A Tale of Follow-Up

Every few months or so, I write an article here about the importance of follow-up. Guess what? It’s that time again! Why am I always writing about follow up? Simple, I’m convinced that many of you, my dear readers, aren’t following up enough. As a result, I believe you are missing out on sales.

Today’s article is a simple tale of a follow-up efforts that lead to a sale. Several weeks ago, the day after we opened our second gallery, a woman walked through the front door of our new location and began exploring. I introduced myself to her and spent a few moments telling her about the gallery and welcoming her to look around. She liked several artist on display, but she zeroed in on a piece that was sitting on the floor near the back of the gallery, waiting to be hung (interest in work not yet displayed happens quite often, but that’s a topic for another day).

The wall-relief sculpture in its unflattering placement as it waited to be hung for display
The wall-relief sculpture sat in a rather unflattering location as it waited to be hung for display

I told her a little about the piece and held it up in some light for her to better see it. She told me she liked it and had just moved into a new home in Portland, OR and thought the piece would look great in her home. We discussed pricing and negotiated a collector’s discount. I offered to write the sale up and ship the sculpture to her, but she demurred, telling me that she needed to measure the space she where she was imagining hanging it, and needed to think about how it would fit in her home.

She asked if she could take a photo of the piece to remember it. I told her she could, but offered to email her a photo of the piece that would include the dimensions and pricing information. She accepted this offer and wrote her contact information on one of our contact cards.

Within a few minutes of her walking out of gallery I fired off this email:

Hi Denise – it was a pleasure meeting you this afternoon! As promised, here is the photo of the piece by Guilloume. If you decide you would like to add it to your collection, I will be happy to take care of the shipping and offer it to you at the price I mentioned, $2600.

Please let me know how I may best be of service.

[Image Follows Signature]


Jason

J. Jason Horejs
Owner

Adventure by Guilloume

#67304
Adventure
by Guilloume
30″ x 16″
$2,900

After I sent the email, I created a reminder using Boomerang (a plugin for gmail) that would bring the email back into my inbox a week later to remind me to follow up.

I hope that many of you are doing a good job of this kind of initial communication with a client who has expressed interest in a piece. The problem I’ve observed is that many artists and gallerists let the follow up die at this point. If they don’t hear back from the client after that initial email, they allow the interest to fade away.

When I didn’t hear back from Denise within the next week, I sent another simple email:

Hi Denise – I just wanted to follow up on my email of last week regarding the piece by Guilloume. If you decide you would like to add it to your collection, I will still be happy to take care of the shipping and offer it to you at the price I mentioned, $2600.

Please let me know how I may best be of service.

[Image Follows Signature]


Jason

J. Jason Horejs
Owner

(I included the image again here)

As you can see, there’s nothing complicated or fancy about the follow-up. I just wanted to let her know I was still thinking about her and that the piece was still available.

Often, if potential buyers were travelling, getting back home involves playing a lot of catch up and getting settled back in. Art they saw while on vacation moves way down on the priority list. I want to do everything in my power to put the art back on the clients’ radar when things have slowed down and they are ready to think about it again.

After sending the second email, I created another reminder to follow up in another week. In the third email, I would have sent a .pdf copy of the artist’s biography as well as another image of the artwork.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to reach out a third time. Yesterday, Denise called the gallery to purchase the piece. She apologized for not having gotten back to me sooner! I assured here that no apology was necessary. I made arrangements to ship the relief to her and thanked her for her business and congratulated her on her acquisition.

Let me be clear, not every effort to follow up will be rewarded with a sale, and even those that are often take more than two follow-ups. At any given time I may have dozens of follow-up efforts under way. In the long run, only a small percentage of them will result in a sale. Because of the small success rate, it’s very tempting to become complacent in following up with clients. The stakes are so high, however, that I would argue it is absolutely critical to your long-term success that you put forth 100% of your effort in following up with everyone who expresses interest in your work.

This is an example of a $2,600 sale that I’m convinced would not have happened had I not put forth the effort to send that second email.

As I’ve mentioned previously, in order to follow up successfully, you need to:

  • Have a good system in place for capturing your potential client’s contact information. We use simple 3″ x 5″ contact cards that we created in Word.

    click on this image to download our interest card
    click on this image to download our interest card
  • Have a good system in place to remind you to follow up.
  • Follow up regularly with those who have expressed interest. I suggest 4-7 days between follow-up efforts.

Many artists and gallerists are afraid that they will be perceived as being too aggressive or pesky if they pursue this kind of persistent follow up. If you’ve done a good job of establishing a relationship with your clients while they were looking at your work, they will usually see your follow up not as an annoyance, but rather as a service.

My client is going to derive enjoyment from this piece for years and years to come. Had I not followed up with her, I would have deprived her of this enjoyment.

There will be times when a client emails you back to say that they are no longer interested. There may even be a client or two who tells you that you’ve overdone it. That’s a price I’m more than willing to pay in order to serve my clients and the artists I represent by being persistent.

If you are in a position to sell art, whether your own or the art of others, I would argue that follow-up is what separates the pros from the amateurs. I promise you that if you will become more persistent in your follow up, you will see an increase in your sales.

How are You at Following Up with Your Potential Clients?

Do you have an experience where follow-up was the determining factor in making a sale? Do you have questions about follow-up? Share your thoughts, experiences 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.

22 Comments

  1. Jason,
    The problem has its roots in us artists selling our own work. It seems more pushy than if we were following up for a fellow artist or another type of sale.
    I (we) need to get over this. I need to believe, on a regular basis, that people do indeed WANT my work.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I found this blog very interesting, because I have done what your referring too. I send a newsletter about once a month, through this newsletter, someone got interest in a particular painting. She wrote and wanted to know the size and the price. I responded with the information. She responded that she needed to see the painting in person to be sure. Fine I said, she stopped over after I sent her a direct email, and she stop by my home gallery, Well she look around my gallery and a sculpture caught her eye. She asked the price. ok I told her. She went back to the painting and compared in her mind which she would rather have, the painting, which she said still loved or the sculpture which she massaging as to how much she like it. I asked her if she would love to have both, depends on the price, I gave her a what I thought a good price for both but, no she was not ready to spend that kind of money right now, so I well I can wrap the sculpture now which is the one You seem to be more in love with, yes lets do it. Sale done, Happy Client and Happy me. Follow up, Follow up. It pays even for the small guy out there. Thank you Jason for such great advise.
    Ana Guerra

  3. Sorry for the mistakes above. Fast fingers, and no place to correct. But you get the point, Follow up Follow Up. Thanks,

  4. I certainly could do better…as I only follow up once after the initial contact a few weeks later. If they don’t respond again, I tend to forget to try again, so will use your note card suggestion and push myself harder to make a point of following up a third time. Thanks for the nudge!!

  5. For a while now I have been taking your advice on follow up and have been pretty successful with it in closing sales. Before my last show I printed your card on blank index cards. This is such a helpful tool. You can bet I’ll be using them at the Hidden in the Hills Open Studio Tour this weekend!

    1. Jason, can we get a copy of your card or the items that are on the card? Thanks.
      Maybe you can write about Webroot listing my website as suspicious…then updating it to moderate risk. My domain and google say the problem is with Webroot. They have been trying to fix it.

  6. Jason, I have been very successful with following up. A client didn’t call back so I did. I didn’t get 1 commission but 4 for pet portraits. They liked them so much they wanted 4 more. I followed up again for another commission with a different person. It works very well. Thanks to you I have had good luck

  7. Hello Jason, et.al.,

    Yes, follow up, definitely. I, too have made sales after-the-fact, but the question still remains… after you’ve done weekly follow-ups, offered the moon, begged and cajoled, how do you determine that this one has died?

    Chris

    1. I move a client out of active follow up if I’ve emailed 6-7 times and tried calling with no response. At that point they go into our long-term mailing list with the hope that we might stir something up down the road.

      Of course the other criteria for ceasing follow-up is if the client tells me to “knock it off!” I would rather hear this than nothing at all.

      1. Thanks Jason. I would have thought that 6-7 follow-ups would have been too many but I’ll give it a try. And yes, all those will be BEFORE I get the “Leave me alone!” notice. 😉

        –Chris

  8. I had my first solo show in some time this past summer, at a non-profit gallery. I read your blog regularly leading up to the opening and noted all your good advice that applied to me. The final day of the show I had a great conversation in the gallery with an old acquaintance who expressed genuine interest in one of my paintings. He said he was going to talk to the gallery director about purchasing. Two days later I woke up sick, ended up in the hospital, and lost six weeks to surgery and recovery. When I spoke to the gallery director, I learned that he had not called. I was a little disappointed, but I decided to FOLLOW UP myself. I sent a simple straight forward email thanking him for his enthusiasm about the work, explaining why I had been delayed in contacting him. I sent an image of the piece and said that it was still available in case he was still interested and that I knew if I didn’t follow up these opportunities sometimes slip away. He responded immediately that he had been busy with work and definitely wanted the painting. I was thrilled by this success. Thank you for this practical and always informative blog!

  9. Jason, thx for another great article! Following up is indeed crucial, especially during the holidays when both we and the potential customers are busy, busy doing other things. I keep a spreadsheet in front of me, so that I know when I’ve reached out and what I’ve quoted and what I’ve finally committed to, so that nothing falls between the cracks.

  10. When people express interest in my work—and, maybe it’s not a specific piece–I drop them short notes about upcoming exhibitions I’m in. It’s a subtle reminder.

    Here’s what I have a hard time with–people who say they love my work and would buy it if they had the wall space or “the right kind of house.” How can you overcome that objection?
    A lot of my pieces are purchased by businesses.

  11. That’s great advice.
    I have a potential client that approach me by email.
    First, she wanted a custom piece. Then she said that her husband was interested in another piece. She wrote back to me saying she wants to think about it and that she would get back to me when they’re ready.

    I will send a reminder, but I have a question.
    Since this person have reached out to me by email, can I add her to my newsletter’s list? Is that ok or not?
    I didn’t want to do it, so in my last email, I suggested subscribing to my newsletter’s list. I’ve put the link and wrote about the benefits. She didn’t subscribe.

    When people show interest and reach out to me in this way, can I add them to my contact list or newsletter’s list? Any suggestions?
    Thanks

    1. I wouldn’t add them to your general newsletter list unless they’ve given you permission to do so. You can send an email with a link to sign up for your list, or ask if they would like to have you add them. You can keep the email address on file, however, and send personalized emails to them about new work or events they might be interested. You want to be careful to only send emails that people want to receive or that are personal – avoid anything that could be considered spam.

      1. Okay, I see now… You manage a newsletter list for those who do subscribe and you have a contact list for those emails you want to send personally to them (for follow-ups) . That’s a good way of doing things. Thank you Jason for the suggestion!

  12. I received an e-mail from someone who had seen a painting in an exhibit. I sent her info about the painting. She asked if I had a print of the work. I explained that I didn’t, but that the price was reduced from the website price and included the hand-crafted redwood frame and taxes. She didn’t respond, so I wrote again the next week telling her the show comes down in 2 weeks. She responded asking about a print or price reduction. Is it possible she didn’t get my e-mail answering those questions, or that my response just was not satisfactory? How to respond, if at all?

  13. Jason, I wanted to take the time and thank you for your advice and generous amount of information that you’ve given on a ongoing basis. I’ve learned a lot from you.
    Thanks again,
    Adrienne La Faye

  14. I love follow up and I consider myself a great problem solver. If someone is interested in my work and there is a procrastination attached there is usually some sort of problem to solve. Be it financial or wondering where it will go in the house. Listening is a priceless quality to have, you can find out where the potential client is at and help them. I met a lady recently who loved my work but was really struggling with spending the money. I knew from our conversation that she really wanted a piece of my work. So a couple of days later I messaged her saying how nice it was to talk and thanks for her compliements and then suggested that she could start paying off her Christmas present and all I needed right now was a small deposit. two problems solved Christmas present – tick, justification for spending the money – tick. I had a commission under my belt that day.

  15. A friend expressed interest in a collage I had done that she had seen on my Facebook page. When visiting my home a few months later, she saw it hanging on my wall and expressed interest again. I gave her details on purchase, but she was not ready to buy it right then. About a month before Mother’s Day this year I contacted her to let her know that the art work was still available. She was very excited that I contacted her about it. She had her family purchase it for her as her Mother’s Day gift! I am convinced that it would still be hanging on my wall had I not followed up with her. Thanks for this reminder about being persistent in following up with interested collectors.

  16. Jason,
    Every time I get one of your emails, I read it throughly. Your suggestions and advice are so helpful to me! You share your point simply and it makes perfect sense. I need you to sell my abstract paintings! Thank you for providing us with wonderful advice.

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