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 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

6 Comments

  1. As a collector, I own several paintings that I did not buy on first sighting. These are the more expensive paintings I own. I’ve gone back to a gallery repeatedly to visit a painting trying to balance my love for it against the pain of spending a week or a month of income on it.

    I have a painting I purchased in Ireland while on vacation. I bought it on my third visit to the gallery, in part because my wife was tired of each excursion in the city swinging by the gallery for a half-hour contemplation of the painting. Another painting, that I bought from a gallery in my hometown, was the subject of repeated visits over the course of at least six months before I finally pulled the trigger.

    I don’t think I’m too unusual. When you are thinking of giving up precious dollars and precious wallspace on a large, expensive, work of art, you want to see whether the love will last.

  2. Horror Story / Success Story
    horror- I was living near New York City in the early 80s. I had some art work and was working at producing more. On Wednesday’s the off-peak train was 50% off and as luck would have it SoHo’s galleries had an informal (and unannounced) open door to artists for portfolio review. I photographed everything I had, made multiple copies and away I went. I targeted gallery ads in the NYTimes that looked interesting. Instead of trudging with the black portfolio, I left my slides and contact information. Explaining that I would be back after lunch to pick up my slides. (Which I did). home on the last off-peak train. I received communication a few days later from a gallery to please call for an appointment and bring in work.
    I didn’t call.
    The reason- I had no new work and was very unsure that I would be able to keep up with the demand. The work I had shown had taken a year to do. This still haunts me.

    Success story: Returning to the classroom after a long hiatus. I had my interview. I left a portfolio of educational and artistic highlights explaining that I would come in tomorrow to pick up the portfolio. I typed a follow-up letter to replace the portfolio. I arrived. The secretary said, “Do you have a minute, Mr. ___ would like to speak to you. At the end of the meeting that included 2 building administrators, I signed a contract for a teaching position that 17 years later I retired from.
    Here I am retired from teaching and researching galleries.
    thank you Jason for bringing to mind those 2 follow-up stories. (I’ve read that almost no one follows up so that would make it even more important.

  3. Thank you for this helpful information. I am a new artist working in clay since I retired from a career in another field. Even though I am just starting out selling my work, I am going to use this Follow-Up method now … from the start! I have several pieces going into a Gallery of Gifts event at an Arts Center nearby so I will bring Follow Up cards for the upcoming receptions. Thank you, again!

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