OTHERWORLD Bandon, Oregon
You have read PART ONE of this conversation, now let’s discuss some of the dialogue, sales strategies, and various steps involved in selling your photography to collectors. Although there may be other avenues where you could find this situation of artist-collector sales, we will focus on that of a gallery setting, and of an art show setting. As mentioned in part one of this topic, these two outlets are quite different in that your time is very limited in an art show setting, therefore your approach will be a bit different than that of a gallery. We will discuss some of these differences, but regardless of the setting, there are a couple things that will remain a constant and that should act as the motivating foundation of everything you do in regards to selling your work.
- • Art does not sell itself.
- • There is no time like the present.
First, art does not sell itself. If you were to open a gallery and simply sat at the desk and waited for people to come in, look around, and excitedly come to you and say “I’ll take it!”, then rest assured, your gallery won’t last long. Art does not sell itself, salespeople sell art. Now, for many artists, this is difficult to swallow and it’s probably safe to say that most artists weren’t born salespeople, but if you’re still with this article after part one, then maybe you are interested in selling your work or already find yourself in this setting. I certainly was not born a salesperson and found it quite challenging until I found my groove with it, and at the end of the day, I really no longer even feel that what I do is sales – but of course it is, and like anything, there are certain techniques and strategies. Firstly, you must understand that art won’t sell itself and that you need to be proactively selling it.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, there is no time like the present. Art for most people most of the time is an emotional purchase. It is not like going to the store to buy a sweater where you look around until you find one that you like and then purchase it. More often than not, collectors of artwork happen to just stumble upon a piece of art that they have an emotional response to. It is in this initial response that you’re likeliness to sell the art is at it’s highest. By far! In the gallery business, we call customers who leave without purchasing be-backs, because everybody always says “I’ll be back.” You will hear this a million times while selling your artwork. And what you’ll find 99% of the time, is that be-backs do not come back. It’s just reality. You can not hope to make a living with be-backs. Now, once you recognize and understand this, then it acts as the motivating foundation of your exchanges with prospective buyers of your artwork.
Climbing the Triangle
I look at the exchange with a prospect-leading-to-a-sale in the form of a triangle. When the prospect first walks in to the gallery or steps into your space at an art show, you are at the bottom of this triangle and there are many variables and directions that things can go. Your goal is to get to the top of the pyramid, which is when you’d shake hands and collect a credit card. Everything you do between these two points should be within the triangle and be leading to that one point, otherwise you are working against yourself and getting off track. Essentially, you are climbing a ladder of yes’s until there is no place else to go. With each yes, you get higher in the triangle, and with each no, a step down. If you are talking about your Aunt’s apple pie with no direction, then you are entirely outside the triangle and are getting nowhere. Given that your time with the prospect is limited, you should remain mindfully climbing the triangle towards a sale.
ENDLESS DUNE Imperial Sand Dunes, California
Basic Steps Towards a Sale
The basic steps towards making a sale are:
- • Introduction
- • Covering the facts
- • Asking questions
- • Eliminating objections
- • Asking for the sale
- Introduction. Assuming you are not the only artist whose work is being exhibited in the gallery, your introduction should be something like this: Hi there. Welcome to X Gallery. This is a collection of a number of different landscape photographers from all over the country. Take your time and enjoy the work. My name is Scott if you have any questions. Then release your energy from them and step away. Continue to keep a string-of-attention attached to them the entire time, but be very subtle about it. By offering a short and sweet introduction and then seemingly releasing them, they will feel instantly more relaxed. This entire dance is very sensitive – when things are done mindfully and are flowing, it’s all good, but it does not take much to throw the whole thing off. For example, after your introduction you stay standing and staring at them. Now the visitors are now very uncomfortable, ruining any chance of a potential art sale.
- Covering the Facts. You introduced the visitors to the gallery and then seemingly released your energy to allow them to look around. Subtly, you have maintained your string-of-attention to them and are now patiently waiting for an opportune moment to step back in with some energy. It could have been 30 seconds after the introduction, or it could be 5 minutes, it totally depends on the prospect and it is up to the art consultant to read their body language and energy to determine when this opportune time is. When you reengage, you begin to educate the prospect with facts about the work, with enthusiasm, and begin to build excitement toward the work. This artist is Artist X. He works primarily with an old school large format camera and shoots primarily at night time under a full moon, that is how he is able to have such clarity to the images and why they appear somewhat surreal and have a blue tone to them.
- You’ll want to dip in and out with your energy, stepping away and coming back in – again, this will help them to feel at ease and allow them time to find something and connect with it. In a gallery with a viewing room, you will want to take a piece off the wall and take it into the viewing room. All the while, you are enthusiastically dropping more nuggets-of-information regarding the artwork, educating them as to what it is they are viewing.
- “Covering the facts” could also be called “building value”. It is with these facts that you are laying down that is leading up to the cost of the artwork. If you do a good job in covering the facts, or building value, then by the time you get to price and offer them the cost for the artwork, you may hear “Is that all…I thought it’d be more.” On the other hand, if you have not done a good job in laying down the facts, you may hear, “Wow, that’s expensive.” You have a much greater chance of selling the piece and are much further up the triangle when you get the former response. Do a good job going through the points and laying down the facts regarding the artwork, the artist, the materials, the romance – it is in this that you build the value to the art.
- Asking Questions. Throughout the dialogue, you will begin to ask questions. You need to garner an understanding of the prospects tastes, likes and dislikes, style of decor at home, and anything else that will help you get further up the triangle. Here are a number of great questions:
- *Would this artwork work well in your home?
- *Do you have any spots in your home for a piece like this?
- *What do you think of this color?
- *Do you have any photography in your art collection?
- *Do you collect artwork?
- *Do you like the way this piece is framed?
- *What do you think of the mood in this piece?
- *Where in your home would you hang a piece like this?
- With each question you ask, there are generally just a few possible responses, and you will be comfortable with any possible direction it may take. For example, you ask, “Do you have any photography in your art collection?” There are only going to be a few common responses: “No. I mostly have paintings.” “Yes, actually I have a Steve McCurry print I purchased in New York.” Or, “I don’t really collect art. I mean, I have some things on the wall, but I wouldn’t call myself an art collector.” You make any possible reply work for you and move forward. “Paintings! Nice. We have many first time photography collectors. You might like Photographer X photographs who’s work is very soft and painterly.” Or, “Steve McCurry! Awesome! I love his work too. You might like Photographer’s X photographs.”
- Always stay positive. You climb the ladder with yes’s and that is what you are after. Many of these questions are meant to put the prospect in-their-home, in-their-mind. If you can achieve this and the prospect is visualizing the piece hanging on the wall in their home, then you are doing very well and getting closer to that one-point.
- Eliminating Objections. Objections are essentially any no that the prospect may have. In order to get to the top of the triangle, it is your job to overcome any objections. There are two ways to go about this: wait for them to arise and then overcome, or better yet, overcome them before they arise. There are common objections that people have and when you can overcome them before they arise, you are doing very well. The most common objections are:
- *Size – need to measure.
- *Don’t have a suitable spot to hang piece.
- *Want to see all possibilities before committing to a piece.
- *Frame style not to my liking.
- Just as with the questions, you can go down any path this may take and make it work. All of these can be easily overcome and again, ideally before they come up. Why the emphasis on before? When you wait until objections come up and then come back with a solution, you create this back-and-forth energy where you keep topping their issue. When you already laid down your solution to their objection earlier when speaking of the facts, their objection either doesn’t come up at all because you already overcame it, or if it does come back, you can remind them of the solution mentioned earlier. Etherically, it’s a much softer approach and ultimately more effective.
- Early in your presentation you say, “These photographs all come in a number of different sizes and frame styles. We custom make each piece for each collector. Once the piece is finished, it’s professionally packed, shipped fully insured and delivered to your home anywhere in the world.” With this seemingly simple 10 second offering, you have potentially overcome a number of different objections that can come up: size issues, frame styles, shipping. And, you subtly said “your home” which reinforces “ownership” over a piece of art.
- Asking for the Sale. You’ve enthusiastically covered the facts, eliminated objections, and have the prospect visualizing this piece hanging above their sofa. You’ve helped them determine the optimal size and frame, and everything is all good. Then the prospect gets up and walks out of the gallery. What happened?! You didn’t ask for the sale. Every person in sales has had this happen to them. Asking for the sale is an important part of making the sale. Choosing the optimal time to ask for the sale is key. Not only do you need to climb your way to the top of the triangle, but you need to recognize when you are at the top and it is at this time that you ask, “Would you like to go-ahead and purchase this piece for your home?” If you ask too early, you’ll likely get a no. If you wait too long, you’ll likely talk yourself out of the sale and drop back down the other side. The timing needs to be right. This happens when you’ve got all the yes’s and the energy is at it’s peak.
- It can be challenging for early-on-the-path salespeople to ask for the sale, but look at it this way – This prospect loves the piece and it really resonates with them. They have a spot, love the size and frame style and can totally picture it in their house. You have spent an hour working with them to get to this point, assisting them in making an art purchase for their home. If you don’t ask for the sale, you are giving the prospect a total disservice. You are obliged to ask for the sale and to try and close the deal. They will thank you later when they have a beautiful piece of art on the wall! If an objection comes up, then it means you aren’t there yet and there’s something more that you need to cover. No problem. There’s no hurry. Move on. But, when you get to that sweet spot at the top of the triangle, don’t be scared to ask for the sale – do your job, offer impeccable service and assist the prospect in becoming a collector of the art.
- Now, you may have noticed that I did not ever discuss you as “Artist” while selling in the gallery. I didn’t say in the gallery introduction, “Hi, welcome to the gallery. I am one of the artists. My work is over here.” If you are selling in a gallery with other artists, then I think you should be very specific when and how you use yourself as Artist. Really, you should allow people to get-on-a-thing and find a piece they resonate with on their own. If it’s your artwork, then good, but you’ll still want to find an opportune time to drop I’m the Artist. If your timing is wrong, then the entire exchange gets sidetracked and now they’re asking all kinds of questions about being a photographer. Talking about yourself or your journey may be healthy for the ego, but it doesn’t necessarily do well in selling art. Art is an emotional purchase based on energy. Use your I’m the Artist timing very specifically to boost the energy at that particular time. Many times, I have been 45 minutes or more into talking with prospective buyers about one of my pieces when I dropped I’m the Artist for the first time, and when done at an optimal time and in the right way, then it can be smooth sailing right to the finish line and asking for the sale. The prospects are always shocked and thrilled to find this out and may ask, “Why didn’t you tell us?” You can humbly say, “I like for it to be about the artwork…and about you. It’s not about me.” And, that is what it should be about! It’s not about you and fueling your ego. Your goal is to sell the work. As the Artist, you have an advantage, the advantage to be able to drop I’m the Artist at the opportune time to help fuel the ether and get the deal done. Choose your timing carefully.
- If you are working at a gallery as the sole artist, I’d still probably follow this above strategy. I believe it would serve you better than, “Hi, welcome to the gallery. I’m the Artist!” Drop it at an opportune time to help build upon what you’re already doing. Otherwise, you may spend all day talking about yourself and not getting anywhere in regards to sales.
NIGHTFLASH Nevada Desert
- Although the foundation to selling and the steps listed above are the same in an art show or art fair as to that of a gallery, it all becomes super-consolidated and has to be done in a fraction of the time. And, of course you are representing yourself as the Artist selling your artwork.
- Introduction. Your introduction will be different and you’ll want to take advantage of dropping some facts from the get-go. “Hi there. This is some of my photography. Most of the images are from here on Maui, with a few from elsewhere. I custom make each piece for each collector and ship these all over the world.”
- If in a gallery setting a typical sale takes 45 minutes to well over an hour, in an art show setting, you can consider yourself lucky to get 15 minutes or more by prospective buyers. This means that instead of asking direct questions like, “Do you have a nice spot at home for a piece like this?” at the 30 minute mark, now you are asking at the 3 minute mark. You have to be much more diligent about staying within the triangle. Viewers and prospective collectors may try and ask you questions that are ultimately outside the realm of selling and the triangle, but just quickly cover it and get back to moving forward. For example, someone asks you, “What kind of camera do you use? It must be a fancy one.” This can be a relatively common question-statement, but this kind of talk is deadly for selling. The fact is, tech-talk kills the romance and with no romance, you’ve got no art sales happening. Remember, emotional purchase. That means energy and romance – nothing will kill that juice quicker than a 5 minute talk about what kind of camera you use. Cover it briefly and get right back to talking about the work, laying down some facts, and asking questions. “Oh, I actually have used a number of different cameras and formats over the years. Much of my collection has been shot with film – old school mechanical cameras that don’t even require batteries. Like this image here – this is one of my most popular images, was captured just a few miles from here…” You answer the question without specifics, add some romance and energy, bring it back to now and to the local area.
- Selling at an Art Show requires you to be much more direct and to-the-point. With less time, it can be much more challenging, but on the flip-side – if art purchases are an emotional purchase and it’s all about the energy, then oftentimes it can be beneficial to have less time. Less time can consolidate all this energy and create a more dynamic purchasing atmosphere than you’d find in a gallery.
STRANGER San Diego, California
Common Dialogue Between Prospect and Artist
Selling artwork is a very organic process and each exchange is unique and different, primarily due to our different personality types. With that said, much of what is discussed is quite similar from prospective buyer to prospective buyer. Here are some common questions, objections or concerns that people have, and where you can go with it:
- • Prospect: “I’m gonna to think about it.”
- This is a very common thing for people to say before they walk away. If you are doing your job properly, you should never have someone walk-away without knowing what the objection was, and had made an attempt to overcome it. Granted, there are times when you simply will not overcome and make it happen. Move on. But, the worse thing is when you get close with someone, then they say they want to think about it and they walk, and you have no idea why. Perhaps it was something small that you could have easily righted for them. Maybe it was the difference in $100 in cost that you would have been happy to bend on price. Therefore, you should make every effort to find out what’s really going on.
- • Artist: “I totally understand. Just so I know I’m best serving you, and if you don’t mind me asking, what is it you’d like to think about?”
- Many times, if they are not a serious prospective buyer, they are simply saying this to get away. You’ll likely find out with this response. If they are serious, likely they’ll give you a reason and then you can try and solve their concerns.
- • Prospect: “Can I look at these on a website and order once I get home?”
- Again, a very common question, and again, this could be someone who is not serious that is just trying to get away, but it may be a serious prospective buyer who doesn’t understand how unlikely it is that they’d go home and purchase online – you need to determine which it is.
- • Artist: “Yes, I have a website with all of my collection available for viewing. Yes, it is possible to order on the website, but be mindful that images on the website are 4 inches wide and certainly don’t translate the same as these big pieces that you see here. If you are seriously considering the work, I encourage you to take some time now while you are here in person to try and make a decision. Which one of these is your favorite? Do you have a spot for a piece like this?”
- Try and get a little more information and figure out if they are really serious or not. If they are seriously considering a piece, then it’s worth explaining further and adding:
- “I’ve been selling artwork for some time and have found that people don’t buy artwork when they aren’t looking at it. If you can’t decide when you’re looking at the real thing, it’s tough to expect yourself to be able to make a decision from home, looking at a 4 inch picture on a computer screen? The reality is it is rare for people to make art purchases online.”
- I use this approach often and many times, I find serious purchasers understand the logic, slow down, and make a decision. I always try and be as open and honest with prospects as I can. Explain to them how people don’t buy later. Explain how art is an emotional purchase and that a decision has to be made while in front of the work with that energy. Tell them the facts. The facts are: 99% of the time, people don’t come back, they don’t buy later, they don’t go home and purchase online – it just doesn’t happen. Explain sensitively. If the prospect is having difficulty committing to a larger piece, and I have already gone through this above dialogue, I might try:
- “I have found that my collectors who already own a piece are able to later add-on to their collection and purchase more work. It’s much easier when you already have a piece at home that you are looking at. Maybe it would be best if you were to start your collection now with one of these smaller pieces, then later you could add-on the larger one for above the sofa.” I have had a lot of success with this as well, and again, I think it looks out for the best interest of the collector – making a decision now while in front of the artwork ensures that they actually do become a collector, and having the time to consider further the larger, more prime pieces for later. And, of course it’s good for you – making a sale now as opposed to having them walk without making a commitment.
- • Prospect: “I love this piece, but I’m not sure it’s the right size for the spot I have.”
- • Artist: “I totally understand – most people don’t travel with their wall dimensions! This is actually a common issue and I can make it real easy on you. Let’s determine a ‘safe’ size that you know would fit. We’ll write up the order and you’ll purchase that smaller size now, but I won’t get started on the piece until you get home and measure and confirm with me. Once you measure, we can determine the best size and change the order and settle the difference as necessary. This is the best and safest way for you – you’ll be making a decision while you’re here looking at the piece, but can have total peace-of-mind that the piece will be the optimal size. How does that sound?”
- I think this is the perfect solution for most people with this concern. If you are serious about purchasing the piece, this option will work well for you. If you are not serious, then you’ll likely come up with some other reason to go. Why people need to pretend to be into something when they really have no intention of purchasing – I will never know, but that too is very common and just comes with the territory.
- Also, learn the general sizes of pieces of furniture so when these talks come up regarding size, you can confidently help direct them to the optimal choice.
- • Prospect: “I love your work, but can’t afford this.”
- Oddly enough, this is often said by people before any mention of pricing! Therefore, this can be a number of other things, but if it’s honestly about pricing, I find this easy enough to respond to:
- • Artist: “I have work in a price range for nearly everybody with pieces starting at $350 for finished and shipped pieces. Would that be in your price range?”
- • Prospect: “No. I can’t afford that either.”
- • Artist: “No problem. I appreciate that my work resonates with you. Leave me your email and I’ll put you on my mailing list. That way you can follow my work over time. Also, I offer 4 specials a year with pieces starting at $100, and will have a book coming out eventually.”
- Just because they can’t afford it now, doesn’t mean they won’t be able to in a year, or two years. If they like your work, there’s value in that. Collect an email, make a pleasant connection, and move on. Feel grateful for these exchanges too. Appreciate everyone you speak with that is moved by your work. These are your people. Respect that. When you approach the work with this attitude and with an openness and honesty about what it is you are doing, it really doesn’t feel like selling. We aren’t trying to talk people into buying the work. We are assisting those who resonate with the work to make a decision to purchase something they love.
Hopefully, this gives you some insights to selling your work. In PART THREE, the final segment to HOW TO SELL PHOTOGRAPHY – WORKING DIRECTLY WITH COLLECTORS I will discuss some of the steps that come after a purchase, following-up with prospective buyers, and closing thoughts.