3 Tips to Help You Better Follow Up With Art Buyers and Make More Sales

Case 1: Last summer, I had a woman come into the gallery after having received a copy of our Art Catalogue. She and her husband were nearing the end of a long remodel of their home in Paradise Valley (Arizona’s version of Beverly Hills). She was now starting to think about artwork for the home. I spent some time getting to know her and trying to discover her tastes.

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Client’s Home in Paradise Valley, AZ

This kind of sales prospect can pose some real challenges. The client was obviously interested and had the resources to make a purchase. However, she wasn’t quite ready to buy – she was still a couple of months away from the end of the remodel. As you probably already know, it’s far easier to make an immediate sale, than to keep the fire burning in a potential buyer who can’t make a purchase right away.

After the client left, I immediately dashed off a quick thank-you email and started working on putting together images I felt might be of interest to her.

After our initial meeting, the client and I exchanged dozens of emails. She visited the gallery several times, including a visit with her husband. I took artwork out to her home. Four or five months passed from the time we first met to the time when we finally helped her make her first purchase (3 pieces, totaling over $10,000).

Over the course of the next 12 months we sold another $8,000 worth of art to her through follow up.

Case 2: About a month ago, I had a couple come into the gallery at Art Walk (which we hold every Thursday evening in Scottsdale). The couple is from the Chicago area and is also completing a remodel. They expressed interest in several pieces we have on display. I obtained their email addresses and promised to send them images of the pieces.

The next day, I sent an email with images, dimensions, and pricing of the pieces. When I didn’t hear anything back for a week, I sent another email, and a week later, another. This last week, I sent a fourth email, this time including some additional information about the artist. On Friday, I finally received an email from the husband in return. He thanked me for my emails and said they are still working on the remodel and acquiring furniture. They are still interested in the ceramics. I will continue to follow up until the sale is closed.

Case 3: Several years ago, I had a client come into the gallery and express interest in a particular piece of artwork. As in the two cases above, I followed up diligently with emails and notes. I contacted the client 10-12 times without ever receiving a response in return. Finally, after months of trying, I got an email back saying something like, “Thanks for following up, but we’re not interested in buying the piece right now. We’ll contact you if that changes.”

All three of these cases illustrate the importance and challenge of good follow-up and of persistence. We all love it when we make an immediate sale – when someone walks in, sees a piece of art and makes an instant purchase. These sales are easy and gratifying. Often, however, a sale takes prolonged effort. If you are only closing immediate sales and letting the long-term sales fall through the cracks, you are missing out on a potentially huge part of your business.

I understand the temptation to abandon a sale that drags on. You might feel that it’s simply too much work when a good percentage of these follow-up efforts result in nothing. You might be afraid you are irritating your customers. You might simply not have a good system in place to keep track of your customers and their interests.

I would argue that these are poor excuses for letting potential collectors forget about your work. Today, I want to give you three tips that will help you better follow up with your clients.

#1. Develop a Follow-Up System

You will be far more likely to do good follow-up if you have a system in place that makes it easy. I’ve used many systems over the years. My current system is very simple. I use todoist.com to manage my task lists. When I make a new contact that requires follow-up, I put a recurring task into todoist that pops up every week, reminding me to contact the client again. I include all of the client’s contact information right in the task, so that it’s very easy for me to quickly dash off a note.

You might do the same thing by writing the client’s info on a note card (which is what I have done in the past). Once a week, go through all of your note cards to get in touch with your current batch of prospects.

Do something that makes sense for you and is simple. The simpler it is, the more likely you are to follow through.

When you consider the lifetime value of a collector who ends up buying multiple pieces from you, the cost of a failure to follow-up is staggering

I have found that weekly contact works best for me. More frequent than that, and it tips into being annoying. Less frequently, and your clients will lose interest.

#2. Be Religious About Your Follow-Up

A follow-up system only works if you apply it 100% of the time. Sales is a numbers game. Out of all of the people who express interest in your work, only a percentage are going to end up buying. The catch, is that you don’t know which people will end up coming through with a purchase. If you aren’t following up with every single potential buyer, you are going to lose sales. It’s that simple. Moreover, when you consider the lifetime value of a collector who ends up buying multiple pieces from you, the cost of a failure to follow-up is staggering.

#3. Provide valuable information in your follow-up communications.

I have heard artists object to persistent follow-up campaigns. They say that pestering the client is unprofessional and they feel that it degrades their position as artist, making them look, instead, like a used car salesperson. Poorly-crafted follow-up might do just this, but if you engineer your follow-up communication to provide valuable information, the client won’t find your efforts annoying.

In my book, How to Sell Art, I lay out very specific information and give examples of good follow-up communications. It’s not my intention to recap all of those details here, but, in brief, you should include the following information, scattered throughout your follow-up communications:

Image of relevant artwork
Size
Price
Story about the creation of the artwork
Your biography
Testimonials from clients who have bought your work in the past
Press clippings about your work
Interesting information about the subject matter (for example, if the client is interested in a landscape, you could include information about the locale)

Not every follow-up attempt is going to result in a sale – many won’t, but I can promise you will see an increase in sales if you consistently follow these three simple tips (feel free to send me commission for every sale you make using this advice!)

These same principles apply not only to your direct customers, but to other contacts you make. You should mount follow-up campaigns with galleries that have expressed interest in your work. You should be persistent with journalists or other writers who express interest in writing a story about you and your work.

A final note. It’s never too late to try to rekindle a follow-up fire. Even if some time has passed since a client expressed interest in your work, you’ve got nothing to lose by attempting to reestablish communication. At worst you will be ignored, or discover the client isn’t interested, but there’s a chance you will re-spark interest and move toward a sale.

I invite you to reach out today and make a follow-up contact with someone who has expressed interest in your work.

What has your experience been when you’ve followed up with customers? What are your concerns and doubts about following up? Share your experiences, thoughts, and questions in the comments below.

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of Dad was an Artist | A Survivor's Story and best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business. Connect with Jason on Facebook

7 Comments

  1. This blog has arrived at the most opportune time (for me). Work on the reconstruction of the website is nearly complete. Not being the best or well-organized marketer in the world, I’ve let some potential contacts drop. (This is not new for me, but a pattern I’d like to break). With the completely new website and new work, I feel I have a chance to “ring the door bell” a second time. What do I have to lose?
    Tank you Jason for reminding us of the “follow-up”.

  2. I think of folks who express sincere interest in my work as members of my tribe. Oddly, I feel more interested in holding them close, sending them notices of new paintings completed and show openings, than making a sale. But, wonder of wonders, my tribe members usually end up purchasing one or many pieces. Sometimes it has taken years. I feel honored and privileged to have found people who respond to my sensibility. I keep in touch with them and the sales seem to follow naturally.

  3. Thank you so much for this info. I will pass it along to the stubborn hubby to talk more about changing this into a more positive experience for him and his clients!

  4. Good article regarding follow up with prospective buyers… I wonder if you get any requests from your website via the ‘contact us’ form? (My website is with FASO and I have a ‘contact me’ form). The reason for my question is: how do you determine if it is a legitimate inquiry or one of the many phishing emails (not sure if this is the correct term)? I recently went through an email conversation with a prospect who contacted me through my website. I am pretty skeptical in general, but at first it sounded like it could be legitimate. However, it soon sounded like total BS. So I ended the conversation. It truly makes me want to dump any inquiry I receive because I get pretty tired of running through the question and answers to find out it is garbage. Any thoughts?

  5. The dynamic you discuss is a tricky one. Working on a sale of a specific piece or pieces is, or can be, far different than providing a service. I do see more galleries providing this design service (multiple works) either direct or through a designer. What is troubling is that the gallery doesn’t charge a fee for this. Many man hours can be used up in this process. Guessing, chasing and pestering isn’t an approach that I would take. Far better is to outline the services that you can provide in written form. This can a menu based form that can fit the client’s needs. Everything from trying work out (photoshopped or in situ) to delivery and installation. A lot of time and money can be lost chasing your tail at the whim of a potential client.

  6. A potential client’s goodwill may be more important than a communication blitzkrieg, if I may militarize the process (and, hopefully, make it peaceable again.) That goes to a capacity to learn as well the financial resources that empower a given client to make a purchase. This is the sort of person who is well worth cultivating. I know, as I have been blessed, from time to time, with opportunities to do that very thing.

    With you, it happened with the busy client whose home-decorating would eventually include the paintings that now grace his/her/their walls.

    Without, however, this sort of amiability, the search for a sale can be catastrophic. Over the past two years, I have lost more sales than I’ve made – even when a client-to-be has contacted me first.

    In some cases, the dreary business of sustaining a relationship that raised no red flags until it was too late reminded me of amorous relationships that are terminated arbitrarily, and with no redeeming graces or apologies. You might say that such is the risk one takes for slightly greater rewards than a minimum wage (or even a well-paying job)will provide. And your point would be well-taken. Yet, because I was moderately successful for a number of years, I want to suggest that a cultural shift has occurred, even if it hasn’t been identified or acknowledged.

    In the past, clients who experienced cold feet after their checks had been deposited were telling me something about future prospects, on which I could no longer rely. Which I had to accept, even if the solution would not involve lowering my prices. For the likes of them, there were no solutions. I had lost them to their avarice – or they had gotten lost in it themselves. Buyer’s remorse is something I won’t address unless it’s connected to some sort of personal tragedy. In other words, if somebody who’s bought a painting experiences a health crisis – or anything else that has stretched them to the limit – I will refund their money. And trust that better times will eventually restore it.

    Yet, over the past two years, cold feet became, for the most part, the only sort I would encounter. And they are embedded in the cultural shift I mentioned.

    Some of these people were rich by almost any yard stick. When they were not, they had comfortable incomes. All had professed some sort of connection to, and comfort with, visual art. Yet even as I nurtured them with stories about some of my adventures in the field, plied them with pertinent information, and asked them all sorts of questions about themselves, almost all of them would eventually decide that my work was too expensive and sent me packing. This, after having known from the very start how much they would pay for what they wanted – even with the discount they expected to get (and which I provided as a matter of course).

    It would have done no good to tell them that I’d not raised my prices in nearly twenty years; they would have thought that my paintings were expensive even then. Or even, somewhat absurdly, wondered why I hadn’t raised them. Some of these people were slightly younger than the demographic I’d relied on the past, yet most were in their fifties and sixties, which was. Yet, even as they let a sales scenario drag on for weeks, or even months, at a time, they dropped out so abruptly that, psychological conditioning aside, I was shocked, mystified, and, I will admit, rather angry.

    As it does little good to lash out, I wondered what I might do – where it seemed possible – to salvage a situation that might live again. And attempted to re-ingratiate myself with a few. One sent a text that was steeped in vitriol. How dare I charge the price she paid for a monthly mortgage. Another said she might contact me again , though at her convenience. As there no future in either of these replies, I responded politely and that was that.

    The cultural shift I’ve mentioned has crept in through the Internet, which provides instant gratification and frequently at a discount; through play-lists and live streaming; and by means of cultural literacy – always an iffy thing – circling the proverbial drain. And while people of one sort or another have always taken me to task for charging too much money – they who spend most of theirs on things that either break soon enough or fade from their skin come September – not everybody has. And, because, at one time, my work was valued enough that it fetched the prices I was asking for it, the naysayers of that day can be dismissed. As naysayers have come to predominate, I’m wondering that, aside from the decorative paintings that always find a mantelpiece and the billionaire’s club creations that are often too rarefied for major museums to afford, whether someone of my ilk hasn’t, at long last, become obsolete.

    It’s happened before. And it may start happening at a clip that, no matter what may oppose it, will get faster as it goes.

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