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.

Starving to Successful

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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 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

15 Comments

  1. Thanks for another great post filled with specific tips to get the ball rolling on following up.

    I’m far from religious about follow up. I tend to follow up once or twice. If nothing comes of it I’ll let it go… figuring it’s not meant to be. There is a lot of cold trails in selling art and it’s easy to get discouraged. Especially, while feeling stretched thin by all the other tasks art making requires.

    Thanks again for the reminder to reach out more often.

  2. I would think that follow up is an easier mental task for a gallery owner than for an artist representing himself/herself. I find it easier to promote and sell our artists’ cooperative than my own classes and art.
    It’s just that feeling that I’m pushing myself all over people. One email exchange that ends with thanks but no is enough to make me stop. Any other artists have suggestions for how to get over that?

  3. One of the problems I have encountered selling through an online gallery is the difficulty of follow up. I have sold a few large paintings, after I pack for shipment a delivery service picks up for shipping. I make sure that I leave contact information and a brochure in the package but basically the art disappears into the cosmos of the internet world. I can’t get any information about buyers or location from the online gallery. They do feature my work occasionally and invariably I sell or get a commision when that happens.

  4. Hi Jason,
    Thank you for your helpful blog topics.
    I had my first art show, it was very successful as friends and people I know came to show support and purchase my paintings. Only one person I didn’t know bought one small painting.
    Would you take a different follow up approach for acquaintances or friends and unknown possible collectors?
    Thank you!

  5. A collector of mine enquired about one of my original oil paintings, the price was a bit high for him at the time so instead he bought a print of it. I followed up with him about one month later when his situation had improved, he bought the original. He has also commissioned a further piece & said he will want an additional piece in the future. What can I say! Follow up can pay off big time!

  6. Great suggestions…About to open my first show (October 7 for the month) and will be sure to capture those email addresses. When I had another business several years ago I learned how true all your suggestions are. Lots of follow-up with new info each time or maybe just a copy of an article I thought would be of interest. These days would be even simpler thanks to the Internet. The personal touch is always the best.

    Thanks…foryur good ideas.

  7. I followed up with a past client after she expressed interest in a new commission. After a year of monthly emails, the one painting request grew into four commissions even after I explained that my prices had increased during that time. Yes, persistence pays.

  8. After a major fire or storm, it would be very natural to reach out to our clients, family members, and friends about how your studio was affected in that situation. Sending out a short note that encourages others that have been affected is also a good way to reconnect. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, for instance, I have a good report, and hope to assure my clients that I am ready to work with them. Now, I will get busy following my own advice.

  9. Who is the artist who made the Native Person out of license plates?
    Whenever art is posted I expect to see the artist’s name somewhere but I’m not seeing it here. Thank you. Your articles are educational and interesting.

  10. I just signed up on todoist.com. Thank you for sharing this, it is the exact program I needed. I am persistent and diligent with reaching out and following up. The major % of my art sales and accomplishments exist because I thoroughly follow up and never take ‘no answer’ for an answer!

  11. Dear Jason,

    This is the first time I have commented, but each and every blog post I read has valuable trenchant information. Regarding sales and follow-up, I am guilty of feeling discouraged when there is not an immediate sale, however, your suggestion to include new and valuable information in the follow-up got me thinking.

    In my situation, I posted my latest painting, two dogs wearing party hats looking mischievous, on Facebook. A collector, who over the years has purchased over ten paintings from me, commented, “Oh I adore this! But I have no room left in my house for more of your work!”

    What do you think about offering her the painting at a discount price? Or I thought I could offer to paint the same painting but use HER “beloved babies” as the “models”?

    Thank you, Georgianne

  12. Jason,
    As you know, I am using ArtSala. Does the program have the capability to do what – todolist.com does? Or is that a potential upgrade to your program. I absolutely love the fact that ArtSala is one stop – doing it for you. Would love to see what your thoughts are.

  13. Jason, this is just what I needed. I’m finally getting some inquiries about my work after exhibiting in many shows and now a solo exhibit. Potential collectors email, asking about price and then the reply is, “Oh, I don’t think the piece will fit in our home after all” or “I’m waiting to receive our sofa”. I signed up with todolist.com. And I will start my email campaign tonight.

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