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.

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. 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.

11 Comments

  1. How do you ensure that your emails get to the prospective client – through all the spam filters most of us use now? I never know if they actually see the email. I try to tell people to check their SPAM folders….

    1. Great question. When you are emailing directly, not sending a newsletter, you have a very high probability of getting through, as long as your address hasn’t gotten onto a blacklist somehow. Ultimately there’s only so much you can do to ensure deliverability, so you just have to assume it’s getting through and follow up as if it is. If you don’t send the email because you’re afraid it isn’t getting through you’re for sure not going to see results!

  2. People are more reluctant today than ever about giving out their email numbers. Do you have any special methods or tips in collecting them from potential customers?
    Audrey Cooper

    1. I send out mailings with an option to subscribe to a mailing list on my website. People who are interested in my work seem happy to sign up and then I have their contact info for future mailings.

  3. As an artisr, I find quite a number of people want me to do a portrait. Especially when they come in my studio and look at all my portraits, but I would like to Lin up interested buyers for those portraits before I take on such a task. Right now I have too many portraits as it is, no im not sur how things will fare after completion. Is there a way to shore up things like this in advance.

  4. Hi Jason
    I’ve been following and reading your emails for quite some time but not all of which I apologise, however I do save your emails for my future reference when I have time and need some advice I find them very useful.
    I wanted to pop by to say thank you your advice does help me, especially as I needed this reminder and have just followed up on a recent enquiry and not to give up on follow up emails.
    Thanks again for your great advice.
    I will be back.
    Mandy

  5. Jonas Gerard
    Your advice is 100% correct.
    Over 50% of our sales are the result of our marketing programs, follow up emails and newsletters. All these efforts work together to encourage that life is much more enchanting with art in sight which opens the heart.

  6. I feel like this is intended more for Gallery owners than artists. As someone who sells 95 percent of my paintings through galleries, I cannot follow up with customers, I believe it’s un-ethical. However, I am forwarding this to my favorite gallery so that they can use the info. I believe they already practice this system well and there are some additional pointers, too. Thanks for the great advice.

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