By guest blogger Mckenna Hallett
First off: Have no fear. I have no power to turn you into a sleazy salesperson. I have been teaching the principles I am sharing here for nearly 30 years. No one has become anything other than an expert at loving their art, their collectors, and their role in the world as an artist.
Here’s what you won’t learn from this post:
- You will not learn how to “close a deal.”
- And I don’t care about “trial closes” or “open ended questions.”
- This is not about how to negotiate for a better deal.
- I have no knowledge to share to help you be a high-pressure salesperson.
What I am about to share is quite the opposite!
I want you to find your natural voice. I want you to connect quickly to your authentic self – that person who your best friend loves and trusts.
I will share hints and tips on how you can bring out the best in every person you engage with at your art fairs, studio events, and other face-to-face engagements.
How to Find Homes for Your Art. (a.k.a. – The E’s of Selling Art System)
We share rainbows, puppy videos, and our favorite music with anyone who we think might benefit. We’re driven to share good things.
We have a natural tendency to be friendly with each other. This comes from our common thread of humanitarianism. If someone near us is struggling with packages while trying to open the door, we will move towards helping them. It’s instinctive.
We often lose that instinct at art shows.
When a person is looking at our artwork, we suddenly don’t know how to behave. We don’t trust our “natural” instincts. We are afraid to reach for that door in case they might think we have some hidden agenda. We don’t want them to think we are trying to sell to them. (Which of course we are and there is no way to keep that a secret!)
To counter this “role”, we often look for unnatural ways to prove we are trustworthy or worthy of a purchase. Of course, the person browsing our collection can add to this unnatural and uncomfortable feeling by starting out on the defensive. They don’t want any help from you and they make that clear when they avoid making eye contact or worse – they blurt out, “I’m just looking!”
They don’t want to become obligated. They don’t want to be forced into buying something. (As though that can actually happen?) And by the way, they also don’t want to be the “bad guy” who might need to say no and disappoint you, right?
Let’s shift this “Them versus Us” paradigm. Let’s create a trusting relationship within the first few minutes.
Be HEAR Now and Be HERE Now
The E’s of Selling Art System starts with Empathy. There are five “E’s” in all, but Empathy is what we are exploring in depth. It’s your lifeline to connecting, sharing, and showing you care about the needs of others. It helps you find your authentic self and natural sharing spirit when showing your work to a potential buyer.
Empathy is how you break down the natural barriers of “Them versus Us.” Here is a partial list of things you can do. Doing any one of these things will make a difference:
- Be sincerely interested. Be genuinely curious about them.
- Smile. (Really. I mean it: SMILE! Right now! Just do it and see how it changes YOUR mood.)
- Do and say things that will make people smile. (Hint: it starts with your smile)
- Make people feel good.
- Ask questions.
- Ask more questions, listen fully to the answers, and then pause before you speak.
- We all want to talk about ourselves. Let them to talk about themselves. It’s never really your “turn” to speak.
- Make people feel like they are the center of the universe.
- Make it obvious in your words and deeds that you care about what matters to them.
- Make sure they know from the first moment to the last that everything is All About Them!
No one (willingly) buys something if they don’t feel good about the entire experience. Art purchases are an exceptionally good experience. Your art nurtures and forever enriches the lives of those who own it. Remind them of that when you recommend they purchase.
For immediate results, get rid of the “Four Dirty Little Words”
Remove the words I, Me, My, and Mine out of your presentation as much as possible. Replace those words with YOU and YOURS as much as possible. This alone can increase your sales – almost by accident.
Showing people that you care about them is the goal. Getting rid of I, Me, My and Mine truly helps. To have even more impact, minimize how much of the conversation revolves around you. You are often less important than you realize in the bigger scheme of things. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you will be serving your collector’s needs.
Consider speaking in “sound bites” that generally end as questions. While those long-winded fully-fledged stories may make you think you are doing a good job of explaining who you are and what you do, it can be your undoing. Those stories are often just not that valuable to the collector’s needs. Ask yourself, “What do they actually need to know to make a purchase?”
Even when they ask a question about you, they are still asking about something that is interesting to them. Never assume you know what information is important to them. If you remain focused on their needs and they feel they can trust you, they will let you know what they need to know. Encourage them to share and they will share willingly.
You may need to practice some of this.
Try to incorporate these concepts every day for the next week in every situation. Try this on the phone, at lunch with a friend, or just within your own household. Try leaving I, Me, My, and Mine out of your conversations with your kids or other significant relationships. Try to use this concept with total strangers outside of your selling venues.
Just remember this: we are all more alike than we are different. Whatever you feel, you will project. If you are anxious, uncomfortable, worried about making your booth fee, or otherwise not totally present and empathetic to the person who is admiring your work, you will come off as distant, unauthentic, and untrustworthy. They say animals can sense fear. We are animals.
Relax, love, listen, and show your caring core. Bring out your enthusiastic sharing side. Bring out that part of you that loves to recommend a good restaurant to a total stranger.
Just love the one you’re with!
Mckenna Hallett is a frequent guest blogger for Artsy Shark and the Arts Business Institute. She is on the faculty of the Arts Business Institute, and has taught workshops on the E’s of Selling Art System. This year, she published her E’s of Selling Art Guidebook and Flashcards Set. It’s a great tool for artists no matter what their level of selling experience or what medium they use. Learn more by visiting here.
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