You are not Following up Enough with Your Clients

“I don’t want to be a pest.”

This is one of the most common responses I hear when discussing follow up. You see, I am an advocate of persistence in every aspect of business, but especially when it comes to sales follow up.

I am convinced that many sales fail not because the client wasn’t interested, and not because there was something wrong with the art, but because the salesperson failed to do sufficient follow up. While closing a sale in your initial contact with a client is the ideal scenario, when that doesn’t happen, follow up becomes critical.

I’ve heard artists and gallerists alike say “I contacted the clients a couple of times, but never heard back from them. I was so sure that they were going to buy the piece.”

My argument is that one or two follow up contacts is not nearly enough. In my experience, I’ve found that closing a follow up sale can sometimes require six, or eight or even ten follow up contacts. I only consider a follow up campaign successfully executed when the sale is made, or when the client has outright said that she is not longer interested. I would far rather hear “no” than hear nothing at all.

Many artists and gallerists are shocked by the suggestion to follow up six or more times. They feel that this is being overly aggressive. If you believe that following up persistently is being pushy, I would argue that you are thinking of your art and your sales efforts in the wrong light.

It would be annoying to have a salesperson emailing or calling you repeatedly if they were peddling something in which you had no interest (even I get irritated by phone solicitors trying to sell me time-share condos), but that’s not the case here. If you are following up, you are doing it because a client expressed interest in a piece of art. You need to know deep down inside that your clients’ lives are going to be better and happier if they acquire that piece of art. The art is going to bring beauty and enjoyment into their lives for years to come.

Sometimes life gets in the way of the clients’ ability to follow through on their interest in your art – it is your obligation to do everything in your power to help your clients overcome life’s distractions so they can begin enjoying your art.

How to Follow Up

So, how should you follow up? Following up is a delicate process and requires skill and forethought. The best way to learn is to commit to the follow up process today and to start following up more consistently. Practicing follow up will teach you what works for you and what doesn’t. With that in mind, I want to give you some basic guidelines I’ve learned from years of successful follow up.

  1. Get your potential buyer’s contact information. In the last Art Marketing Minute, I talked about emailing clients information about artwork instead of handing out a brochure. Whether you do this or devise some other method to accomplish the task, make sure you have a good system in place to collect your client’s contact information.
  2. Create a follow up plan that you use in every follow-up opportunity. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel for every sale. Develop a timeline for successive follow ups after every sales encounter, and then stick to it with every client. There may be times when you need to adapt the plan, and over time the plan may change, but it all starts with a plan for follow up. I suggest doing some form of follow up every 3-7 days over the period of a month to six weeks.
  3. Develop good excuses to follow up. Each of your follow up attempts should include information that will be of value to the client. For example, your first email to a client will probably include an image of the artwork and information about the title, size and price of the artwork. Subsequent contacts might include information about the inspiration for the piece, your biography, and information about how to install the artwork. Having a reason to follow up makes the process more natural.
  4. Don’t give up just because you aren’t hearing back from the customer. People are busy, and sometimes responding to your messages isn’t going to make its way to the top of your client’s to-do list. Don’t take it personally, and don’t let it deter you from continuing to follow up.
  5. iStock_000005801659XSmallBegin with the least intrusive form of contact. We start our follow up via email. Email is great because it allows the client to interact with your communication on her terms. Send out several emails, then, if you don’t receive a response, move to physical mail, and finally to phone calls. You will find that in most cases, after a few emails you will receive a response. If email doesn’t work and you have the client’s phone number, make a call – your emails may be getting lost in the client’s spam folder.
  6. Set aside time every week for your follow up efforts. You are far more likely to be consistent in your follow up if you have specific time dedicated to your follow up efforts. Follow up doesn’t take long, so having an hour or two a week should be more than enough.

When Should you Give Up?

Is there a time when you should give up? Logic tells us that it would be impossible to to follow up with every client you’ve ever met indefinitely. I would suggest that after a couple of months of persistent follow up and no response, you move a client into your long-term follow-up file. Follow up about the initial piece in which your client was interested, or about new work or upcoming events. We have had many cases where a client has reappeared out of the woodwork years after an initial contact to make a purchase.

There is obviously a lot more to talk about in relationship to follow up than I can share in the minute we have to talk here, but I hope this post helps you commit to being more persistent in your follow up efforts.

What do you Think?

Has follow up helped you make sales? Do you feel like a pest when you are following up? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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18 Comments

  1. Great Post, Jason! Follow up is key. I have experience with a direct sales company for where we were taught you aren’t even on the radar until you have had at least five contacts. Your steps and suggestions make sense. The idea of adding value to each contact is super!

  2. Really good article Jason. Makes one really think about the follow-up proceeds. I very much like the exercise of paying close attention to what works for us individually. Thank you Jason as always.

  3. Thank you Jason! I took your advice to followup with a customer who bought one large sculpture from my garden art show last week, but who was one the fence about a second large sculpture. I just called her a few minutes ago and she bought the second one as a Father’s Day present to her husband. I’ll shall install it next week. That additional sale bumped up the total revenue to be my best ever art show since I started actively selling my art in 1993. Thanks for the prompt!

  4. I like your idea and the process. Something to add to your weekly calendar. I also follow up with my local gallery whenever I’m working on a new series.

  5. Great post Jason! The longer I am an artist, the more I realize that what happens in the studio is just the beginning. You honest writings give me the courage to sell my work. Thanks!

  6. Excellent as usual! Lots of good ideas. I understand my reticence towards follow-up (I don’t want to be a bother) is the same as my fear surrounding computers (another learning curve). The only way to move forward is to welcome the fear, take the next logical step and keep going. Thank you for all the tips on how to proceed. It gives me a map on the next step!

  7. Cringe, cringe!! I hate the whole idea of follow up. But I know if I want to actually get more sales I have to “feel the fear and do it anyway.” So the inspiring part of your blog was the “excuses” or reasons. It is such a pain being SO English! I feel to pester people is just not done – but to help them have that piece of art, well, that’s different.
    Compiling a list of the reasons to make contact is really helpful.
    Thanks Jason.
    http://www.annacornsart.co.uk

    1. Anna, if it helps, I read this post and thought it was so American. This does not work in UK culture. One fallow up is fine. I might tolerate two. Three and you get an unsubscribe and I wont buy because you are pushy! If they are signed up to a newsletter or something that’s different but constant pestering like thiseven with nice information in is so obvious sales and it is not, I don’t think, a good idea in British culture at all. At least not if you are trying to sell to me! and don’t even THINK of disturbing me with a phone call 🙂

      1. It’s interesting to think about the differences in culture for sure, but I’m not sure I agree that follow-up is invalid in the UK. I’ve worked with artists from Britain and they’ve indicated that follow up is a big part of their success. While certainly you will have some clients who won’t appreciate or respond to follow up, I would argue that those clients weren’t likely to buy anyway, so nothing has been lost by following up. I would urge you to experiment with being a bit more persistent so that you can see the results before you write following up as an American anachronism.

        1. Thanks for the reply Jason – I have definitely taken a lot from your blog and feel that I can learn such a lot from how things are done in America.
          Helen showed too how very different attitudes are.

  8. I follow up all year. I send out HANDWRITTEN /ILLUSTRATED NEWS LETTERS.
    I make sales as a result. USPS and I are in business together. Paper trails matter for an artist!!!!! Savvy artists know this. I love USPS!!!!!!!

    1. Bob:
      What do you mean by handwritten illustrated newsletters? Is it basically a letter telling clients what you are working on? Would it work to send to galleries do you think?–evalyn

  9. Your pointers illustrate perfectly the reason that artists need galleries to show their work. It’s not just about putting it on the walls, but also about the organized, professional sales approach undertaken by the gallerist. Unfortunately, the burden of selling is falling more on the artists currently. While I delight in meeting with the buyer, and doing custom work for my galleries, it’s not my personality to engage in persistent selling efforts, (a common right-brain symptom!) and it takes time away from painting.
    Your artists are lucky to have you on their side Jason!
    I love Bob’s idea of a physical newsletter–that can be a creative, unobtrusive tool, with have more impact than an email.

  10. I kept after my Sister, Sandra Taylor to contact her best client who she had made an outrageously beautiful wing-back chair cover for half a year ago. Sandra sent a beautiful email so friendly and caring. She ask if her client chair cover needed repairs on it or anything else she might be able to help her with. She was able to renew her relationship with her client. I told Sandra, Jason of Xanadu Galleries that you were an advocate of email marketing so she finally was willing to do it. She is very happy she did. It reassured her that the customer is very happy with the work she had lovingly put into it. And that it was high quality work she has every right to be proud of, with her creation.

    Sandra has been getting a good share of clients by leaving her business cards in fabric stores.

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