Sell Your Art as an Expert

by Carolyn Edlund

As an artist and creator, you are in a perfect position to make consultative sales to collectors. Here’s why.


Two encaustic paintings hanging on a wall

Encaustic paintings by artist Heather Davis, shown in a collector’s home.


Who is the expert on your own work? You are, of course. You know all about your inspiration, concept, style and technique. Nobody else can tell your story better than you can. You have a working knowledge of each collection you’ve created and how individual pieces can work together. And you know what you have in inventory.

By virtue of the fact that you are the artist, it’s natural for you to step into the role of advisor to interested collectors. Selling art is often based on building relationships. As you gain the trust of buyers, you can engage in conversations to determine their needs and wants, and understand clearly what they value. Many times collectors are very excited about direct communication with the artist; that in itself can add value to your work.

The conversations you have with prospective collectors should always involve careful listening. Customers don’t always know what would fill their needs best, and they often need your expertise and advice to assist them in making the final decision. That is where your consultative selling skills come in. Consultative selling is a method that takes into account the individual needs of the customer for the purpose of offering solutions and guidance based on those needs. And it’s a perfect fit for many artists.

How and Why to Make Recommendations

You as the artist are in an excellent position to offer direction that will best suit your collectors. This usually increases their satisfaction with the purchase, knowing that they have made a selection that is backed up by your expert opinion.

You may recommend an unframed ready-to-hang original oil painting in one case. In another scenario, you advise that a giclee print is a better fit. You may offer an opinion on the best mat and frame for a work of art. You might suggest a particular handmade wearable garment that is most flattering for the customer, or recommend an item that will fill their need for a perfect wedding gift. The artist is often the best person to turn to for advice on a making a purchase, shipping or installing the art, and taking care of it.

Commission work also involves consultative selling skills. Working with a client to create a work of art that they love and that reflects your skill and talent as an artist is a highly collaborative process. It puts you in the driver’s seat where you can ask questions, make suggestions, and guide the client. You can take the lead as the creator who will help them realize their vision and put it into physical form.

Consultative Selling Leads to Repeat Business

The better you know your customers, the more astute you will become at reaching out to them. Keep records and create customer profiles so you understand them as completely as possible. List their preferences, budget and the purchases they have made. Then make contact when you have new art available that might be a perfect match for what they love to collect.

If you were to email that collector today, what would be the most useful and compelling message to send them? It may not be a sales pitch, but rather a friendly message that shows them how much they are valued. It might share news of the projects you are working on and what is coming up. Give them VIP status, which includes a preview of the newest art you have to offer. When you know their preferences, you can suggest their next acquisition. This service often resonates with appreciative collectors.

As you deepen the relationships you have with your customers and build in a consultative aspect, you will find that it often leads to repeat sales and referrals to new collectors as well.


Artist credit: Heather Davis Studio

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