This is part of the series Selling Your Art in the Modern Economy (intro). Read the previous ones to get the full picture: part 1 Get Personal, part 2 Website, part 3 Email, part 4 Target Market, part 5 Outreach, part 6 Launching, and part 7 Giveaways.
Most artists assume that if they sell their art online, they’ll never have to encounter the scariest business term ever:
Selling in person is horrifying to most artists because it conjures up awful feels of slimily convincing someone to part with their hard-earned cash when they really don’t want to and probably can’t afford it.
Of course, the reality of a sales conversation, especially when selling art, is very different.
And also in reality, artists have to have a lot of sales conversations even if they sell their art strictly online.
Potential art customers frequently contact the artist directly before buying the art. They want to know more about the artist. They want to feel connected to the artist. And, of course, they want to make sure they can trust the artist to do business reputably – who knows who is lying on the internet pretending to sell art but will just take their money and run?
So artists find themselves talking to potential customers fairly often, sometimes through email (still a sales conversation), sometimes over the phone, and sometimes in person.
It’s essential that modern-day artists know how to discuss the purchase with a potential customer so that the customer feels comfortable buying if they really do want to own the art and also feels comfortable not buying if it’s not the right decision for them. An ethical and successful modern-day artist knows never to convince someone to purchase a piece of art they don’t really want or honestly can’t afford, but that someone who really wants a piece of art and can honestly afford it still sometimes needs a gentle push to make the decision.
And that gentle push? That’s up to the artist.
It’s a great way to take control of your income. The more sales conversations you have the more sales you make.
Not all sales conversations will end in purchase; and that’s a good thing. But you’re able to directly interact with the buying process and see where a potential customer is getting hung up and help them work through that unsureness, having a big role in whether or not you make a sale.
SO THE QUESTION BECOMES: HOW DO YOU HAVE A SALES CONVERSATION LIKE THAT?
It’s hard to answer this one because it is a little different for each artist’s personality. You have to work with your own inclinations, rather than against them, or it will feel slimy and sleazy just like the sales conversations you’ve always dreaded.
But I can provide you with some helpful points to keep in mind.
Firstly, ask a lot of questions.
It’s hard to have a sleazy sales conversation if you’re just asking the customer how they feel, what they like, what their life is like, etc. Ask things relevant to their decision-making-process. For example, if they’ve emailed you saying they love a particular piece, you could just ask them, “What do you love about it?” This gets them talking about happy things with regard to your art. Of course happy feelings about your art are more likely to end in a purchase than negative feelings about your art.
So instead of saying, “Is there anything you don’t like about this piece?” or “Do you think you can afford it?” ease them in by asking what about it is so amazing to them.
If they express uncertainty, you want to get to the heart of that uncertainty. What is making them unsure? So ask them something like, “Where are you thinking of putting the piece in your home?” or “Can I help you figure out if it will match in the room you want to put it in?”
Second tip: don’t act desperate.
This sounds really obvious, but if you’re not thinking about it it can be very easy to drift into feeling like if this sale doesn’t come through your business will be over for good.
THAT IS NOT GOOD FOR SALES.
The way you act and talk when you feel desperate just fuels potential customers’ fears and discomfort with the process. You’re almost guaranteed to lose the sale if you feel desperate.
To combat those desperate feelings, remind yourself of the facts. Where else do you have money coming in? Who else could you speak to over the next few days about potentially buying art? Are there any local offices you could go to and try to make a big sale tomorrow to make up for losing the small sale today? Preparing yourself for what you’ll do IF you lose the sale will make you feel a lot less desperate.
AND DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE.
My third tip for sales conversations is to treat the potential customer like a friend.
Don’t think of them as a potential sale, potential money in your pocket.
Think of the conversation like you’re shopping with a friend and she’s trying to decide whether to buy a piece of art from a different artist. What questions would you ask her to make sure she feels comfortable with the purchase? What language would you use so she doesn’t feel pushed to buy but also feels like you support her if she’s excited about buying the piece?
Put on your acting hat and pretend to be in that situation. You’ll be shocked at how much easier it makes the conversation.
The fourth tip I have for you is to offer a quick decision bonus.
If they can make the decision within a certain amount of time (before you leave the art fair, by the end of the week, within 48 hours, etc) you can offer them an unpublicized deal or bonus – free shipping is a huge one. People love free shipping more than an even better discount code.
But you could also offer a discount like 10% off or a bonus small print or set of notecards. If you’re the type of artist who can do one, you can draw an impromptu sketch just for the customer, sign it, and give it as a generous bonus for their purchase.
Encouraging quick decisions frequently results in a sale because they’re able to just go with their gut. They’ve already considered all the logical stuff, but now they can relax and decide based on what feels right.
My last tip, perhaps the most important, is to bluntly ask for the sale.
I put this tip last because it is something to do at the end of the conversation. You don’t jump right in and say, “Are you going to buy this piece or what?” That will not go well most of the time.
You ask the questions and have a real conversation with them first. And after you’ve gotten a sense for what’s holding them back and talked them through solving that problem if you can, and you think they’re still interested… then you ask them to buy it.
A lot of people will suggest you ask, “How do you want to pay for that today: check or credit card?”
BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT AWKWARD.
“So, do you think you want to take it home today?”
“I think you’re going to love it. Do you want to bite the bullet?”
“Is the piece speaking to you enough that you’re ready to buy it?”
Questions like these ask for the sale without feeling crass, desperate, or like you’ll be angry if they don’t buy.
Come up with a phrase or two that you feel comfortable using to ask for the sale and keep them in mind as you’re ending a conversation with a potential customer. It’s also a good moment to bring back your character of helping your friend buy a piece of art.
The most important thing to remember after an unsuccessful sales conversation is that it’s not a forever-no.
Unless the potential customer says they just don’t like your style of art, they are still a potential customer – someone who might buy in six months, two years, or ten years.
If they’ve fallen for your art, there’s always a potential they’ll make that purchase later. So it’s up to you to keep in communication with them so they never forget you and you’re always top of mind if they’re considering buying art.
YOU WANT THEIR VERY NEXT ART PURCHASE TO BE A PIECE OF YOUR ART, WITHOUT A DOUBT.
So get them on your email list. Or make them follow you on Instagram. Or just put them in your calendar to send them a friendly note just to keep up with them and build that friendship.
Don’t be afraid of sales conversations. Just come into them armed with the right mindset and some useful techniques for helping your potential customer make the right decision for them.
This is part of the series Selling Your Art in the Modern Economy. To get the full picture, make sure you read the introduction, part 1 get personal, part 2 Website, part 3 Email,part 4 Target Market, part 5 Outreach, part 6 Launching, part 7 Giveaways, and sign up below so you don’t miss any of the articles!