I’ve observed that many artists, even those who have been selling their art for years, can sometimes find the process of meeting a new client a bit awkward. The first few moments when you are meeting someone new at an art show or a gallery opening are important – you want to get off on the right foot. The importance of this moment can put a little pressure on you, and sometimes instead of getting off on that right foot, you end up putting that foot right in your mouth! Or worse, I’ve seen many artists and salespeople who don’t make any introduction at all. Instead they say something like “Hi, let me know if you have any questions.”
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Share Your Experiences!
How do you introduce yourself to your potential clients? What works best for you? What mistakes have you made when meeting new people? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
Excellent advice – simple and straight forward. Thank you.
Good suggestions for an artist who rarely meets non-artists looking at their work. Probably works meeting gallery owners too, knowing how to talk about our work in a simple way. “Hi I’m D DeLong. I paint large scale abstract paintings on wood that I create from my drawings and photographs.”
I definitely have blown this several times. From what you said, Jason, I need to forget about being afraid of the new client and simply be interested in them as a person or people. It took me a few years to develop that with students ( college aged) although I knew that I knew more than they knew and certainly had years more experience, which helped. In my better moments I apply that same logic… that at the very least I am truly experienced in the use of paper and applying the elements of artistic process to share that with the new client regardless of how much experience they may have in the same medium. Infact, that can become an opportunity to share! However, generally the new client is an art-lover who is curious and that’s where I will keep my focus. Fortunately there are more opportunities coming up to meet new clients where I can practice the understanding that I can be of help, get to know them somewhat , and enjoy the interaction. I liked one suggestion I read on one of the comments to your blog, have a piece of chocolate(these days individually wrapped) ready to offer the person gazing at your work! That will break the ice!
Thank you for continuing to support the artists of the world – teaching and support are appreciated. That said, memory and names, names, names. I used to be good at this. My introductions are prompt and welcoming. I DO ask if they have been here before as I have now done enough events, I can’t remember every face……… The intro includes my watercolor background and interests; my Plein Air Events (many have never heard the term – so that becomes a talking point) my textured process and now it is starting to include my new endeavors into other water soluble mediums (oil & acrylic.) The process doesn’t take long – I try to learn about them a bit and then let them look. IF another arrives I excuse my self and repeat. Checking back in with each. I do keep a one page bio available it they wish to read more. Have my newsletter available to pick up to learn even more. I enjoy the studio open houses and the direct interaction with collectors – new and old. I endeavor to hold one a month at this time. This also encourages me to have painted “new paintings” for each event. Re arranging the paintings for a fresh look as well. Thank you again.
Wow, you sound very skilled at this!
When I started my career years ago, at an outdoor art show, I remember noticing this artist who was so good at selling her art.
I learned all the tricks by watching her! She was well dressed to attract clientele who would recognize themselves in her, she was wearing a fancy hat so that she would stand out. She would walk confidently toward people who stopped in front of her art and said: “Hello, I am the artist!”.
Giving a short elevator pitch is a good moment to do so right after. My favourite question that make us dive immediately into warm and personal territory is “tell me what it is in this painting that peaked your attention”.
Selling is about relationships. People buy art because they like it but also because they love the artist! So we have to be there and come out of our shy and insecure shells. It’s much more fun that way also!
Good point on the names, I am still terrible at that!
Hi Jason: I do this when I am having a solo show, but usually I am a participant in juried group shows, either in the community or in galleries. How and when do you recommend an introduction in that case?
Very similar – as people are coming into the space around your artwork, be bold, strike a smile and introduce yourself. Don’t worry about how other artists are greeting or not greeting, our job is to create a great experience for everyone encountering your artwork.
Hi Sharon, I think one of the most effective words to say when you greet a client is WELCOME! Especially if you really mean it. If welcome sounds too formal, add a Hello and welcome to the ______ gallery or _____ show. My name is Sharon and I am the artist or my art is included in this show. If it is a group show, you may not want to come across as being better or preferred over the other artists, but you certainly do not want them to miss your work so let them know where your work or pieces are in the gallery. Don’t be too shy about this as it may indeed be your only opportunity to speak with them. I also like the phrase “Is this your first visit to the gallery?”(or show)
I think this question might be somewhat related.
I post my artwork on Instagram regularly. Someone I know stated they liked a piece they saw and inquired about the price. I private messaged him back with the price and a little information about it but haven’t heard back from him. Maybe it was out of his price range? How shall I follow up? Do I?
Always follow up! It could be that it’s out of his price range, but it could also be a host of other issues, and reaching out may rekindle the fire. This post may give you some ideas to help in the follow up process: https://reddotblog.com/increase-your-art-sales-the-power-of-follow-up-3-2-2/
Never assume you know *why* someone hasn’t responded! Most of the time it’s has nothing to do with the price, or their interest — it’s just that they got busy with life.
One of the weird things about art shows is that people tend to walk by the booth in a herd, peering in, but rarely stopping. I try to make eye contact and say hello but they are moving along with the crowd. Art shows have become a mere free entertainment, and opportunity to buy food from food trucks! I see very little or no selling of fine art. I do like having people to my studio in my house. Even if few people come, at least there is an opportunity to talk.
And the “hallways of booths” layout used by most shows doesn’t help! I love when shows have a more organic layout, so people wander, mingle, stop — instead of just cruising down the highway!
I have a conundrum. I will walk away from my booth at a show for a few moments. I come back and see several people in my small booth, Literally as soon as they seen me return to my business table (adjacent to the booth), they leave! Is it my effervescent personality or their fear of the hard sell?
They may be just nervous that you may have an expectation that they should buy something. You just have to disarm that feeling by making them feel welcome. When you start with simple questions (who you are, who they are) that are easy to answer, it’s easier to move up to talking about your work.
Jason’s post about art fairs was great. My main takeaway was stand outside of the booth. People feel more free to enter.
Hi Jason, that’s good advice. I used to do art shows in New York, and the number of people coming past my booth was daunting. I sometimes got lazy and just stood around. Nice to hear the basics of building the relationship between me and those interested in my work.
Thank you again for great tips and reminders of things that should be obvious but not always are. I’m just starting out on the presenting and selling end and all suggestions help.
I wish more gallery owners were as friendly as you! I have walked into too many galleries where once the owner learns that I’m an artist, they quickly lose interest because they don’t think a sale is going to happen (and that I may want to show my work there)…it really astounds me how they act sometimes…
@karenross4 on IG
Hi, I stopp”ed doing craft fairs and now only sell through galleries. It seemed no matter what I said when someone came into my booth, I could chase them away. I ended doing fairs with “Hi, let me know if you have any questions”, after trying so many other things. It almost became a joke or game of how fast I could chase someone away once I said something to them.
All true in my experience when I was running the eccentric garden gallery in VT back in the day. My biggest strength was my ability to remember names. My most common mistake was forgetting that I’d already met certain customers and I’d be embarrassed after I gave the introductory pitch over again to them. It was usually when they came dressed in different clothing or accompanied by a different person than when I first met them.
Each encounter with a potential client seems to be a new little dance. A shopper can shy, too! At art fairs, I will buzz past the displays without entering the booths, just to see if anything is of particular interest. I have to be quite motivated in order to enter the booth–I just want to look more carefully, not chat or be subject to a “hard sell”. It’s important to develop sensitivity about reading people. Extroverts look forward to the chat and will be eager for more information. Introverts want to look quietly and think first. If you read a client incorrectly, you will feel as if you chased them away, wondering what went wrong!
Such helpful input. Always appreciate your continual support of artists, Jason.
I have my first open studio tour this weekend and will be using your suggestions. I just had my first gallery show 2 weeks ago and I found it easy to engage people when they came in the door. I hope it goes as well when there are groups of people coming at the same time. I would think it might be difficult to keep track of people as there will be art in the studio and in the garden. I don’t want to be engaged with on couple and then have to cut them short to say hi to someone new arriving. I’ll just keep smiling and try to stay relaxed and natural and have fun.
I find that booth space is often too crowded for visitors and me — especially in these weird semi-post-covid days. My new approach is to introduce myself, give my 15 second explanation of my work, then tell people I will back away and let them look on their own. They know I am just a few feet out of the booth if they need me and also have expressed relief that I am not breathing down their necks. Sure. I am watching them. I can tell when they are just breezing through, browsing, or if they linger on a specific piece. Then, I can have a real conversation about the work and what catpured their attention.
This is great! Good advice. I’m an artist member of Women Painters of Washington. We have a beautiful gallery in downtown Seattle. One of our responsibilities is gallery-sitting. Because I’m only in the gallery every few months it’s easy to get out of practice in dealing with clients. I”ll share this with my colleagues. Some of the members are adept at sales, but many of us are not. Check us out at http://www.womenpainters.com
Perfect timing because I’m having an open studio this Sunday. I’m pretty good in remembering if someone liked a particular painting and find sometimes they need to see it more than once before purchasing. Also I have good visual memory and even if I can’t remember someone’s name I can remember that they have seen my work before, or I have met them before. Do you have any suggestions to ask the person’s name if you can’t remember? Also what do you think if you want to still wear a mask, because Covid is still high in my state and so far I have not gotten the virus and wear a mask around other people except my family.
In our small touristy town I post regularly to our community FB page encouraging people to come down to the Water Front where I have set up an attractive, wooden trailer, displaying my stone bears. I have town people come by, stop and talk. The action seems to draw in tourists. I enjoy talking with people, perhaps more than selling. I’m known as the “Bear Man” in town!
A wonderful explanation of marketing skills. I WAS saying ” I’m here if you have any questions”.Thanks so much for your insights!
Thanks Jason! Very informative and helpful advice. Remembering names is very important. Thank You! as always… Darryl
Thank you Jason, I am looking forward to giving it a try. Kristine
New to the blog and Love it!!!
You only have one opportunity to make a first impression, and it should be one which is relaxed, professional, successful, friendly, and that you are available to help. A great many people walk into my gallery, and automatically have a posture of defense. They know that I am there to sell art, and they do not want to feel pressured. They typically want to look around and not feel obligated to purchase something. Saying too much will put them off, and not saying enough will destroy an opportunity. I generally say something like: ” Hello…I’m Ray, and thanks for stopping in my gallery today. If you are not familiar with my gallery, I represent a select number of very talented artists, as you will discover, so please feel free to look around and let me know if I can answer any questions about any of the artists or their work. I am careful not to simply say “Let me know if I can help you.” That implies “a sale” too much. I want to appear available to answer “any” questions, and not simply take their money. At that point I have acknowledged them and let them know that I am glad to help, and that I am stepping back. I want them to feel relaxed. In reality, I am not really stepping back. If you are an artist, it is a different sort of situation. A great many people love the opportunity to meet the artist and understand them and their work. Appear bright eyed and polite, introduce yourself and add something like: “Let me know if you have any particular questions about any of my works or my process.” You can also add something like:” Each piece is unique with it own unique story.” Something like that will at times invoke more interest, and allow for you to talk more.
I am different from Jason, in that I don’t initially ask for the persons names upfront, unless I recognize them from being in the gallery before. If they look familiar, and I cant remember their name, I say: “I recall seeing you in the gallery before, however I am terrible with names”. I extend my hand, welcome them back, and allow them to introduce themselves. If it is their first time in the gallery I wait until the conversation is re-established during the sale process in order to get their name. I generally say something like:” I’m sorry I did not catch your name.” I extend my hand, and allow them to introduce themselves. Your body posture, the way you are dressed, your handshake, eye contact, voice tone, and the pace of your conversation, etc are all critical in making that first impression (or re-establishing your impression ) as a positive one. You want to make sure your breath is fresh, your nails are clean, your hair is groomed, and that you are not wearing a heavy fragrance. Pay attention to what you are wearing, and dress the part for success. If you are an artist, it is going to make a better impression if you dress casual, but nice, instead of in paint smeared studio clothes. If your look says: “I am successful” then your price tag will reinforce that it is worth your asking price.
Yes, DRESS. No starving artist look. Grooming is as important as ones art. Thanks for this.