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Learning to Sell

by Constance Smith

Common Excuses
   Everyone who comes before you is a potential customer. If you have excuses, it is because you don't want to make the effort to sell to them. When you are in a confident mood, you will not make up these excuses. Practice not having these excuses if this is your problem.

  • She doesn't look like she has any money.
  • She doesn't look like someone who buys art.
  • She is not avant-garde enough for my art.
  • Her fingernails are not polished. She doesn't have any money.
  • No one off a tour bus ever buys.

  I was a juror on a court case. The prosecutor was a mild-tempered lawyer-you could barely hear his voice. The defense attorney was a power-infested madman. No one on the jury liked the defense attorney, although he appeared more like a winning lawyer. None of us wanted to listen to this disgusting defense attorney. I believe he lost his case mostly because people didn't like his personality. Likewise, if you sound like a car salesman, people will walk away from you in an instant. Be natural, honest and kind, and you will sell more art. Pretend you are talking to someone in your own home about your artwork.

Keep in mind as you study the market which salesmen you would like to sell like. When you go to galleries, study how they do it. When you visit outdoor shows or an exhibit, see how they do it. Write your comments down. Make a special effort to study this topic. You will want to observe all types of salespeople and see how you react.
   You will find some common denominators in the people that you can deal with comfortably:

  • You trust them; somehow they have gained your confidence.
  • You like them-you might even consider them as a future friend.

  When you hold a show, or exhibit at an outdoor show, the people attending are all potential customers. Perhaps, however, they've only purchased prints or limited editions previously. Most of the people you will encounter do not go into galleries. Galleries intimidate them. They go instead to outdoor shows or open studios where the setting is more comfortable, i.e., no salesmen.
   Art is a unique commodity. People want to fall in love with an artwork. They want to show it off to their friends. If you know why it's good to own original art, it will be easier to convey this to new buyers. solving your customer's problems
   Think of selling rather as solving a potential client's problem: some of them have an easier time letting themselves being rewarded with artwork, some don't. For some it is a new problem and they don't feel too confident. For others, someone else has imposed the problem; i.e., they have reached a certain financial status and people expect them to be owners of original artwork. They really don't know what they like, what they want. They want to be told, but want to trust the person telling them.

Establishing confidence
Your initial presence and stature must insure confidence.

If you sell at an outdoor show for several years standing, this insures confidence. You are not an art peddler: you are an art dealer, which requires a relationship on an ongoing basis.

  • You've been referred by a friend or associate.
  • Someone else has bought from you.
  • The local arts council or museum has a piece of your work.
  • They saw your name in an article in the local paper.

Sell the Benefits
   People want to be sold benefits. Buyers want to know the benefits of owning your artwork. So make a list of them-right now! A benefit generally saves time, energy or money while still appealing to the ego. Right color, right size, joyous feeling, the artist is collected by a loyal following, confidence due to critics saying good things about the artist, nicely framed with high-quality materials. All are benefits of owning a piece of your work.

Handling Objections
   Unless someone is ready to make a purchase, there will generally be objections to handing over the cash. As you proceed with your sales you will become more familiar with what is a normal objection and what is the difficult objection. One way to get around objections is by changing the subject and simply not answering them, or by asking another question.
   Some people might not be sure if they actually like the piece. They need reaffirmation-from a bystander, their mate, friend, etc. In this case you could offer to them a money-back guarantee. They can display it for two weeks in their home, of course with payment and the normal agreement. That way they'll have a chance to hear comments from friends and neighbors.
   A common objection is, "The price is out of my budget." Your answer would be, "How about a lease?" or "Why don't you join my patron program and pay by the month?" or "I do have a layaway plan." If you accept VISA/MC you might even feel secure with giving them the piece with three installments on a VISA.
   Price is too high. They are not familiar with the serigraph process and think it is a poster. Educate them. Suggest they compare your prices to the artist down the path, that you just sold a piece to so-and-so or that your prices have risen slowly over the years because you are more in demand.
   The colors clash with my room. Show them a different but similar piece. Teach them an art piece is what sets off a room, not the couch.
   They don't feel they deserve such a fine piece. This might not be said in words, but it is how some people have been trained to feel, especially new collectors who haven't had time to begin to appreciate art in their homes. Explain that everyone deserves to have a reviving impression to view daily.
   I can't make up my mind. Make them feel confident in their choice. Introduce them to the patron program.
   Silent objection. They won't look you in the eye, they have nervous energy, their arms are folded, they won't shake your hand. Make them feel confident in their choice. Show them your portfolio, explaining what museums collect your work.

Closing lines
   When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, you have to feel comfortable with your closing. You have to do what is natural for you. Adding a little intelligence to the matter never hindered. Don't be too passive during the closing moments. People can like a passive, timid type, as he or she is less threatening.
. Did you want to pay with VISA or Mastercard?
. Did you want me to help you choose a frame?
. Can I help you hang it at your office?
. Which one can I reserve you for? I have a red dot you can put on it.
. I think you are making a wise choice. Did you want to pay with a check?
. Why don't you take both works since you can't decide? We can do a three-month payment through your VISA.
. If you want this work, I would advise you to at least make a deposit so I can hold it 30 days for you. Otherwise, it might sell.

After you close the deal, shake hands and shut up! Let him say the next words!
Desire is one of the strongest motivators there is. If you have the desire to sell something because your rent is due tomorrow, you will be much more successful. Aggressive salesmen seldom accomplish more sales. Even car dealerships are finding this out. When a person likes a car, he decides without assistance if he's going to buy it or not.

The author, Constance Smith, has devoted the last eighteen years to publishing art marketing information researching and networking with art world professionals nationwide. Previous to that she represented fine artists in the San Francisco area. "Art Marketing 101" is available at bookstores nationwide or you can order directly from the publisher. 336 pages, $24.95 + $4 shipping, ISBN: 0-940899-32-9. ArtNetwork, PO Box 1360, Nevada City, 95959 Tel. 800/383-0677 530/470-0862 Fax: 530/470-0256 http://www.artmarketing.com E-mail: info@artmarketing.com


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