Are You Chasing Away Art Buyers?

Becoming a Better Art Salesperson – Part 1 | Are you Chasing Away Your Buyers?

by Jason Horejs on December 3, 2013 · 72 comments

Selling art can be a real challenge, but the moment of the sale is exhilarating. Your artwork has just been, in a way, validated. The purchaser has said to you, “I think your work is good enough that I’m willing to part with my hard-earned money to acquire it.”

For many artists, however, the sales come far too infrequently. While sales are not the only measure of success for an artist, sales not only validate the work, they allow and encourage you to create more. There are many hurdles that get in the way of sales. The poor economy of the last several years has made the art market more competitive and art buyers more cautious. Many artists don’t get enough exposure for their work, and if buyers can’t see your work, they can’t buy it. Many of you have taken your marketing and sales into your own hands – showing your work in art festivals,  participating in open studios, selling online, or in co-op galleries. You are having an opportunity to interact directly with your buyers.

I believe that having direct interaction with potential buyers can be a great experience and can help you better understand the art business and sales process. It also gives you the opportunity to get direct feedback about your work. Sales can be even sweeter when you are making them yourself, and the buyer will often enjoy the opportunity of dealing directly with the artist.

Unfortunately, many artists (perhaps yourself included) are not well prepared to go from creating art to selling it. Selling is a fine art in itself, and requires skill and practice. Some people are born salesmen, but others have to learn the skill. Even natural salespeople can always stand to sharpen their skills. For the next several posts, I would like to concentrate on several key areas of the selling process. I hope that by discussing key issues, I can help you become a better salesperson, and I hope the discussion around these posts will allow you to share what you’ve learned about the sales process or discuss challenges you’ve faced.

Even if you turn over most of the marketing and selling of your work, understanding the sales process will make you a better partner to your galleries or agents.

I want to begin this series by discussing one of the most common mistakes made in the art sales process.

Giving the Buyer an Easy Way Out

Many artists, and even some gallery salespeople, mistakenly think that the art sales process is a mysterious, and perhaps even devious way to trick people into buying something they’re not interested in. If this is your approach to selling, you will have limited success and unsatisfied buyers. I believe our work is much simpler: we are here to help people who feel a real connection to your art make it a part of their lives.

To this end, our job is one of facilitation, not convincing. We want to help buyers overcome any fears or doubts they might have about buying the art that they want.

EasyWayOutMake no mistake, there is fear and doubt for the buyer. As buyers are considering whether or not to buy, they will be concerned about whether or not the art will fit naturally in to their home . They will be afraid that the price is too high, or whether they can afford the art. They will doubt their taste. In short, the buyer will have a fear of commitment.

All of these doubts, and many more, can come to a buyer in the critical moment they are deciding whether or not to make the purchase. In this critical moment, we should be doing everything in our power to reassure buyers  the benefits outweigh the risks, and we should be asking for the sale.

Instead, what I often see  (and I’ve been guilty of it myself many times) is our own fear sabotaging the sale.

As an art sales person or artist, we are afraid of many things ourselves. We are afraid that the potential buyer doesn’t actually like the work and will say “no” if we ask them for the sale. We are afraid that the work isn’t really that good. We are afraid we’ll say the wrong thing. In short, we’re afraid of rejection. Our fear of rejection, combined with our client’s fear of commitment, often leads us to do exactly the wrong thing at the critical moment.

Our fear of rejection, combined with our client’s fear of commitment, often leads us to do exactly the wrong thing at the critical moment.

An example. You have a client in your booth at an art festival. The potential buyer has shown real interest in a particular piece. You’ve shared the story of the creation of the piece. You’ve given them your background. You’ve learned about them. You’ve asked where they would place the art. You’ve done everything right to create the sales atmosphere. There is a heavy pause as you can tell that the client is contemplating the purchase. Your heart starts pounding because you know how close you are to the sale, and you say . . .

“Would you like a brochure of my work?”

The client smiles in relief, says “sure,”  takes the brochure, and walks away, never to be seen again.

At that critical moment when the potential buyer was on the verge of making a commitment, you gave them an easy way out. They were wrestling with their inner voice, trying to convince themselves to take the plunge,  and you offered them a way to procrastinate the commitment. Once the decision has been put off, the likelihood of getting them back to the commitment is almost nonexistent.

Say Any of These Things, and You Are Almost Sure to Kill the Sale

Offering a brochure is one sure way to put a damper on the sale, but there are many others. Any of the following will accomplish the same procrastination.

  • “Would you like a photograph of this piece? I can include the dimensions and price of the artwork.”
  • “Can I email you a photo of the piece?”
  • “Would you like me to bring the artwork out to your home for you to see  how it would look?”
  • “Can I get you any other information about the artwork?”
  • “Would you like a copy of my biography?”
  • “Would you like to see other pieces like this one? Here’s my portfolio”
  • “I have another piece you might like.”
  • “Would you like me to place a hold on the piece while you think about it?”

Let me be clear, none of these phrases are evil in themselves. There are times when they would be exactly the right thing to say. The moment of decision is not one of those times.  These phrases are all attempts to solve problems that the client may or may not have. By preemptively interjecting one of them, we are trying to skip the moment of possible rejection and go straight to a solution. Unfortunately, without asking for the sale first, we’re not solving a problem, we’re creating one.

Ask for the Close, Then Solve Any Problems

Instead of throwing out one of these solutions, it’s critical to ask for the sale and see what happens. Your client may indeed express a doubt about making the purchase, but now we can work on resolving an actual concern instead of guessing what the doubt might be and giving the client a procrastination inducing solution.

I’ve written previously about how to ask for the sale (see this post), but today I simply want to encourage you to focus on avoiding the temptation to give your buyers an easy way out. It would be better not to say anything at all, than to give your buyers a ready excuse not to buy. The next time you are in a sales situation and you feel you are at that critical sales moment, I want you to be aware of your urge to delay the sale and to make a conscious effort to avoid giving in to the temptation. From personal experience, I can promise you that your sales will increase.

Have you Chased Away Art Buyers?

Have you been guilty of chasing away potential art buyers? What has happened when you gave your client an easy way out? Have you overcome the urge to give your clients an easy way out? How did you do it? Please share your experiences, thoughts and wisdom in the comments below.

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About 

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

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{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle Andres December 4, 2013 at 10:49 am

Thanks for yet another stellar and content-packed post, Jason! Great information. So glad you are such an open resource for artists!

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Terrie Spenst February 1, 2014 at 9:36 am

Thankyou so much for this article and your web site!

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Daggi Wallace December 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm

This is just in time for the 3 day holiday market and Open Studios at our art center this weekend (over 40 artists). I’ll be forwarding this on to all of them! Thank you!

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Bill Johnson December 4, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Before I read your book and took the webinar on The Fine Art of Selling Fine Art, I had the giclee prints in my art festival booth “conveniently located” near the original artworks on the walls and when the buyer was hesitating I would offer the lower priced prints as an alternative … unfortunately before I even knew if price was a limitating factor. I now know that in properly asking for the sale, I have the opportunity to work the real constraints to a successful sale … including offering prints, when appropriate, that are now physically separated from the originals where they don’t “compete”.

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Jason Horejs December 5, 2013 at 8:42 am

Excellent Bill – this is another great example of “un-selling” work that I see a lot of us making. Putting a bargain bin out or prints next to more expensive originals is another great way to chase away your buyers. It’s not that you can’t sell giclees, prints, or lesser priced items, but, as you suggest, make sure your strategy is sound and isn’t preventing you from making higher-priced sales.

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Catie Barron December 4, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Jason; once again you have managed to step into my thinking space and removed a pillar of doubt that I feel resides only in my head. Thank you so much for providing a light on the path to artistic success. I appreciate you!

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Rich Moyers December 4, 2013 at 2:51 pm

On Target, Dead Center… as usual Jason. As a 15+ years veteran of direct sales of my artworks (long time ago) in many different venues, such as public “Art Fairs/Festivals”, etc. I can say without a doubt, what you’ve said about the “fear of rejection” and lack of self awareness regarding that “point of sale moment” is THE single biggest realization obstacle that most artists face.

I would add, in my experience, a majority of exhibiting artists at most “Art Fairs/Festivals” fail to realize that their PRIMARY function, once their booth is setup, is to develop a following of fans and admirers who will purchase and champion their artworks to an ever greater audience, and they should do all they can to get anyone who is interested to provide them with email and other direct contact information at the very least.

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Jason Horejs December 4, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Great input Rich – thanks!

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Rich Moyers December 4, 2013 at 2:57 pm

You’re most welcome Jason… It’s always a pleasure to pass on lessons learned!

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Keith Barnett December 4, 2013 at 2:54 pm

We artist spend decades perfecting our craft. It helps to remember that selling our work is part of that craft. It is important to practice and learn more about the art of the sell. Thank you for sharing your expertise.

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Jason Horejs December 5, 2013 at 8:44 am

Keith – selling really is a part of the business. Even artists who are selling through galleries have to learn how to sell themselves and the work to the gallery. Since we can’t get by without some level of salesmanship, I suggest embracing it and learning as much as possible. Then practice, practice, practice.

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Charlotte Shroyer December 4, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Such a good blog with so much practical information. I am amazed at the number of pieces I have sold by just asking: May I wrap that piece up for you? So glad that you are helping us get better at what we do, not only the creating, but also the marketing and selling.

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Lori Woodward December 4, 2013 at 5:54 pm

When it becomes obvious that they are considering buying the piece, I ask if they would like to add it to their collection. They either say yes, no, or state why they are on the fence… Which, as you say Jason, helps the sales person work with the collector to resolve an issue.

The last couple of sales, I got to know the collector, and when it became obvious that they were thinking of buying, I pulled the work off the wall and set it on a separate easel in the light… Then didn’t say a word… Just let him or her speak, and it became a sold piece.

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Mary Iselin December 5, 2013 at 6:52 am

Lori,this is such a great concrete example of Jason’s (as usual) excellent advice. By the way, I recently lent a copies of Jason’s books to one of my galleries where sales had really plummeted, and, –guess what–my sales there have really picked up once again!

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Lori Woodward December 6, 2013 at 1:45 pm

That’s great news Mary. I just listened to a webcast with Jason and Cory Huff, and Jason has some ideas about where the gallery system may be headed. Most of my friends who work with galleries… Their sales are really picking up. Let’s hope the trend continues!

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Jason Horejs December 5, 2013 at 8:46 am

Awesome Lori – excellent approach. It brings up a great point – sometimes silence can be a powerful sales tool. I’m afraid we sometimes think that if we just talk enough, we’ll make the sale. There’s something very powerful about creating a deliberate silence.

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Lori Woodward December 6, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Yes Jason. I’m learning as I go. One thing I’ve experienced… Is to not keep talking like crazy after I’ve sold the work. What do you suggest we say after we’ve secured the sale?

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Sally Fraser December 7, 2013 at 8:38 am

Lori, Thanks for that input, that’s probably the best advice I have come across. Silence is golden and moving the work to a different light on an easel is excellent…I think I will have an empty easel just for this purpose in my next show ! Sally Fraser

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Jim Parker December 4, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Great post. So often that little voice of fear gets in the way. Sometimes I’ll do anything to feel more comfortable with the potential customer, including blurting out just the wrong thing. The hardest thing in the world for me is to either ask for the sale or shut up.

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Jason Horejs December 5, 2013 at 8:50 am

It’s hard for all of us Jim – knowing what you’re doing and why is half the battle, practicing is the other half.

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Joyce Wynes December 4, 2013 at 6:19 pm

I do hand out a brochure, shame on me. From now on I am going to be silent and see where that gets me. I always seem to try to make it less awkward for the viewer or buyer and in most cases go too far. I don’t know why I do that but it isn’t out of fear. Maybe it is because when I am in a similar situation, I don’t like to be pushed or hovered over. Whatever it is I have to stop doing it and change my pitch. I like Charlotte’s approach with: “May I wrap this piece up for you?”

Looking forward to the next installment.

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Jason Horejs December 5, 2013 at 8:52 am

Joyce – we all do it. Just to clarify – it’s not a bad thing to give out a brochure, I just suggest that it be the very last thing you do when all other attempts at a close and a sale have failed. Typically this means that you’ll do it just as the client has started walking away.

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Ken Van Dyne December 4, 2013 at 6:26 pm

I haven’t been selling art but I enjoy buying art. On numerous occasions I have walked away from a purchase thinking if it was meant to be it will be there when I go back. How do you overcome this attitude to close a sale. I missed a great Dale Chihouly piece that was reasonably priced before he became famous. We went back and it was sold for less than $ 1200.

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Jason Horejs December 5, 2013 at 8:54 am

Ken – If I’ve got someone who is procrastinating simply to procrastinate, I like to reassure them that I’m not trying to pressure them into the sale, I just want to make sure they don’t miss out on the piece. I might then offer an illustration of another client who missed out on a piece.

Sounds to me like you have the perfect personal experience to use as an illustration!

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Suzanne Poursine Massion December 4, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Jason, I was putting the final touches on a proposal to a potential client that would mean an five figure commission for me and came very close to committing something similar to one of your “dampers”. I said to my husband (technical support), “Honey, I’m going to include a little hand written note with the proposal for them to let me know if they want any changes in the wording, etc.” My husband, who had read the above blog, almost jumped down my throat “Read Jason’s article first, please,” he practically shouted. I read your entire piece, finished my proposal, no little note that probably would have opened the door to questions about my price, printed two copies, signed by me (one for the client to sign and return), and it’s off in the mail tomorrow. Thank goodness your blog was in time to save me from disaster. I’ll let you know if I win the commission.

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Jason Horejs December 5, 2013 at 8:55 am

Great Suzanne – I’m glad we helped you avoid a potential shot in the foot! Let us know how it goes!

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Donia December 4, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Great info on not only what not to say, but the psychology of why not to say those things (we can be so good at wiggling around an issue and finding great substitutes to keep doing what we’re doing wrong if we don’t really understand the foundation). Thanks again for your clear and very helpful information in this blog — I’m going to share this article with the other members of the Artist Co-op where I’m a member and hope to see a boost in our sales this holiday season! :-)
~Donia
ethyrical artist
http://DoniaLilly.com

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Damon Pla December 4, 2013 at 7:42 pm

I am certainly guilty of chasing away buyers. First off, I can ramble on simply because I am nervous. When someone asks a question, I answer, but then start to get into detail….trying to pull them into the experience of every brush stroke. I have to stop that.

I am a partner of a co-op gallery here in Delaware. Sometimes, depending on the day, how many cups of coffee I had or simply what the wind speed is, I can talk to customers/visitors with ease. Other days, I seem to anticipate someone walking in and what would I say, what type of personality is going to walk in the door that I would have to adjust to. I have to stop that as well.

At my Summer art shows it seems to be easier. I have a booth full of my own work and I am comfortable talking about my work. I am sure the casual setting has a lot to do with it as well.

Thanks for another great topic Jason.

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Jason Horejs December 5, 2013 at 8:58 am

Damon – I wouldn’t necessarily stop offering detailed explanations of the work, I would just make sure they are appropriate to the situation. If the client is more interested you can offer more detail. Ask questions along the way to see how engaged they are. Always keep in mind that you are trying to move to a close, not just filling the void with talk.

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Damon Pla December 7, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Thank you for the advice Jason. I have to always remember that as the moment can get away from me at times. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

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Philip Frey December 4, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Jason, excellent post. Spot on! Thank you. I’ve made these mistakes many times and am slowly retraining myself. The one thing I struggle wiypth is email inquiries, on two levels: one how to of read a person via email to gauge their interest level – basically how to close the sale via email and two, (this is a different blog post), whether or not to price work on your website if some of the galleries you represent don’t price the work on the web, when some do?

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Jason Horejs December 5, 2013 at 9:00 am

Philip – a lot of the same principles apply but you are a bit handicapped because you’re not able to read body language, etc. I’ve added this topic to my list of potential blog topics – I’ll try to address it in a near-future blog post. Thanks!

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Laura J. Holman December 4, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Loved reading this. I find that once someone has bought a painting of mine, they come back for more, which is nice. And for those that express interest for the first time in buying, I let them know I take payments for up to a year for the painting they want, and once it’s paid for, I ship it. It has worked many times for me.

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Ruth Bailey December 5, 2013 at 6:32 am

I’ve been guilty of indulging in these comments! Recently, I had a buyer looking at my work for a long time at a co-op show. When I approached her, she said that she couldn’t decide between two pieces. I suggested that maybe she should go home and think about the pieces and if she woke up thinking about one of them, she should come back and buy it. She responded by saying, “But someone may buy it before then!” And she bought both pieces right then.

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Jason Horejs December 5, 2013 at 9:02 am

Saved by your client! But that was a once in a lifetime experience, Ruth. Good experience to have to prepare you for the next time!

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Lorraine McFarland December 5, 2013 at 10:46 am

Thanks Jason for always educating and watching out for us. This is a great post and I will share it.

I had an interesting experience recently and would like to ask a question of you about it. One of my previous patrons came to a show in response to my postcard announcement (hooray)! She had purchased a painting from me at a plein air event and her son and his wife came along 5 minutes later wanting to buy the same painting. I learned from the ensuing conversation that neither was wanting to buy it as a gift for the other and the son and his wife were disappointed that Mom had beat them to the punch! Well, in response to a note I put on the postcard (I did not have the son’s contact info), Mom brought her son and his wife along to the current show. Mom bought a painting right away to go with the one she had previously purchased, which she had brought along with her – what a thrill that was for me! Then her son showed interest in my most expensive original piece. After telling him the story, and talking about where it would hang in their home, he asked if they could purchase it and bring it back that day for a refund if it did not work in their space, or would I rather he go home and measure and come back for it? This is where I think I made a huge mistake. I said no, someone else might come along before the show ends and want to buy it. So I gave him my cell-phone number and the measurements and explained that I would be in town until the following day and that he should call me if he wanted the piece, I would even deliver it to his home personally. DUH! He obviously loved the piece, wanted it and offered to pay me for it right then and there! After he left I spent the rest of the afternoon beating myself up and feeling like a dunce until he called 30 minutes before close to say he was coming back to get the painting! Boy did I luck out!!!

My question, I’m sure, is obvious: If someone wants to pay you for a piece and take it home to see “if it works” should you agree to let it go and agree to give a refund if they bring it back? What about refunds in general for folks who change their minds after purchase? This question refunds was on my mind as soon as Mom showed up with the first painting she bought…my first thought was “Oh no! She wants to return or trade it”!

I look forward to your thoughts!

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Jason Horejs December 5, 2013 at 11:56 am

Lorraine -glad it worked out. We run into situations like this quite frequently and I have learned from experience to follow the “bird in hand, better than two in bush” philosophy. In that situation I would have made the sale and let him know he could get a refund if it didn’t work. While there certainly would have been a chance that he would have returned the work and you would have missed out on the opportunity to sell the piece to another buyer, returns don’t happen very often once a client has a piece home. What does happen quite frequently, however, is that a client who didn’t pay for the piece will get home and get distracted or hear that little voice in their head talking them out of it and you lose the sale. That said, I would also say that a bit of personal judgement enters in. It may depend on how solid I feel the possibility of the sale is, and on the discussion leading up to the suggestion.

As far as refunds in general, I’m very liberal. There’s no way I want to have a client out there who’s not happy with the art they buy from us. I typically give a seven day window for a return, no questions asked. If it’s longer than that I’ll try to be as accommodating as possible. If it’s been too long for a refund I might take the work back in on consignment from the buyer and refund them when the piece sell again or give them a credit for one of the artist’s other pieces (if the artist agrees).

As your story illustrates, happy customers come back!

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Lorraine McFarland December 7, 2013 at 6:22 am

Thanks for the guideline Jason. Sound advice, as always.

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Lukandwa Dominic December 5, 2013 at 11:18 am

Thank you Jason for yet another great article. In my own experience, the trick of placing the prints near the originals has worked for me. Each time, it’s the original that they choose to buy. It gives a potential client a chance to compare the two options first hand.

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Sonja Beierle December 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm

I read your article with interest and also the comments from others. I am reluctant to try to sell my work to a person
at Shows due to lack of confidence as many above have related. I will talk to the potential purchaser but do not ask for the close. I see from all these comments the many mistakes I have made and will try to be a better salesman in future, thank you.

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Esther J. Williams December 5, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Sage advice. I have stuck my foot in my mouth countless times. But we learn by our mistakes. If someone has expressed serious interest in a piece, I learned to step back and let the sale happen. There is a psychology to selling art and you are right, we have to know what not to say and what is the right thing to say and the right time in a variety of circumstances. I showed a 20×16 framed piece recently only as a sharing of my art to a guest at a resort lodge we were guests at and it took her one minute to fall in love with it. I didn`t notice it at first because who does that so fast? I could`ve botched the sale because I told her I was thinking of keeping it as a family piece, I was speaking the truth. She said, I want this, we were both having wine so I thought it was the wine speaking. Maybe what I said made the sale, it wasn`t my intention to coerce her. I`m not one on heavy convincing because they have to really truly want one of my artworks. She wanted to finalize the sale right away. I let her sleep on it, the next morning when we met at coffee, she was ready with credit cards. So, it wasn`t the wine speaking, she bonded with it and carried it on the plane in the box. It`s people like that which makes an artist feel so validated. I always bring a few framed pieces in a box when I stay anywhere out of town, I`ve been doing it for years. When I meet people and tell them I am an artist, some people perk up and want to see what I have, others don`t. Most of the time I show them a few examples, we chat a little and they walk away with a business card. This is my point of interaction with people that I need to work on some more. I`ve been lucky so far with good sales, but I would like to be more polished. Thanks for this series on selling, it really helps me to think about what comes out of my mouth.

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Patricia J Finley December 5, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Thank you, Jason, for yet more words of wisdom. I’ve been attempting to implement this concept as well as others that you (and other folks) have suggested during 2013 and have met with some notable success. I no longer give out business cards at the one Art Fair I do unless business cards are requested. Instead, I try to sell them while they are present in my booth. If they don’t buy, I attempt to get their info for later follow up. I do the same at the coop gallery I am in.

Thanks again for your help in making us all successful!

Pat

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Jason Horejs December 9, 2013 at 11:37 am

Thanks Pat – and congratulations on the growing success! Great approach to the business cards and follow-up info.

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Lucy Dickens December 6, 2013 at 3:41 am

I just participated in a large open studio tour. I did sell a few small originals and lots of print. I had several serious conversations with people, actually interested in the same few paintings. Most were alone, not with their spouse and wanted all the information to bring the spouse back. I found that difficult to actually ask for the sale in these cases. I then offered to email images and pricing, measurements, and intend to follow up. Two of them did come back with their spouse to see the pieces before the show ended. The first couple agreed on their favorite two. I mentioned a discount for multiple purchases and asked for the sale. They said they had two more studios to go back to before making a final decision and did not return. The other couple had different favorites and at asking for the sale they Sid they needed to discuss it privately first. As in go home and discuss it, I was not able to overcome this. They also did not come back. I do have their contact information and have sent them a follow up email and now just hard copy mailed them. Frustrating that many were seriously engaged and moved by my larger work and wanted the pieces clearly and yet I could not close the deal then. I must say actually asking for the sale is a bit new and uncomfortable for me. Maybe I need more practice? Also would you have delay with a spouse not there differently. Truth is my husband and I have an agreement not to make large purchases without the discussing and agreeing on it first.

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Jason Horejs December 9, 2013 at 11:36 am

Lucy – practice makes perfect, so more practice is always good. What you’re describing is the exact challenge we face day in and day out at the gallery. I will be writing a post on overcoming the spouse objection – it’s very real and you’re right, rare that someone will make a major purchase of art without consulting the spouse. Keep in mind that this post doesn’t say that every encounter is going to lead to a sale, nor are you going to be able to close on every interest (it’s actually a small percentage that move from interest to sale), I just want to make sure that you’re not making it even harder on yourself by giving potential buyers a way out.

Don’t get too discouraged – we all have to work hard to make sales happen. An open studio situation is a bit more challenging than a gallery because you have a pretty limited window of engagement, but definitely follow up with those who you worked with and don’t give up on them until they tell you they are not interested.

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Hillary December 6, 2013 at 10:32 am

I consider myself an emerging artist as I have very few sales to speak of. I thoroughly enjoy reading this blog. I have realized that pretty much everything you advise against doing to prevent sales I do! its quite eye opening. At art fairs I find myself giving out many postcards and business cards without speaking with the person first, sending people to my website for commission info, NOT collecting email addresses of interested customers, and the list goes on. Very valuable information here. Thank you

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Jason Horejs December 9, 2013 at 11:30 am

Thanks Hillary – the great thing is that you can always try knew things and see what works for you.

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Mark Jeffrey December 7, 2013 at 8:14 am

Hi Jason, Just found this blog through a colleague and realized it was yours, the author of the book,
“How to Sell Art” which I purchased last month and am on my second read through. My issue lately is new management has brought in a different, not necessarily worse, approach to selling. I have been selling art for this company the past year and was doing well. Since the changes, my confidence and production have trailed off dramatically. I am fumbling along and have lost a number of sales during the last month. I’m under the microscope big time and now fear and lack of ability have crept into my psyche.

I’m trying to get back into the positive mindset, which is essential. I am not a natural “type a” personality nor particularly comfortable in dancing the dance to the direct face-to-face sale. Although I’ve been a pretty successful ” and effective salesperson in other fields, I find the selling of art to be particularly challenging now to the point where I have anxiety about it.

Can you offer any advice to help me get out of this slump and rut I’m in.. I suppose things will naturally turn around like they always do, but this time is particular rough.

Thanks

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Jason Horejs December 9, 2013 at 11:29 am

Mark – sounds like a challenging situation. It’s always a balancing act when you’ve got someone giving you direction you’re not sure of. In this situation though, you’ve got to try your best to follow the direction of those above you. If their advice is truly wrong, they will soon see a decline in over-all sales and will then be more open to input and feedback.

Keep in mind that we all go through slumps – sometimes you just have to ride them out, giving each sales opportunity everything you have and knowing that it will eventually end.

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Mark Jeffrey December 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Thanks Jason, I think the advice you give is sound and so is that from my superiors. It’s been tough as it always is when your slumping and those around you are selling and celebrating. But as you say, it will turn upward as long as I do my best and not give up!!!!

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Sally Fraser December 7, 2013 at 8:50 am

Body Language could by a factor? A positive demeanor and sense that yes you are a professional artist perhaps can be an issue. Too eager or too talkative could be a turn off , however, I have a very chatty friend who always makes sales, but that is her true nature, not mine. So I am trying to find what will work for me. Some of these comments are very good.
Thanks, Sally Fraser

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Jane Wilcoxson December 7, 2013 at 10:24 am

I clearly remember the day I failed to close a sale. It was due to my inexperience in sales and lack of confidence in general.
This client a young Doctor on her first art buying expedition, clearly was interested in my painting but had one concern. She was not sure that the colors were right for the space. I should have jumped right in and said, “Purchase the painting and take it home, if the art does not work in the space bring it back and I’ll refund your money, I’m here all day today and tomorrow”. About an hour later I noticed this lady leaving the art fair with a painting of a birdhouse, her choice of art was not very sophisticated. My painting, an abstract would have served her better for the space she had described to me. That was the day I came to understand that I too was on a learning curve, selling art is an art form in itself, clients like to be guided through the complicated and often confusing process of acquiring art.
Sincerely,
JaneWilcoxson.com

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Jason Horejs December 9, 2013 at 11:27 am

Jane – anyone who has been in sales, especially art sales has been through this same learning curve, and you will have similar experiences throughout your career. The important thing is to learn from them and to be constantly striving to do better.

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Eden Maxwell December 10, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Hello Jason:

Excellent advice, and the comments are teachable moments, too.

When selling my art, I let my intuition guide me in what to say, and mostly to keep quiet. I’ve also learned not to pre-judge potential collectors. The most “unlikely” people have acquired my work.

Thanks for being an advocate for artists. Happy Holidays.

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David Kessler December 11, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Great post Jason,
I rely on your book and those of Jack White for sales tools. Since I sell work mainly on my own, I have had to practice these techniques over and over. I still make mistakes, but I believe every sale I close I am getting better. Thanks for your help.

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Vernita Nemec December 12, 2013 at 6:52 am

This is fascinating but a question – often people say I must consult my husband/wife/ partner and usually that is the end of the transaction and no sale… is there a way to counter that- a way to convince them to commit before they leave?

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Jason Horejs December 12, 2013 at 9:58 am

Vernita – you can say something like “Sure, I understand, this is an important piece. Can I bring the piece out to your home for him to see?” If not, “When would he be able to come and look at the piece?” Last resort “let me put the piece on a 24 hour, first right of refusal, so that you don’t miss out on it if someone else comes along and want to buy it.” Trying these will help you root out if it’s a legitimate reason, or just an excuse.

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Patrice Drago December 12, 2013 at 8:12 am

This is an invaluable post! Thank you. I have a question about another scenario at the moment of decision that happened to me and I’m not sure if I could have done anything differently:
A woman was interested in five of my pieces – two very large ones and three quite small. She was excited – she drove to downtown on a Friday evening for the first time in ten years, just to attend my opening because she saw the postcard! Her house was filled with her mother’s art, and her mother had agreed that it would be okay for her to hang some of my pieces… already ahead of the game! We hit it off well, and we had a great conversation. The glitch was that her husband was out of town and he stated he wanted to be in on the decision (he hadn’t seen any of my work yet). In our conversation she said she was worried that if she didn’t purchase the pieces she wanted, then someone else would snap them up. I agreed with her – said that is always a risk and it has happened to me; my rule of thumb is that if something speaks to me I’d rather not take the chance. She talked about a commission of a larger version of a small piece; she simply loved my work, etc. The conversation ended well, though she didn’t have a business card; I gave her my card. No sale; not then or in the following three weeks that the exhibit was up. What happened? Aside from asking for her email (something told me she wasn’t willing) What could I have done differently?

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Kathy McClure December 13, 2013 at 8:40 am

Selling is SO hard for me. I fine your advice very helpful. My specific issue is that I often wonder if the reason for the delay in the purchase is concern over the framing. I like to frame, and I use (sometimes) expensive frames. They increase the cost of my pieces. Should I try to find out if that is the issue? Or just shut up? I think buyers are hesitant to say they don’t like the framing. Since I’m also a framer, I realize people have different tastes in framing and therefore I see the possibilities in have unframed prints for sale.

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Jason Horejs December 13, 2013 at 11:08 am

Kathy – this is exactly the kind of second-guessing that can get you into trouble! Framing can certainly be an issue, but you wouldn’t want to create an issue where one didn’t exist by throwing it out early in the sales process. The right order of approach to closing sales involving framed pieces would be: build relationship – create interest in work – when client shows interest in a particular piece, ask for the close. (Of course, that is a very simplified version of the sales process.) If the client says, “no,” you can begin working to figure out why by asking open-ended questions. If they bring up the frame, then you can help resolve the issue.

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Kate Rattray December 13, 2013 at 10:17 am

Hello Jason
I really appreciate these posts. I wonder, some of my direct sales are through my website and I have lost a few as well as commissions through email conservations. Would you say it is more or less the same approach as direct actual contact with a prospective buyer, or are there any email tricks I can use (apart from responding quickly to emails)? Could you do a post on this, or have you already written one?

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Jason Horejs December 13, 2013 at 11:03 am

Kate – it’s a great question. Online can certainly be tricky – just by the nature of the fact that you can’t establish the same personal relationship, and that you can’t read body language via email, you’re not going to be as effective.

You do have the advantage of know that someone who has contacted you via email is already interested in the work, and that is 90% of the battle already won.

I try to keep emails brief and to the point. I also try to engage the potential buyer and ask question. In my book, How to Sell Art, I give an entire follow-up regimen that will give you some ideas about approach to email sales.

Most important, however, is persistence. It’s very tempting to give up if you haven’t heard anything from a client for a while. If I have someone who I know was interested, I will keep following up until they tell me they are no longer interested. Sometimes you just don’t get attention with every email, and clients will forget about you if you’re not persistent.

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Kate Rattray December 15, 2013 at 4:51 am

Thanks Jason. I do need to be more persistent. There is a fine line between persistence and hassling – but then as you say if they contact me in the first place, I deserve an answer!

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Susanne Flowers December 15, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Jason,
Your advice about selling was excellent. Recently, though, the unexpected happened at one of my shows. A couple had a disagreement about buying my art. The man wanted to buy and the woman did not know where they were going to put another piece. Then the woman saw a sign I had put up regarding quick portraits. She asked to have her portrait done instead of buying one of my larger pieces. The man said they would be back but it never happened. Since I do sell a lot of my quick portraits, I will have to think twice about offering them. Obviously, they’re an easy way out for some customers to not buy a larger piece.

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Patrice Drago December 16, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Hi Jason – I’d love some feedback on my post if you get a chance. Would love to know what I could have done differently.

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Roxy December 22, 2013 at 5:06 pm

I have the same problems, but in my opinion, her husband didn’t want the piece, or didn’t want to spend the money, or just wanted to control. If he was open to letting her buy what she wanted, she would have sent him a picture then and there. I think her husband lost you the sale.

I think I lose sales to that voice in their heads. The one I am not sure what it is saying, but it won’t let them buy something they want to.

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Patrice Drago December 30, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Thanks Roxy. That must have been it. She was so excited! But you’re right – if he were open, he would have let her make the decision. Ah well. I just want to be sure I’m doing the right things in conversation. I tend to talk to everyone like a friend, and yet I know there are things (as Jason mentioned) I need to be aware of to make the sale.
I remembered something since my post: I did exactly what Jason said not to do. When she indicated she would like a larger version of one of my paintings, I said that would be a possibility. That probably helped her put it off to the “future” which may never come. It is a learning process!

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Roxy Lentz December 19, 2013 at 6:20 am

I make jewelry, and often women won’t buy because they don’t have the courage to wear what I make, or they say they “can’t afford it”. It is not super expensive, but I never know whether to believe them or not, or if it is just an polite way to say they don’t want it. Other times, as you said, silence is the best selling point, the jewelry talks to them, and I know when to not interrupt. I just need more women who listen to talking jewelry.

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Tim zandee January 30, 2014 at 1:03 am

I disagree about not offering to bring the piece to their home….at least for me. I offer different sizes and if I get in the home it almost always is a sale. My clients love my customer service and often buy an additional piece. If it doesnt work in their home or office I don’t want them to have it.

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NancyP February 14, 2014 at 2:43 pm

I am an occasional art buyer, often at local fairs, and an amateur photographer. Please feel free to chill out in your booth. Be there, but feel free to read, answer email, whatever you can do and still keep an eye out for new customers. Make eye contact if they seem to be headed directly your way, say Hi, but you don’t have to go on at length . I can tell you that I like peace and quiet when I am studying an image I may want to purchase. I am thinking “Does this get my attention today? How does it make me feel? Will I like looking at it day after day? Does it “fit” with other images I already have, either by being complementary, by being completely different, or being an interesting variation on a theme? Will it work in the space I can provide for it? and last but not least, What does my gut say – gotta have it or merely nice?” If I have a question, I will ask one. Let your work speak for itself. Also, remember that your customers may think highly of a piece but not have much room for it. I have limited wall space and a contemplative temperament, and I often think – that’s a great image – for someone else. Customers may be buying a gift, and some of the hesitation may be their trying to imagine how the recipient would like it and where it might go. If your customer wanders off for a bit, they may be seeing if the image sticks in their memory. I rarely buy art immediately, I like to walk away for 15 minutes and THEN query my gut and go back to buy.
Do send a postcard to customers announcing the dates of your upcoming fairs in the region.

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Claire Baxter February 18, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Thank goodness I have found this. I have been selling my art for 6 years now at art shows, fairs, exhibitions and through galleries. I have just made the very scarey decision to resign from my career as an art teacher in a secondary school to concentrate on my art. I have a full year ahead booked on events and I will be interested to see if this advice works. I am quite a bubbly person and can talk to people with ease however I never ask for the sale. I also give out hundreds of business cards and fall into the man/wife argument problem regularly. I also have a bad habit of trying to sell my greetings cards and prints and seeing the originals as a necessity to for them. How wrong am I? I need to spend my time focusing on selling the original and if all else fails, a greetings card is a better souvenir than a business card. These are by the way, a fantastic marketing tool as so many more potential buyers will see them dotted around than a business card stuffed in the bottom of a bag! Thanks for all the advice and I look forward to this year.

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Charu Colorado March 10, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Closing the sale: These are a couple of closings that have worked for me. It helps me to close the sale when I first, during the close, thank them for their appreciation of my work and making the effort to come in to see it. Here are a couple of examples:

1. “Thank you for coming in and showing your appreciation for my work. (pause) If you like, you can to take this piece home with you now. Or, if you prefer I could bring it to you before the weekend.” There is usually an immediate response which can lead to the final arrangements that close the sale.
Or an alternative -:
2.”Thank you for your appreciation of my work. If you like, I can see to it that this special piece is hanging in a choice location in your home (or office) before the weekend.”
Then, after a patient easy silence, and/or a possible positive response, I say, ” How would you like to arrange the payment? I then wait for a response- which is usually forthcoming. Or, after a moment of silence or if there is none, I might say,” I will accept cash in full now, or be glad to arrange a payment plan to suit your specific needs.”
I then allow the person to respond before saying anything else.

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