As much as I love art in and of itself, I love selling art and the business of art just as much. In my conversations with artists, I frequently hear how difficult they feel it is to sell their own work. Artists will often tell me that they don’t like to talk about themselves or their work, and, most of all, they don’t want to appear pushy. I’m convinced that this fear of seeming over-bearing is a major drag on art sales for artists selling directly to collectors. This fear has a scientific name: fearofaskingforthecloseaphobia.
You may suffer this malady yourself. You’re talking to someone about a piece you recently created, and you feel like you’ve got them in the palm of your hand. They love the piece, they love you, they’ve got the perfect spot for it, they seem to have the funds to buy it and then . . . nothing. They walk away.
You’re left wondering what you did wrong, replaying the entire encounter over and over in your mind. You probably even figure out what you would do and say differently the next time around. Then you get another chance and . . . the same thing happens again.
First, let me say that you don’t need to feel bad, and you are not alone. Closing is a challenge even for the best-trained salesperson. Salesmanship is a skill, and learning to close takes time, training, and practice – lots of practice. As we move toward a time where more and more sales are happening directly between the collector and the artist, it becomes increasingly important for artists to become better salespeople and learn how to close.
Today, I just want to talk about the closing part of the sales process, and, specifically, I would like to ask those of you who have experience closing to share what you’ve learned. Of course, closing doesn’t happen on it’s own, there’s an entire sales process leading up to the close, but one would have to write an entire book to cover it (by the way, I’ve written that book, How to Sell Art!). Let’s assume, for this article, that we’ve gotten to a point where we have a prospective buyer excited about a piece, and we’re at that critical moment when it’s time to ask for the sale.
I know I have arrived at this point if any one of the following conditions have been met
- The client has spent more than two minutes looking at and talking about a particular piece
- The client has figured out where they will place the art in their home or business
- The client has asked about shipping or delivery arrangements
- There has been negotiation on price
- The client has said something like, “I want it.”
You don’t want to try and close a sale too early in an encounter with a potential client – every time he/she looks at a piece of art, for example. I submit, however, that it is better to err on the side of giving your customers the opportunity to buy, than it is to let them wander on without making a purchase.
So, if one of the conditions above has been met, I like to use one of these closes
“Can I write that up for you?”
“When would you like it delivered?”
“Would you like to do it?”
“Will that be check or credit card?”
Obviously the context is important. I will have already begun to establish a relationship with the buyer and will have gotten a sense their personality type and the tone of the conversation. I am a warm, communicative type (if I do say so myself) and try to set a tone that is friendly and relaxed. This allows me to deliver these closes with a smile and a hint of humor (to soften the delivery just a bit), but I also deliver them with confidence. I simply assume that they are going to say yes.
I know that many artists and gallerists are nervous to ask for the close because they fear rejection. They are afraid the client will say “no” or, worse, will be offended in some way.
I would argue, however, that it is far better to hear “no” and be able to ask “why not?” than it is to have the client walk off and leave you wondering what went wrong. I’ve never had a client become offended when I ask them to buy something, even if they don’t end up wanting it.
What’s worked for you?
I know that this is a brief post for a very important topic, but I actually hope that the real value of this post will come in the comments. I would like to start a conversation below in the comments about the process of closing the art sale.
What do you say or what questions do you ask to commit a buyer and close the sale? What’s worked for you, and what hasn’t? Why do you find it hard to close? What questions do you have about closing the sale?
Please share your thoughts, questions and comments below.