From time to time, I like to share how a sale occurred, step by step. Even though every sale unfolds along a different path, I have found that analyzing the sale can help me sell better in the future. I hope that getting some insight into how I work will help you better sell your art as well.
I also regularly write about the importance of follow-up and persistence. Last week I closed the second of two sales with a client that I think illustrates how important these factors are in generating sales. Hopefully this experience will prove of value as you interact with your next client.
Meeting New Clients
In early November I was in our new, second gallery over a weekend when a couple and their daughter rode up on bicycles. The family lives just a couple of miles from the gallery and were out on an afternoon ride when a collage by Dave Newman in the front window caught their attention.
The came into the gallery to look more closely and I introduced myself. The husband let me know that they knew Dave’s work, having seen it in Dave’s gallery in Prescott, AZ.
As the family looked around, they also recognized another artist we carry, Michael Swearngin and we had a great conversation as I got to know a little about them. Though they were interested in our artists, they didn’t zero in on anything in particular and didn’t seem to be in the market to buy artwork at the moment.
Undeterred by their lack of specific interest, I let them know that I would soon be receiving new work by Dave Newman as well as our other artists, and that I would be happy to let them know of new work and upcoming shows if they would provide me with their contact information. I handed them our contact card (download a copy) and the husband filled it out.
After saying goodbye, the family walked out the front door and and peddled away on their bikes. I was left with their contact information, a vague sense that they liked the art I was showing and not much else.
The Follow-up Begins
I’m sure you’ve had similar interactions with people in the past who showed an interest in your work, but haven’t given you much to go on. Because there isn’t anything specific to follow up on, it can be tempting to add the clients to your mailing list and then forget about them. I was determined that I wouldn’t let this be the case, and fired off a quick email (names abbreviated to protect the innocent):
T., it was a pleasure meeting you and W. this afternoon. I’ve added you to our email list so that you’ll get notices about Dave Newman and Michael Swearngin’s show. I promise we won’t fill your inbox with emails – just an occasional announcement about new work or shows.
If there’s ever any way I can be of service, please let me know.
I included a couple of photos along with the email to remind them of the pieces they had seen in the gallery. Again, because there wasn’t anything specific in which they had expressed interest, I chose pieces I felt were bold representations of the artists’ work.
The next day, I received a reply:
enjoyed meeting you as well.
We will stop by the other store soon. [referring to our original gallery]
Let me know when you get the other Newman & Swearngin pieces in.
Perfect! Now I had something to work on. It just happened that Dave was going to be delivering work within the next few days. After Dave had delivered the pieces, I called the client to let him know we had new work and to invite him to stop back by the gallery to see them.
Within a day the client came back in to look at the new work. He was definitely more interested in some of these new pieces. He let me know that he needed to show the work to his wife and I told him we would be happy to deliver the work to his home so that they could see how the art looked in their space.
T. said that sounded great, but wanted to show the pieces to his wife online before deciding which pieces to have us bring out. He promised to get back to me in the next few days to make arrangements.
That evening I received an email asking about pricing on several pieces:
What is the price of the Matchbook Chief and the two Sahuaro cactus paintings I was looking at?
Great talking with you today.
Sorry, I do have the price of the 60″ X 24″ Sahuaro.
I just need price of 48″ X 30″ (Deep Frame) and the Matchbook Chief.
Match Book Chief Series
by Dave Newman
43″ x 43″
Surreal Cactus Series
by Dave Newman
48″ x 30″
Surreal cactus Series
by Dave Newman
60″ x 24″
Acrylic /Mixed Media
Let me know if you need any additional information, if you would like to see the work in your home, or if I can be of service in any other way.
Several days passed after I sent this email, and in the meantime, we sold 5 of Dave Newman’s works to a client in Las Vegas, including the Matchbook Chief. I wrote to my client:
Hi T. –
We sold the Matchbook Chief (as well as the gas pump) over the weekend, but the cacti are available. Would you like to see them in your home? Let me know how I can be of service. Thanks!
Thanks for the update.
Do you think you will get
another matchbook chief?
Also, if I wanted to get a few
Pieces and see which looked the
Best in our home, what is the best
Way to coordinate that?
I touched base with Dave Newman and he already had another Chief in the works, so I hope to see images of it over the weekend. I’ll pass them along to you as well as dimensions as soon as they are available.
As far as seeing the other work, you can let me know which pieces and a convenient time and I can bring them over for to see. If you would prefer to pick the pieces up yourself we can do that as well. You can live with the pieces for up to 48 hours to see which works best. Would you like to set up a time?
The next day from T.:
My wife is out of town
until late tonight. We have
soccer tournament over the
weekend, but will try and stop
by sometime on Sat or Sun.
Sounds great. We actually won’t be open on Sunday, but we’re open from 10-5 on Saturday or any other day of the week. If you get a chance, let me know when you are coming in so I can make sure I’m at our original gallery to see you. I’ll look forward to seeing you and W.!
Another thought – Dave will be in the gallery first thing tomorrow morning (Friday) – any chance you would be available for Coffee or a quick breakfast? I would love for you to meet him!
T.’s response didn’t come until Friday, after Dave had already delivered the new work:
We can’t make it today, but will
try and stop by on Saturday
Sounds great – the new pieces Dave brought in are a bit on the smaller side, but very nice.
Unfortunately, the trail now went a little cold. T. and his wife didn’t end up visiting the gallery that weekend. I called the next week to see if they might be able to come in, and T. let me know that they were in the middle of a soccer tournament for their daughter and that the next few days were going to be crazy.
I told T. that we were working on the catalog for Dave Newman’s upcoming January show and promised him I would send him a .pdf of the catalog as soon as the design work was finished.
I made this offer for several reasons. First, it was a good excuse for me to be back in touch without becoming a pest. Second, it was an opportunity for me to let the client feel like he was getting special treatment. He would be among the first to see the catalog. Third, I new that Dave’s new Matchbook Chief piece would be in the catalog, and that it was so awesome as to be nearly irresistible!
A few days later the catalog design was complete and I emailed him the .pdf:
As promised, here’s a sneak peak at the catalog for Dave Newman’s show. All of the pieces in the catalog are currently available, but I expect a number of them will be spoken for pretty quickly once the catalog is out (in about two weeks). Let me know if the Matchbook Chief is of interest – I would expect it to be one of the first to go.
I don’t have any of these in the gallery yet, but if you would like to see them I can coordinate with Dave to have them brought down.
You can see in this email I’m working to create a bit of a sense of urgency here, but in this case, I’m not manufacturing the urgency, there was a very real risk the piece would sell if my client didn’t act right away.
The next day:
the chief looks really good! Love the blue background.
Do you have a picture and dimensions for the new American Flag?
And a few minutes later:
I am definitely interested in the matchbook chief. If you can get it, I would love to see it in person.
I just spoke to Dave – he’s in LA until the end of next week, and then hoping to come down the week of Christmas or between Christmas and New Years to bring down new work. I’ll make sure that no one else sees the chief before you do.
The new flag piece is awesome too. I already have it, so let me know a time and I can have it available at the gallery [it wasn’t hanging yet and was in our back room] or I can bring it by your home. It’s a little smaller than the last one we had, but there’s a lot of great detail.
Flag Series by Dave Newman
by Dave Newman
26″ x 40″
Acrylic /Mixed Media
I would like to see the American Flag.
Also, let me know when you get the chief in the studio.
Hi T, – I will have the American Flag at our new gallery tomorrow morning. Do you want to stop by and see it, or would you like me to bring it by your home? It looks like we’ll have the Matchbook Chief here next Monday.
T.’s reply the next morning:
I have a meeting this morning.
I will try and swing by this afternoon
We exchanged a few more emails that I’m not including here where he let me know what time he would stop by, and then several more letting me know he was going to be late.
When he came in late that afternoon, I had hung the flag painting in a dramatic spot in the gallery with strong lighting and a lot of space around it. He loved it and asked if he could take it home to try it above their fireplace.
I took a credit card number to hold the piece and we negotiated a purchase price. We loaded the piece in his car and he drove away.
The next morning I receive a text message with a photo:
Here are a few pics. The Flag works great. I will get $$ and call you late this am to find a good time to drop by.
He stopped by a few hours later with a check. I let him know that Dave Newman was going to be down on the following Monday or Tuesday with the Matchbook Chief piece, and he told me that he would be in Tucson on Monday evening and Tuesday, but could come in on Wednesday (the Wednesday before Christmas) to look at the piece.
As soon as Dave arrived with the piece on Tuesday morning, I hung it and sent off a text message with an image of the piece hanging in the same dramatic spot I had hung the flag.
It’s here, and it’s awesome! The photo can’t do it justice – can’t wait for you to see it in person – Jason
T.’s text reply:
Looks great! Just got back from Tucson. I will come by tomorrow
T. came by the next morning to see the piece and loved it. Again, we loaded the piece in his car so he could take it home and see it in the space.
Later that afternoon he texted:
Heading over with check.
When he arrived he gave me a check, and photos of the piece.
The process from the time I first met T. and his family to the first purchases was about 45 days and involved a total of 24 emails, 13 text messages, 3-5 phone calls and 4 meetings in the galleries.
There were a lot of moving parts as the client’s interest shifted from one piece to another.
You can see from my email chain that I adopted a pretty informal tone in our communication. This tone mirrors the friendly, warm nature of our conversations when T. was in the gallery. It’s important to remember that every sale is different and that you will need to adapt to the individual needs of your clients as you work with them.
These sales required persistence, but I also try to carefully walk the line between being persistent and being a pest. I’m always looking for opportunities to communicate with new information or new details so that I can be helpful instead of sounding desperate to make a sale happen.
In the end, the art business is all about making your clients happy, and I know that sometimes I have to risk being overly persistent in order to make this happen. I also know that it’s worth it. I’ve never had a client tell me they regretted purchasing a piece of art, or wish that I hadn’t followed up with them.
Share your Thoughts!
I hope you’ve enjoyed following this sale as it unfolded and that you found something helpful in how I pursued the sale and worked with my clients. Share any thoughts or questions in the comments below.