by Carolyn Edlund
Customers can be resistant, and they will have reasons not to buy art from you. Here’s how to deal with those objections.
First, understand the objections.
I’ll bet you know some of the reasons people don’t buy from you, because they will often tell you.
“Your work is too expensive.”
“I don’t have enough space in my house for this.”
“I need to talk it over with my husband, since buying art is a joint decision.”
But there are other reasons as well, ones that you may never hear. To understand more clearly, you need to listen carefully to your prospective customers, and you need to also put yourself in their place. What are their true needs, and how can you accommodate them? In this way, you can anticipate their objections.
I once spoke to an artist who wanted to sell his large paintings, which were created on panels lit from behind with a series of lights. He felt they would be perfect for a restaurant or nightclub, with their brilliant colors and themes, and he may have been right. He had gotten a few meetings with club owners, but was getting nowhere with sales.
I asked him whether he had addressed objections to the sale in his presentation, considering how to answer these questions to the satisfaction of the potential buyer:
- How much will it be to ship this large piece of work?
- How much will it cost me monthly for the electricity to run it?
- What if it breaks? Who will repair this?
- How does this panel need to be cleaned or maintained?
The artist looked at me blankly. No, he had never considered any of those questions, nor did he have answers for them. He thought that he just wanted to sell his art, whereas in fact he was selling an expensive fixture that could end up being a headache to the busy owner of a restaurant or nightspot. Without complete information, addressing every objection, no sale would be made.
Potential customers may love your art, but what do they really care about most? Themselves, and their needs. Place yourself firmly in the shoes of your target customer, and assess any objections to the purchase of your work. Then, you can use several strategies to overcome them:
Address objections upfront.
Handling questions and potential objections before they ever even happen can be a very effective way to add a comfort and trust level to the sales process. When your customer’s concerns evaporate upfront, you have removed barriers to the sale and can move on to further negotiations.
Here are some good examples of overcoming objections upfront:
Have an exchange/return policy. If the buyer wants to give your work as a gift, but isn’t sure that it’s perfect for the recipient, let them know at the outset that the art can be exchanged or returned if it’s not quite right. This goes a long way toward easing those fears of making the purchase. And, although you are opening the door to giving a refund, they won’t happen that often, and you should realize enough additional sales to make this a powerful reason to buy.
Talk about their concerns and the benefits. Let them know “all of my hand-painted silk scarves are hand washable, so you won’t have to worry about dry cleaning bills.” Or “this giclee comes as a gallery wrap, therefore no framing is needed.” Share this type of information upfront to help assuage those fears and head off their concern about ending up with buyer’s remorse. Make a point to have a complete FAQ on your website, and on any hangtags, signage, and printed materials you have.
Offer clear instructions for installation, or offer it as a service. Artist Lori Katz sells ceramic wall pieces that need to be hung as a group. She provides detailed instructions and a template for her collectors to use, saying, “I knew that if I didn’t come up with a hanging system, I would never be able to sell …” Does your art need some hanging instruction – or do you need to offer free installation as part of the sale?
Address objections during the sales process.
Listen to their concerns carefully. Then, acknowledge them. Here’s where you might use “active listening” to reiterate their statement, so they know you understand. Then, give them a little space, especially if there is more than one decision maker. Know that many times objections are purely emotional, just as the purchase of art is a very emotional process. The customer may be in the process of convincing themselves to buy your work!
Don’t become defensive. Although you should be able to explain your prices, and be consultative about purchases, avoid taking any rejection personally. This isn’t about you. It’s about them.
Get their agreement. As you discuss the objections and have a conversation, make sure the customer is on board with you. Ask if they feel comfortable, if their concerns have been addressed. If you feel that you want to make an offer to sweeten the deal (such as free shipping or installation) know ahead of time what you can offer that makes it easier to pave the way to a sale, and what that will cost you in terms of money, time or hassle.
Know your sales cycle. Understand that some objections simply mean that you are not at the point where you are ready to close. Perhaps an in-home visit is needed to seal the deal. Or a meeting with all decision makers. Or there needs to be further negotiation over the price of a commission. This is where understanding your sales cycle as an artist is essential, so that you don’t jump the gun and ignore those steps you need to go through before the sale is completed.