Increase your Art Sales | The Power of Follow-Up

Follow-Up!
Dramatically Increase your Art Sales by Implementing a Consistent Follow-up Strategy
There’s nothing in the art business like the thrill of making a sale.  Something magical happens when you are able to help a buyer connect with a piece of art, and then guide them through the process of making that art a part of their life. Whether you are in the gallery business, as I am, or an artist, the sale is the goal of all of your business and marketing efforts.
Over the years I have learned that if I don’t close a sale on the spot, the likelihood of making the sale decreases dramatically. Once a client has walked out the door the impulse to buy cools immediately and continues to decrease over time. If the question for the collector is “can I live without this piece of art?” the more time that passes after encountering an interesting work of art, the more likely they are to reply to themselves, “apparently I can live without it – I seem to be doing fine so far.”
For this reason it can be very tempting to give up on a sale once a potential buyer has walked out the door. RESIST THIS TEMPTATION!
While it is true that your chances of making a sale to someone who has walked away may decrease dramatically, they don’t decrease to zero, and so follow-up becomes a numbers game. I suspect that if you were to look back over your sales experience, be it in galleries or at art festivals or open studio tours you would see that it is a pretty small percentage of your traffic that turns into a sale. In our gallery we have found that we have to have over 100 visitors to produce 1 immediate sale (of course we are always working to improve this ratio). Sure it’s great to make the one sale that comes naturally simply by the law of averages, but if that is the only sale we are making we are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to make additional sales to the other 99 visitors we have had to the gallery.
For this reason we have developed a systematic process for following up with the ones who get away. We may only be able to close a small percentage of our follow-up efforts, but those sales are critical to our bottom line.
As an artist or art sales professional, you too can increase your sales by becoming better at follow-up.  Allow me to share a few of our strategies in following up. I can’t guarantee that every follow-up effort will lead to a sale, but if you follow up consistently I can promise that you will see more of those “almost” sales convert into “follow-up” sales.
1.Collect Contact Information
It’s pretty simple, if you don’t collect your customer’s contact information, you can’t follow up. We have a simple procedure for getting this information from our customers, and you can do something similar with your customers.
We have a simple form that we print from the computer on index cards. This form isn’t fancy, it simply has boxes for the client to give us their name, email address, mailing address, telephone number and their interest.
If you would like, you can use our form and adapt it to your needs. Download it here. While we print it on index cards, you could put four on a page and cut them to size if that’s more convenient. We print them on index cards so they can fit into index boxes where we keep track of them.
We attach these cards to small clipboards and whenever we have a client interested in something but are unable to close the sale on the spot, we ask them to fill out this form so we can send them additional information about the artist and artwork.
Of course the trick is to get the client to fill out the card, which leads to:
2.Stop Handing Out Business Cards, Brochures and Photos of your Artwork
“Here, let me give you a brochure so you can remember the artwork and my card so you can call me if you are interested in purchasing this piece.”
This is a pretty common approach to try and salvage a sale when a customer is walking away. If you follow this approach you can probably confirm that it’s not effective. Realistically, most of the time your brochure and business card are going to end up in the bottom of a drawer if you are lucky, and in the trash if you’re not.
Rather than give out a business card we have developed a simple technique that works most of the time. When we have a client express interest but indicate they are not ready to buy we say:
“Let me email you an image of the piece, along with the dimensions and info.”
We then hand them the interest card mentioned above. The great thing about this form is that when people are presented a form, they often fill the whole thing out. We end up not only with an email address, but also a mailing address and phone number.
Once we have this information we might give the client a brochure and business card, but not before.
3.Begin a Follow-Up Campaign
Send a note right away. We will often email the client before they are back to their cars. There’s no time like the present, when your encounter with the client is still fresh on your mind, to begin following-up.
This note is going to be very simple, but personalized to the client, including the following details:
•Thank you for visiting
•Here’s the image I promised
•Please let me know how I can be of service
Attach the image along with the size and price to remind them of the details.
Several days later send another note, again with the image and details, and some other tidbits of information about the piece (the inspiration behind it, for example). Don’t give all your information at once – ration out the information so that you have additional excuses to contact them in the future.
Hopefully you will elicit a response from the client, but if you don’t get an immediate reply, be prepared to send multiple messages. I have had cases where I’ve contacted a client over ten times before getting any kind of response and ultimately closing the sale (and of course sometimes I never receive a response at all). If you have both an email and mailing address, send a mix of emails and notes.
You might fear annoying your customers, but I find that this fear is unwarranted. At worst, I will eventually get an email back that says “Thanks, but we’re no longer interested.”  If I give up however, the client is going to forget about me and the art.
I am currently following up with a range of clients, some of them dating their original interest back to November of last year.
Of course, eventually you’re going to realize that the iron has gone cold on a particular sale, but you should still keep the customer on your mailing list and begin sending images of new works.
Schedule an hour a week to do this kind of follow-up – preferably at the same time every week so that it becomes a habit.
4.Start Today
I bet you can think of someone right now who expressed interest in your work but didn’t buy. I encourage you to sit down right now and write them a note.
Dear Jim & Nancy,
Last October I met you at an art show in Laguna Beach. At the time you expressed interest in the piece “Autumn Colors.” My work usually sells very quickly, but this piece happens to still be available. I didn’t want you to miss out on the opportunity to have this great piece (it remains to be one of my personal favorites) just because I failed to follow up with you. I’m including an image of the piece and I could have it ready to ship to you within a couple of days.
Do you have thoughts or questions about follow-up or other ideas or techniques that have worked for you? Leave them in the comments below!

There’s nothing in the art business like the thrill of making a sale.  Something magical happens when you are able to help a buyer connect with a piece of art, and then guide them through the process of making that art a part of their life. Whether you are in the gallery business, as I am, or an artist, the sale is the goal of all of your business and marketing efforts.

Over the years I have learned that if I don’t close a sale on the spot, the likelihood of making the sale decreases dramatically. Once a client has walked out the door the impulse to buy cools immediately and continues to decrease over time. If the question for the collector is “can I live without this piece of art?” the more time that passes after encountering an interesting work of art, the more likely they are to reply to themselves, “apparently I can live without it – I seem to be doing fine so far.”

For this reason it can be very tempting to give up on a sale once a potential buyer has walked out the door. RESIST THIS TEMPTATION!

While it is true that your chances of making a sale to someone who has walked away may decrease dramatically, they don’t decrease to zero, and so follow-up becomes a numbers game. I suspect that if you were to look back over your sales experience, be it in galleries or at art festivals or open studio tours you would see that it is a pretty small percentage of your traffic that turns into a sale. In our gallery we have found that we have to have over 100 visitors to produce 1 immediate sale (of course we are always working to improve this ratio). Sure it’s great to make the one sale that comes naturally simply by the law of averages, but if that is the only sale we are making we are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to make additional sales to the other 99 visitors we have had to the gallery.

For this reason we have developed a systematic process for following up with the ones who get away. We may only be able to close a small percentage of our follow-up efforts, but those sales are critical to our bottom line.

As an artist or art sales professional, you too can increase your sales by becoming better at follow-up.  Allow me to share a few of our strategies in following up. I can’t guarantee that every follow-up effort will lead to a sale, but if you follow up consistently I can promise that you will see more of those “almost” sales convert into “follow-up” sales.

1. Collect Contact Information

It’s pretty simple, if you don’t collect your customer’s contact information, you can’t follow up. We have a simple procedure for getting this information from our customers, and you can do something similar with your customers.

We have a simple form that we print from the computer on index cards. This form isn’t fancy, it simply has boxes for the client to give us their name, email address, mailing address, telephone number and their interest.

ClientCardIf you would like, you can use our form and adapt it to your needs, download it here! While we print it on index cards, you could put four on a page and cut them to size if that’s more convenient. We print them on index cards so they can fit into index boxes where we keep track of them.

We attach these cards to small clipboards and whenever we have a client interested in something but are unable to close the sale on the spot, we ask them to fill out this form so we can send them additional information about the artist and artwork.

Of course the trick is to get the client to fill out the card, which leads to:

2. Stop Handing Out Business Cards, Brochures and Photos of your Artwork

“Here, let me give you a brochure so you can remember the artwork and my card so you can call me if you are interested in purchasing this piece.”

Follow-UpEmailThis is a pretty common approach to try and salvage a sale when a customer is walking away. If you follow this approach you can probably confirm that it’s not effective. Realistically, most of the time your brochure and business card are going to end up in the bottom of a drawer if you are lucky, and in the trash if you’re not.

Rather than give out a business card we have developed a simple technique that works most of the time. When we have a client express interest but indicate they are not ready to buy we say:

“Let me email you an image of the piece, along with the dimensions and info.”

We then hand them the interest card mentioned above. The great thing about this form is that when people are presented a form, they often fill the whole thing out. We end up not only with an email address, but also a mailing address and phone number.

Once we have this information we might give the client a brochure and business card, but not before.

3. Begin a Follow-Up Campaign

Send a note right away. We will often email the client before they are back to their cars. There’s no time like the present, when your encounter with the client is still fresh on your mind, to begin following-up.

This note is going to be very simple, but personalized to the client, including the following details:

•Thank you for visiting

•Here’s the image I promised

•Please let me know how I can be of service

Attach the image along with the size and price to remind them of the details.

Several days later send another note, again with the image and details, and some other tidbits of information about the piece (the inspiration behind it, for example). Don’t give all your information at once – ration out the information so that you have additional excuses to contact them in the future.

Hopefully you will elicit a response from the client, but if you don’t get an immediate reply, be prepared to send multiple messages. I have had cases where I’ve contacted a client over ten times before getting any kind of response and ultimately closing the sale (and of course sometimes I never receive a response at all). If you have both an email and mailing address, send a mix of emails and notes.

You might fear annoying your customers, but I find that this fear is unwarranted. At worst, I will eventually get an email back that says “Thanks, but we’re no longer interested.”  If I give up however, the client is going to forget about me and the art.

I am currently following up with a range of clients, some of them dating their original interest back to November of last year.

Of course, eventually you’re going to realize that the iron has gone cold on a particular sale, but you should still keep the customer on your mailing list and begin sending images of new works.

Schedule an hour a week to do this kind of follow-up – preferably at the same time every week so that it becomes a habit.

4. Start Today

I bet you can think of someone right now who expressed interest in your work but didn’t buy. I encourage you to sit down right now and write them a note.

Dear Jim & Nancy,

Last October I met you at an art show in Laguna Beach. At the time you expressed interest in the piece “Autumn Colors.” My work usually sells very quickly, but this piece happens to still be available. I didn’t want you to miss out on the opportunity to have this great piece (it remains to be one of my personal favorites) just because I failed to follow up with you. I’m including an image of the piece and I could have it ready to ship to you within a couple of days.

How has Good Follow-up Helped You Generate More Sales?

Do you have thoughts or questions about follow-up or other ideas or techniques that have worked for you? Leave them in the comments below!

Starving to Successful

StSBookSHave you always wondered what it takes to show your work in galleries? Is your work being seen by qualified collectors?

In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of Dad was an Artist | A Survivor's Story and 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

16 Comments

  1. Good strategies for a gallery. But what can the artist do if their gallery does a poor job of follow-up and even when they do, they refuse to let the artist know who the potential customers are?

    1. I am interested in this as well, Cynthia.
      Is there a reason for the gallery not disclosing the name of potential buyers, Jason?
      I have past been in a gallery where they felt the artist did not need access to even the buyers of my work., saying they forgot to get the info. I didn’t stay there more than a few years, even though they sold many of my pieces. It just didn’t feel very trusting.

      1. I’ve had galleries say they don’t want artists “going behind their back” and selling directly to buyers, and if the artists are doing that it’s a legitimate issue. Artists should send clients to their galleries to make future purchases. But I think both the artist and the gallery miss out when information is not shared.

        When I can get the buyer’s name, I like to send them a personal thank-you note, and follow up later with a personal invitation to my next show at the gallery. I think that reinforces the gallery’s PR efforts, and increases the chance that they will become a repeat client.

        Living in a small town, I have had the embarrassing experience of having a friend or acquaintance tell me that they had bought one of my paintings at a local gallery, and launch into a conversation about how much they love it, etc. – while meanwhile I had no idea they were interested in my work, or which painting they had bought. If the gallery had shared the buyer information with me, I could have taken the lead in thanking them instead of looking dumb.

    2. Thanks for the question Cynthia. I do understand this challenge. You would hope that your galleries would be doing a good job of following up with their customers. If they’re not, they’re likely not optimizing sales for you, and eventually you are going to move on to a gallery that does a better job of follow-up. One of the main advantages of showing in a gallery is that they can handle all of the sales and follow-up and free you to focus on creating your art.

      Galleries are unlikely to share contact information because they want to maintain the relationship with the client, and because they are concerned that the artist might try and contact the client to make sales directly, without involving the gallery. I know that most artists wouldn’t do this, but unfortunately there have been a few that have, and that makes gallery owners nervous about sharing the information.

      The gallery also has an obligation to protect the privacy of their buyers.

      For the purposes of this post, when I talk about clients, I’m referring to clients with whom you developed the relationship directly – perhaps at a show or open studio event.

          1. I wish I could understand this better from a gallerist’s point of view. It seems almost unethical to prohibit artists from knowing who buys their paintings. Paintings are commercial commodities, yes – but very personal ones. I’m fortunate that the galleries that represent me are not proprietary about client info. I mail out cards occasionally to keep in touch with my collectors, and they are delighted to hear from me. It reinforces their feelings about their paintings of mine, and about me, and makes them more likely to reach out to me or the galleries to make a future purchase. And for me, what’s satisfying is that I have some sort of connection with the collectors – otherwise, making art without much interaction with others can be quite lonely and one-dimensional.

  2. Thanks for the great advice! I am not currently gallery-represented, but have a pop-up show in development for early December. I’m going to make sure I have a handful of these forms for the show in case such a need arises.

    Now to get people to actually show up…

  3. What do you think about this situation?
    2 artists are at a group show reception, They fall into conversation, One say to the other, “I really like your piece.” Later in the conversation, “I really really love what you’ve done.”
    The upshot, the two artists decide to trade art works.
    No money changes hands so I guess there would be no commission to the gallery, and yet-
    The gallery chose to have these artists in the show.
    Obviously, a not-for-profit gallery would accept a donation.
    But what about the commercial gallery?
    It seems that the gallery was a catalyst.
    I’m by no means a rich or profitable artist, but this somehow doesn’t sit well with me.
    Thoughts

  4. I have experienced the power of the follow up.

    I have an email list and I sent a sale around this time last year. Someone showed interest but through the holiday hustle we lost touch. I was checking in February as I often go through old emails to check for loose ends and sure enough this popped up. I picked it back up in a cool and slick way, cause I honestly didn’t know who dropped the ball so I just said ” I don’t know if you got this info from me but here it is” and it turned into a purchase of the work and shipped out quick.

    So I’m a firm believer in the follow up. I do it as often as possible and, yes, many people don’t respond, but it’s worth it when they do.

  5. Jason,

    I communicate with artists locally. Constantly here that their art is not selling. I have quit trying to explain that you have to FOLLOW UP! Many – most have email lists they do not use. I recommend your book all the time.

    Keep doing what you do.

    I hope to be in one of your Galleries in the Future. Pine Top may offer another / different opportunity.

    I am painting in the Santa Cruz Plein Air Event this year. 2nd Annual in Tubac. It will be a regular if all things allow it.

    Deb.

  6. Thank you for this helpful article! I always write a thank you note after a sale but have not continually contacted clients again. I will start doing this and you sample note was so helpful! Many thanks!

  7. Thanks for the handy form! It’s an improvement over the one that I have been using (just name city and email) and that I’ve been meaning to update for some time now!

  8. There is a tremendous resistance to giving out email or mailing addresses these days. Can you enlighten us artists as to how to ask for contact info without putting people off?

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