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10 Strategies to Improve Your Art Sales

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This is a guest post from Carolyn Edlund of ArtsyShark.com. Carolyn and I have had several conversations wishing that we could help artists learn the actual skills of sales. In a former life, I was an annoying telemarketer. I learned all of these skills - the words to use, the way to ask for a sale without offending people, and how to project confidence in the transaction. Carolyn does a GREAT job here of breaking it down.

Are you lacking skills and technique when it comes to closing the sale? Try some of these strategies and watch your sales increase!

1. Understand your customer. Most people aren't your customer. Accept that, and concentrate on the niche you are in. This helps you work selectively, speaking to your ideal prospects more easily, and converting them into customers.

2. Craft your message carefully. In order to sell more art, you must be able to speak clearly and powerfully about your work. What is your concept? What is your story, and why does it matter? What is truly unique and compelling about your work? How does that translate into something wonderful for them?

Creating your sales talk is something you will want to do in advance. Write down your story – then make it more concise, pulling out the most interesting facts. Use this time to truly identify the needs of your customer, and design your message to appeal to them emotionally.

You message should also focus on building the value of your work. Your customer isn't buying something impersonal and manufactured. They are making a very special purchase, directly from the artist. Communicate value in your marketing materials, signage, through your display and in your verbal communications.

3. Ask questions. Find out what is important to your customer. What do they need and value? In this way, you can craft your sales presentation to create an emotional resonance with your customer, and you are also showing through your questions that you care about what they really want and need.

Rather than rattling off all the benefits of your work, listen to find which ones will be important to them. If you are speaking with an interior designer, you would certainly make a different presentation than if you were speaking to a parent seeking a portrait of their child, for example.

4. Prepare to deal with objections. Know possible objections going in, so that you can head them off before they happen. Will your customers think your work is too expensive? You may want to have a 100% satisfaction guarantee upfront, allowing a complete refund in the first thirty days. Will they be concerned about how to transport and install your work if it is heavy or cumbersome? Perhaps part of your presentation will explain that you provide these services. Are they concerned about cleaning of your creations? Hang tags and explanations of how to care for the item help relieve these worries.

5. Be consultative. Make recommendations on what to buy. Customers actually love this. It takes the burden of too many decisions off their plate, and makes the whole process easier. You are, after all, the expert on your own artwork. So share your knowledge. Encourage your customer to see you as an authority whose recommendations are valuable, rather than as a salesperson.

6. Convey a sense of ownership. This may mean that you pull out your iPad and scroll through "in situ" photos of your work in a home or office environment, to give them an idea of how it may work in theirs. Place the item they are considering in their hand, if possible. Use the senses to help them "experience" your work by encourage them to touch – or even listen, smell or taste what you are selling if that applies. Every one of the senses adds to their experience and to your opportunity to make the sale. Use phrases that give a sense of ownership, such as "your painting would look perfect on a dark blue wall."

7. Offer a turnkey product. Is your painting ready to hang? Does your item come in a gift box? Is it packed well to fit easily in a suitcase? Do you offer shipping to a gift recipient? Any extra service or benefit you can offer that makes buying your work easier will earn you more sales.

8. Increase the ticket by cross-selling, upselling, and bundling your work. Your handmade necklace comes in sterling silver, but let them know that it can be made in gold as well. This is an upsell. It will also increase the price significantly, but it may also more perfectly fit their needs.

Cross-selling adds other related items to the sale that make sense, such as purchasing ceramic cups to go with that hand thrown teapot they want to buy. Bundling creates a package of your goods – such as a gift basket or set, which can make a bigger impact, especially if they are purchasing for someone else.

9. Ask for the sale. Keep a positive attitude about the sale, knowing that your interested prospect will get great enjoyment from and deserves to own a piece of your work. When you have gone over all the benefits, seen their reaction, and helped to create an experience for them and a sense of ownership, ask, "May I wrap this special piece of jewelry up for you?" or "Are you ready to schedule an appointment to have this your sculpture delivered to your office?" If you don't ask, you can't get a "yes." And if the answer is no, it may mean that the sales cycle will take a little longer. Get their name, phone and email, and continue to follow up with them. Many sales happen after the initial contact.

10. Be honest, and serve your customer to the best of your abilities. Don't make recommendations simply to sell what you have in stock, but take into account what is truly best for your customer. The most effective way to build your art business is through repeat sales. Earning satisfied customers, and even raving fans, is just about the best thing you can do for your own business. As you serve them, you also serve your own needs.

Carolyn HeadshotBio: Carolyn Edlund is the founder and author of Artsy Shark, a blog that inspires artists to build better businesses. Her background includes owning a production studio, working as an art publishing sales rep, and working as an art consultant. She writes extensively on business subjects for artists, and is currently the Executive Director of The Arts Business Institute. image credit Steve Alpert's blog

Cory HuffThis article is courtesy of
Cory Huff is a digital strategist specializing in helping artists learn to sell their art online. His Big Hairy Audacious Goal: help 1000 artists create a full-time living from their art. You can view more blog posts like these and get a free gift for ArtPal artists here: http://theabundantartist.com/start-here/New window