TALKING TO CUSTOMERS WITHOUT MANIPULATING THEM
Selling art is a skill you can actually learn and perfect. But it can feel really slimy when you are making the decision to “learn to sell”.
Ugh! That conjures up memories of a woman in a pantsuit and too much makeup spritzing perfume on you as you try to get through the store and into the mall. Right?
And yes, there’s bad selling. Lots of it.
But if you learn to sell well, you can learn the difference between good selling and bad selling. You don’t have to give in to the bad selling. You can sell in a way that really benefits the customer and doesn’t feel sleazy or embarrassing.
So let’s talk about what makes a good art sale.
Both sides need to be happy. The customer AND the artist. The artist will be happy to bring in the money and to put the art in a loving home. So most sales will accomplish that. But the customer will only be happy if they walk away with a piece of art they really love and they don’t feel guilty for spending the money.
So how do we accomplish that for the customer?
The first thing to make sure is that the customer is actually the right person for a piece of your art. This is where knowing your target market can be helpful, but it’s not crucial since many of your customers won’t actually be in your target market. (ie A target market isn’t a pre-qualification to have permission to buy from you, but just a smart marketing move.)
Think about the personality of your customer a little, but spend more energy thinking about the price point and their situation. Price point is simple: can they afford to prioritize your art over other things in their life? A struggling grad student racking up the loans is probably not going to be able to prioritize a $500 art purchase. Too many other things are requiring their limited funds. But a lawyer who has been at it for a few years might not even blink at spending $500 if they love the art.
Their situation is a bit more complex. I’m talking about things like renters vs. home owners or young parents vs. retirees. So renters may or may not be able to hang art and they may or may not have big wall spaces. Retirees might be looking to downsize their home (and thus get rid of art instead of buy new art) or might want it to come framed so they don’t have to haul it to the framer’s and back. Make sense? Post in the comments if you’re confused and we can talk it out more.
Once you’re sure the customer is a good fit for your art, you’ll need to identify whether they really want it.
That sounds obvious, but this is the part that makes us feel the most sleazy. When we aren’t sure the customer really wants the art, we feel like we’re forcing it on them.
There are things you can say to poke around and figure out if they actually want to buy, but ultimately you do need to realize that these are adults who are fully in control of saying no. And they’re also capable of letting you know more subtly and less aggressively that they’re not interested. If you’re really trying to help them find art they love, you’ll pick up on their body language and tone of voice even when they aren’t outright telling you no.
So you shouldn’t feel like you’re pushing an unwilling person into pulling out their wallets and taking home something they hate.
Remind yourself that at any point, they are capable of leaving the situation and choosing not to purchase your art. And that you aren’t going to push them past their subtle hints to you that it’s not a good fit. Don’t let yourself be blinded by your love for your art or your desperation for the money.
Next you need to realize that the customer is frequently a bit of a confused buyer. They don’t know what makes good art, how much of a wall the piece should take up, how the colors will look with their decor, or how to frame it. They’re lost and they are looking to you as an expert who can help them envision a piece they love actually being part of their life.
When you are coming from a place of genuine care for the other person, you’re not going to come across as pushy or forceful. They’re going to feel like you took their hand and walked them through the process and then gave them the control to make the final decision.
Now let’s talk about what you should actually be saying.
It’s really easy to fall into the trap of talking about yourself, your art process, or what the piece “means”. But what you should be doing is identifying what’s going on for the customer. This will help us achieve the customer’s side of a successful sale.
Ask them lots of questions.
People love to talk about themselves, but more-so when they are in a situation to buy something. They want to explain what they’re looking for and why. And sometimes, your question will prompt them to consider something they hadn’t before.
You should definitely ask about where they are looking to put the art. This is usually a good first question because most people have a spot in mind that they are looking to fill and it gets them talking about their home. Occasionally, someone won’t have a spot in mind and you can move on to other questions about their home: style, colors, do they have kids, etc.
Then you want to ask if they prefer originals or prints, if they’ve got a size in mind (assuming you didn’t get this answer when you asked where they are going to put the art), and whether they have other art in their home. Price should usually be last because you want to get them thinking about what they’re looking for before they just pull a number out of thin air.
If they are hesitating, that doesn’t always mean they don’t want to purchase.
The more you talk to people like this, the easier it will be for you to figure out whether they are nervous about something in particular (that you can talk them through) or if they just don’t want to buy. So when they hesitate, ask more questions!
This is when you can talk about:
investing in decor that they’ll love forever
opportunities to share photos of the art with other people whose opinions matter to them
how they can frame it
whether you’re able to offer a payment plan or a discount
if they should buy multiple pieces as a mini-collection for a gallery wall
how big a piece they should pick for a particular wall
whether it can fit in their car or will need to be shipped or delivered
and your return & exchange policy
Simply having a good exchange and return policy can help you feel better about selling and really set a customer at ease in making a big purchase. Give customers the option to put your art up and realize it doesn’t look good in the room or to whip their wallet out only to find out their spouse hates the art they picked. Consider offering full refunds within a short window of time and exchanges within a wider window of time, so your customers feel like you’re doing the best you can to accommodate their needs (which you are).
One thing you never want to do is ask a question that has a quick yes or no answer to it. Avoid those as much as possible because they create awkward silences that make you both feel uncomfortable. Try to phrase things in a way that gives the customer space to answer at length.
When you’re asking these questions, really take in the answers.
They are important because they will help you understand your customer’s needs and either help them make your art work for them or help them understand that it’s not a good fit so that you both can move on.
If the conversation goes on for a while and you’re pretty sure it’s a good fit, you can repeat back some of the things the customer has said to help them realize they want to buy your art. For instance, if they have told you their living room has blue accents, you can later say, “Did you notice the hint of blue in the bottom left corner? That’s going to really tie this piece into the rest of the room without screaming ‘matchy matchy’.”
Remember to stay truly interested in your customer.
This is what makes a sale successful for both sides. Everyone will come away feeling great if you constantly strive to make the customer happy – not from a superficial standpoint, but from a real place of care for another human being.
If you’re having this conversation in person, you’ve got to give it more space. It’s less firing off questions and more casual like you would talk to a friend. Ask about their other interests, make idle chit chat, and lead your questions off with casual phrases like “so” or “do you think”.
This will ease your worries about pressuring your customer. You’re just having a conversation, asking questions, and trying to help them.
So what about tactics that take the buyer from unsure to handing over the money?
Identify, based on your questions, what the biggest hesitation is for your customer. Address it head on, with a confident voice and staring them straight in the eyes. If you aren’t sure what the hesitation is, don’t be afraid to ask them what they’re thinking. Being blunt is actually one of the best selling techniques because people can read that honesty and it puts them at ease that you’re not trying to swindle them.
You can also try proposing a bigger sale.
Often, when the customer can see what your art will do for them on a large scale of buying 3 pieces instead of one or working one-on-one with you to create a custom piece just for them, they’re actually more likely to purchase even though it would be more expensive. This might differ based on your target market, but it’s really worth trying. It rarely ends the opportunity to make the sale. Usually, a customer will either be excited and on board or they’ll say, “No, I think I just want this one piece.”
And sometimes proposing big will put in perspective that their purchase isn’t actually that big. Kind of like when you used to ask your parents for $50 to buy something, they’d say no, and then you’d ask if instead you could have just $15 to go to the movies. You can win the customer over to the smaller option just by putting things in a new perspective.
Ask them why they’re attracted to the piece they’re thinking about and get them talking about (and thus thinking about) the good side of things. Then remind them about your return policy to help seal the deal that this is a no-risk purchase. Once they get it home, they’re very unlikely to give it back.
Don’t be afraid to ask them for the sale.
Remember, blunt works. It means honest and trustworthy. If they just aren’t telling you no, then they might need you to ask them, “Do you think this will work for you?” or even more blunt, “Are you ready to take this home today?”
The more confident you are during this process, the less awkward it will feel for both of you.
And if the customer isn’t feeling awkward, you’re more likely to make the sale. So just own that confidence and keep reminding yourself that this customer wants your art and you’re just going to help them make the decision so they can be happy.
One little thing about confidence: silence is your friend. When you’re confident, silence isn’t scary. It’s an opportunity for your customer to think and it forces them to speak up. When you get nervous that they’re going to say no, you start babbling and keep babbling. That makes you look nervous and doesn’t give your customer the opportunity to tell you they’re ready to buy. You need to ask them to buy and then leave it silent so they are forced to answer.
What step of the process do you need to work on most?
If it’s getting the right pricing fit, perhaps you’re talking to the wrong customer. Or maybe it’s the right customer but you’re pricing wrong. I’ve got you covered. Just enter your email below for my free video class on pricing perfectly every time. You’ll learn how to research your customers so you can be certain the price works for them, and the reverse – how to set prices that work for you and see if those customers will pay or if you need to switch your market. You’ll love it! Enter your email and you’ll get immediate access.