Saturday, September 24, 2011

3 More Simple Steps to Sell Art

My blog post last week, 4 Steps to Selling More Art, generated more traffic and comments to the blog than any post in the two year history of RedDotBlog. The message seems clear; you are interested in improving your art salesmanship.

"For me," commented Marsha Karle, "selling is the hardest part." This sentiment seemed to reflect what many of you felt. You love creating, but when it comes time to sell, suddenly things become much more difficult. And yet we live in a time when you are going to have many more opportunities to sell your art directly, through your website, at shows, or even at a gallery opening, salesmanship is a critical skill.

The important thing is that it is a skill, and, like all other skills, can be learned, practiced and perfected.

I the blog post I encouraged you to start thinking about building relationships, telling stories, giving buyers space and asking for the close.

Today I want to continue the discussion and talk about three additional steps to successfully complete more sales. These tips apply before you ever actually enter the selling situation - it may surprise you to learn that a many times your ability to make the sale is determined before you meet the client, before you step into your display space or studio, and often before you even hang or place the art.

Today, let's talk about preparation.

Put your mind in a selling state

Immediately before going into a selling situation - be it a gallery opening, an art festival or an open studio tour, take some time to clear your mind and shift into selling mode. Often you get so caught up in the process of preparing for an event - installing artwork, printing price tags, setting out wine and cheese, etc. that you can easily forget the purpose of all of that work. The stress of the final rush can play havoc with your mental state going into the event.

I want to encourage you to take a few minutes prior to your next event to prepare to sell. Allow yourself to forget about the pre-show hubbub and focus on one thing only: Selling.

Read a short article on selling from my blog, my book, or from another selling resource so that you can be focused on one particular principle as you go into the selling opportunity. Take a minute to think about the key pieces of art you would like to focus on during the show and what points you want to emphasize. What story are you going to tell about that work?

Listen to an energetic, up-tempo piece of music to bring up your excitement and confidence level.

You are now ready to throw yourself into selling with enthusiasm and energy. While it may sound simple, these 3-5 minutes of mental preparation will have a huge impact on your attitude and your success rate. Try it next time if you don't believe me!

Always have your selling tools ready

Mental preparation is critical, but so is a little bit of good old fashioned physical preparation. Make sure you have all the tools on hand you will need to complete a sale. Again, this may seem pretty basic, but I have run into instances when, for fault of a simple tool, I have had to scramble to make a sale happen.

Develop a sales tool kit or checklist that you run through before each sales event. Items to make sure you have on hand:

Sales slips
Business cards or brochures
Bubble wrap/bags/boxes (I once nearly lost a sale for lack of a $2 box for a client to carry home a small sculpture)
Credit card processing machine (or a mobile payment processor, like the free one available from The ability to process credit cards used to be a nice convenience for your clients - it has now become a necessity. Most people don't carry around a checkbook anymore, and if your art is more than a couple of hundred dollars, it's unlikely they will have enough cash. If you have a smartphone you can process credit card payments right on your phone.)

Make sure your supplies are always stocked and ready to go.

Love your clients

Selling art is one of the few remaining businesses where the personal relationship still reigns supreme. As I mentioned in my last blog post, establishing a good relationship is the key goal of the sales encounter. Go into a sales opportunity primed to build those long-term relationships.

In order to build relationships, you first need to drop all prejudices. You may have strong opinions about the world and the people in it, opinions you have developed over years of experience. When it's time to sell, however, you need to lock those opinions away. When selling art, there is no race, creed, color, political party, religion, sexual orientation or socio-economic class. Regardless of background, the only thing you need concern yourself with is a person's interest in your art.

Never pre-judge potential buyers. You may develop, over time, a sense that only people who dress a certain way, speak a certain way, or come from certain places will buy art. This perception may be reinforced by years of experience, and it may even be largely accurate. The problem is that this sense can prevent you from putting your full efforts forth with each and every person you encounter - and over a lifetime, this can lead you to lose sales.

I can think of many clients who, on first glance, would never strike you as a good potential buyer. I have sold to people with holes in their jeans, and I've sold to people driving twenty year-old pickup trucks. Will you waste some time with people who don't end up buying over the years? Yes you will, but it's worth putting your full efforts forth with everyone for those times when a client turns out to be a diamond in the rough.

Finally, don't talk politics religion or sports. It's easy to see that this could lead to problems if you hold opposing views, but it can be just as great a problem if you and your potential buyer agree 100%. These subjects stir such strong emotions that the mere mention of one of these subjects will draw all attention away from your art. Don't risk it.

There are more steps involved in preparing to sell - but try these three the next time you are presented with an opportunity to sell your art.

Want to learn everything I know about selling? Pre-order my new book How to Sell Art today. I will take you step by step through the art sales process - including steps to preparation, building relationships with customers, asking the right questions, negotiating like and expert, following up professionally, creating fans, and much more.

This book represents nearly 20 years and multi-million $ of art sales experience. Read more about the book and pre-order at The book will ship next month and if you pre-order today you can save $5 off the $24.95 cover price.

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