. You can answer this in advance by offering a return policy. Maybe it is 90 days with return shipping not included and with the art in the same condition as when it was sold.
Consider using a buyback policy where you agree to take the work back as part of a payment for a new, more expensive piece. You might not want to publish such a policy, but keep in mind for situations where it will help you get the work sold today. You could use a sliding scale with a gradually lower percentage over time.
Leasing art is a way to get your work in the market. Some artists use a lease-to-own policy towards the full price where a specified percentage of the monthly or annual contract would be used to purchase the piece.
As a small business owner, you need as much information as possible about why your work sells and why it doesn’t. The wisdom you gain from instituting formal policies and procedures to acquire this knowledge will make a significant difference in your art career success.
The more you align the work you want to make with buyers who wish to buy it, the more you will have an enjoyable and rewarding your art career.