“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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Begin 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.
- 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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