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Confessions of a Professional Art Gallery Closer

by

Mckenna HallettGuest blogger Mckenna Hallett is the owner of My Golden Words and the author of the E's of Selling. She helps artists brand and market their work more effectively.

Back in the 70's, pre-internet (heck – PRE-computers, even!), I was selling art in some "big name" art galleries in San Francisco. I was a "natural" salesperson from an early age. It led me to a career in sales of high-end collectables and rarities; art, jewelry, antiques, but especially art. As I honed my skills, I became a professional "closer" in art sales. My entire job was to take the reins and lead the horses to water AND get them to drink.

The salespeople… er… I mean, the "art consultants", would jump through some very specific "qualifying" drills and then I would enter the closing room… I mean, the "viewing room." If the salesperson had set things up properly, I would close in about 10 to 15 minutes for an average sale of $2000. There were usually 10 consultants on most evenings and I would close several sales each night. My specialty was upselling. If someone really loved a limited edition print from a new edition we had just released, they surely would want two: one to keep forever and one to sell on the secondary market someday, right? Of course!

This was a well-oiled machine. I coached salespeople and wrote scripts for the telephone banks in the mornings and worked "closing rooms" at night. It was not unusual for these galleries to have a $500,000 month - in 1970's dollars! It was not unusual for me to be the closer on $200K and more in personal sales as well. There was ONE golden rule: create urgency.

One day, in the midst of closing a sale, I had a sudden change of heart; a revelation. I felt my early salesperson's heart; the one that wanted people to buy my Girl Scout cookies to help my troop. That little girl wanted people to buy a bunch of different kinds so they would get more choices. How do you choose between Do-Si-Dos™ and Thin Mints™? "Get ‘em both", I would say with that big "missing-tooth" smile. But I digress.

The bottom-line in my childhood selling was all about pleasing my customers. I wasn't making a penny from those sales, but felt more rewarded and happier than my art sales ever made me feel.

I began to feel that same powerful and deeply rooted desire to please my buyers in art sales. And from those feelings came a core lesson I still teach in my seminars today:

You must believe (always remember!) you have a deep and lasting impact on buyers of your art. Know that they will never have a better opportunity than today, now, (this very minute) to make that positive decision towards a lifetime of enjoyment.

Understand that when they leave sight of your creation, you are no longer able to help them win the internal battle between the increasing desire to own versus the decreasing hesitation to spend.

Your ability to tip the scales with encouragement is gone when they walk away. They slowly lose the passion, vision, and attachment they were developing; the connection to that part of their heart snaps. The fire dies.

They begin to forget how good the art made them feel. In hours, and most certainly in days, there is little anyone can do to rekindle the fire. They lose.

You don't lose. The piece will sell someday to someone, but most likely, not to them.

As you have already experienced and know in your heart, your collectors are forever thankful each time they lay eyes on your art and the life-enriching spirit that is seamlessly wound into your art and bonded with their hearts.

My best advice after 50 years of sales: Love yourself, your talent, your art and your client's long-term needs. Help them, guide them, and encourage them to become owners, today; not for the money - but because it is the right thing to do.

Carolyn EdlundThis article is courtesy of
Carolyn Edlund, founder of Artsy Shark, is a business writer, speaker and consultant for artists. She is the Executive Director of the Arts Business Institute, presenting at art business workshops throughout the United States. Carolyn works with artists every day in strategy sessions designed to help them structure their businesses, set and reach their goals. Find out more about scheduling your own business consultation with Carolyn here: http://www.artsyshark.com/build-your-art-business/New window