This is a guest post from Michael Carpenter. As art fair season kicks off, at least in my hemisphere, I thought it would be really timely to discuss some in-person selling techniques. Find out more about Michael at the end of the article.
Selling your art. Terrifying or enjoyable?
It depends how you do it.
It can be terrifying to sell, but it doesn’t need to be. You can even enjoy it. I love selling my art, maybe more than creating. After all, praise is a powerful drug!
Selling means different things to different people. You want to choose the approach you’re comfortable with and then make it as effective as possible.
The approach that feels the least horrible to you will yield the highest possible sales. After all, if you don’t enjoy it, it’s not going to be effective.
HOW YOU SELL IS UP TO YOU.
You can be mean or nice, rude or polite, do absolutely nothing or be very involved. I’ve seen both extremes, including people lying or cheating to make a sale. I don’t recommend either way. The approach I’ve chosen for myself, and suggest for you, is somewhere in between.
In order to find your middle ground, you need to start off by agreeing to stop seeing sales as selling. Instead, let’s view it as helping friends with their buying decision.
You can’t convince someone to buy when they don’t like the artwork.
Their buying decision is emotionally-driven. Your job is to reveal more clearly for them whether they will have good emotions if they buy or bad ones.
Once you’ve got the right mindset about selling, think about your personality.
I’ve heard it said to “just be yourself”. I don’t agree with taking it that far. What if you’re a jerk?
Instead, let’s look at what personality is most useful. For example, being pleasant, unobtrusive, and yet available to answer a question is good if you want to sell something to me. But other people want someone to hold their hand and guide them to a purchase one step at a time.
Are you the worst case scenario?
You’ve never had the opportunity to help anyone make a purchasing decision, much less one about your art?
No problem. Really!
Just be yourself. (sick, evil laugh)
Ok, I’ll tell you how to be.
Dress appropriately. Be clean and well-groomed. Be friendly and interact with browsers. Look people in the eye when speaking to them. Be genuine. Simply treat them as you would a friend.
The greeting is important. A warm smile, with a sparkle in your eye that shows you’re engaged.
Make eye contact and say, “Good morning. I’m Michael, the artist. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.”
It’s simple and concise, and every artist in the world says it. It could work well for you because it’s safe. But if you’re more “extra” than “regular”, you might want to spice it up.
I would say something like, “Howdy, I’m the artist, Michael. I’m having a fantastic morning and a fair share of coffee, hope you are too. Ask anything you want! Don’t worry, I’ll make up anything I don’t know.”
If you’re not a people person with a quick wit, that’s not going to feel good for you.
And you need to be comfortable. Your greeting needs to suit you.
To get comfortable outside of the safety zone, remember that people think artists have an almost magical talent – something they could never do themselves.
And that’s amazing for them to think about.
Don’t forget that. It may be natural and effortless for you, but to them it’s incredible. That means they’re already interested in you.
Also, tell your potential customer something about yourself. People like to get to know artists. They want to connect with you as a person. So tell your story and show your personality.
Be a “real” person, rather than a faceless company without feeling or emotion.
If you think you’re bothering them and they would rather be left alone, ask.
THEY’LL LET YOU KNOW WHAT THEY WANT.
Most people are pretty understanding. And it’s always ok to ask questions. How else are you going to learn?
If you struggle with the interaction, you’re still learning and hopefully won’t have to learn that same thing again.
Just take it in stride and realize you’re getting better at doing it.
All the while, you’re going to start guessing whether someone is going to buy.
The fact is – you simply cannot tell who is going to buy and who isn’t just from looking at them.
You can get some indications, maybe from their behavior or body language, but that’s just information. It’s not a conclusion. Everyone’s had the couple who are well-dressed with matching Rolex watches who stop, ask for a discount, and buy nothing. And on the other hand, I’ve felt guilty taking someone’s money before because I thought they didn’t have a lot to spend.
Instead of relying on the look of the person to tell you whether to bother talking to them, every person should be treated as though they are a customer.
They may buy then and there, they may not. They may buy later or they may end up being a fan who sends lots of other customers to you.
And to treat them like a customer, you need to involve yourself in their buying process.
You don’t need to know how to make a cake to eat one, but it’ll help you pick a good one… And I like good cake – um, I mean selling art. No, cake. Wait was that squirrel over there? Ok, I’ll have one piece, a small one.
Your potential customers don’t know how to make the art, and it would help them pick a good piece.
YOU CAN HELP THEM WITH YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF ART.
You can ask them which piece they’re drawn to and explain the features that make that piece special. You can talk to them about where they would put the art and help them to decide how to display or frame it.
Use your knowledge to their advantage and make a real connection with them. That’s the foundation of a successful sales conversation.
Now that you’ve learned some methods for selling effectively, dream up your introduction phrase and get out there into the real world to practice!
Michael took a break from sales to try his hand at painting. He now enjoys the passion he feels for both. As it turns out sales is more of an art form than he imagined. You can find Michael’s minimalist and color field abstraction art on his website.
If talking with customers isn’t the only thing making you nervous about the upcoming art fair season, perhaps it will help to know you’ve absolutely nailed your prices. Fortunately, I’ve got a little something to help with that.