Recently I received a great question from an artist regarding the challenge of giving a new acquaintance an opportunity to buy her art without coming off as pushy or creating an awkward situation. Below is her question and my response. I would love to hear what you would do in the situation or, even better, what you have done in the past. Please leave your comments below in the comments section.
I was wondering if I could ask you a question that I could not find an answer to from your newest book on selling art.
My question is – as the artist, when I invite someone to my studio, as I always do, if we are just getting to know each other and I have just brought them to my studio to see and experience the work in person and they have not expressly stated that they are looking to buy art but when they are in my studio and moved by all my art, if they express a genuine interest in a particular painting or in a few paintings, how do I switch over and ask them for a sale?
They didn’t come to my studio originally to buy art. They came because we are new “friends” or they have never seen my work in person before or they have always meant to get to one of my Open Studios but never actually made it… So my question is how do I literally switch gears without seeming like a sales person rather than the “friend” I am also cultivating? I feel rude and presumptuous if I all of a sudden start talking about the value of a painting and if they would like me to help them acquire it. I just don’t know how to get there. The missing step going from a friend visit to a sales experience.
I would appreciate whatever you can tell me that would help make these situations more productive, literally for me. Since I am not a gallery, people are not coming to look with the idea that buying is a possibility.
I hope I have not overstepped my bounds here. Your information has been invaluable to me.
This is a great question, and you’re right, it is a little different than the situation I face on a daily basis in the gallery. That said, I have had friends come into the gallery and end up making a purchase, and that situation is very similar to what you are describing.
When working with someone who wasn’t necessarily primed to buy, you can carefully probe their interest level by using a little candor and attempting a “soft” close. Something like “I know you didn’t come here intending to acquire a work of art tonight, but it seems like you’ve really fallen in love with this piece – it would be the easiest thing in the world to make it yours.”
By acknowledging the fact that they didn’t come here to be sold to you are removing the awkward nature of the closing attempt. Listen to their response and then apply the principles of my book to resolve any concerns that might be in the way of a purchase.
If anything, you have a greater obligation to try to help your friends get what they want, you just want to be careful not to be too pushy.
So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Have additional ideas? Please share them below.