How do you ask for the close when selling art? by Jason Horejs

How do You Ask For the Close When Selling Art? | Collective Wisdomby JASON HOREJS 

Earlier this week I posted about my love for art. Today, it’s back to business!

As much as I love art in and of itself, I love selling art and the business of art just as much. In my conversations with artists, I frequently hear how difficult they feel it is to sell their own work. Artists will often tell me that they don’t like to talk about themselves or their work, and, most of all, they don’t want to appear pushy. I’m convinced that this fear of seeming over-bearing is a major drag on art sales for artists selling directly to collectors. This fear has a scientific name:fearofaskingforthecloseaphobia. 

You may suffer this malady yourself. You’re talking to someone about a piece you recently created, and you feel like you’ve got them in the palm of your hand. They love the piece, they love you, they’ve got the perfect spot for it, they seem to have the funds to buy it and then . . . nothing. They walk away.You’re left wondering what you did wrong, replaying the entire encounter over and over in your mind. You probably even figure out what you would do and say differently the next time around. Then you get another chance and . . . the same thing happens again.

First, let me say that you don’t need to feel bad, and you are not alone. Closing is a challenge even for the best-trained salesperson. Salesmanship is a skill, and learning to close takes time, training, and practice – lots of practice. As we move toward a time where more and more sales are happening directly between the collector and the artist, it becomes increasingly important for artists to become better salespeople and learn how to close.

Today, I just want to talk about the closing part of the sales process, and, specifically, I would like to ask those of you who have experience closing to share what you’ve learned. Of course, closing doesn’t happen on it’s own, there’s an entire sales process leading up to the close, but one would have to write an entire book to cover it (by the way, I’ve written that book, How to Sell Art!). Let’s assume, for this article, that we’ve gotten to a point where we have a prospective buyer excited about a piece, and we’re at that critical moment when it’s time to ask for the sale.

I know I have arrived at this point if any one of the following conditions have been met

  • The client has spent more than two minutes looking at and talking about a particular piece
  • The client has figured out where they will place the art in their home or business
  • The client has asked about shipping or delivery arrangements
  • There has been negotiation on price
  • The client has said something like, “I want it.”

You don’t want to try and close a sale too early in an encounter with a potential client – every time he/she looks at a piece of art, for example. I submit, however, that it is better to err on the side of giving your customers the opportunity to buy, than it is to let them wander on without making a purchase.

So, if one of the conditions above has been met, I like to use one of these closes

“Can I write that up for you?”

“When would you like it delivered?”

“Would you like to do it?”

“Will that be check or credit card?”

Obviously the context is important. I will have already begun to establish a relationship with the buyer and will have gotten a sense their personality type and the tone of the conversation. I am a warm, communicative type (if I do say so myself) and try to set a tone that is friendly and relaxed. This allows me to deliver these closes with a smile and a hint of humor (to soften the delivery just a bit), but I also deliver them with confidence. I simply assume that they are going to say yes.

I know that many artists and gallerists are nervous to ask for the close because they fear rejection. They are afraid the client will say “no” or, worse, will be offended in some way.

I would argue, however, that it is far better to hear “no” and be able to ask “why not?” than it is to have the client walk off and leave you wondering what went wrong. I’ve never had a client become offended when I ask them to buy something, even if they don’t end up wanting it.

What’s worked for you?

I know that this is a brief post for a very important topic, but I actually hope that the real value of this post will come in the comments. I would like to start a conversation below in the comments about the process of closing the art sale.What do you say or  what questions do you ask to commit a buyer and close the sale? What’s worked for you, and what hasn’t? Why do you find it hard to close? What questions do you have about closing the sale?Please share your thoughts, questions and comments below.

 

About 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.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

If I have more than one person looking at my art at the same time, as in an open studio setting for instance, I may say, ‘oh did you want that piece?’ which sort of infers that whomever else I am talking to may want it if they don’t. Nothing like thinking you’re going to lose it.

Great suggestion Andrea. The fear of missing out on a piece of art can be a real motivator. It’s a valid fear – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a client come back to buy a piece, only to discover that it has already been sold. They might regret the lost opportunity forever (just ask anyone who had a chance to buy a Chihuly early in his career!)

REPLY

I find if I offer to bring the painting, or paintings, to the clients home, to ‘try out’ and see how the piece feels, lighting etc., a painting never leaves and a sale results.
I always include their second and third choices as well, just to make sure.

REPLY

This is a classic soft-sell approach, the progressive close. In essence you are closing them on the delivery and trial of the artwork in their home, and then, once you have it in their home, you are closing on the sale.

We frequently use this tactic in the gallery, however, I always try to close the sale first, and only if the client raises an objection or concern related to wanting to see how it looks in their home, do I use the partial close.

There are times where you get the client to agree to the trial of the artwork in their home where with just a little finesse and effort, you could have closed the sale, taken a credit card right then, and then delivered the artwork. While, in the end, the result may be the same, I would always prefer to close the sale on the spot than giving the client the opportunity to reconsider.

Thanks for the suggestion Alison!

REPLY

Hi Jason,

Wow, this is such a broad topic! I’ll be as brief with my thoughts as I can  I’ve been in the gallery business going on 12 years now and in my experience the successful “close” is simply the logical conclusion of the process whereby you engage your potential client, find out what it is (as specifically as possible) they are interested in, providing them with the information they need to make a decision, and assuaging any concerns they might have about buying from you (or your gallery) – pricing transparency, return policies, etc. Most often, The Close becomes nerve wracking or awkward if you haven’t been thorough about other steps in the process. Additionally, it seems to me that the brick and mortar gallery (especially in vacation destinations like where I live and work) seems to be becoming a form of entertainment rather than a place of business. When we chat up our visitors and ask about their interests, part of that is being nice to be nice, but nice doesn’t pay your rent. Visitors to your gallery or studio should understand that your time away from the easel, i.e., the time you are spending with them, is important to you and so guiding the conversation towards a sales discussion should never be viewed as “pushy”. There ARE pushy ways to do it and pleasant ways to do it, but when a client understands that selling your work is critical for you to be able to keep making it, it helps them be or get serious about engaging you in the necessary discussion that concludes with the phrase “Shall I wrap it up for you?”.

REPLY

Very well put Robert, and I 100% agree. We should all be very clear that we are here to sell artwork. There’s nothing shameful or embarrassing about it, and if we do a good job selling, the client’s life is going to be enriched for years to come by the great work of art they take home with them.

Thanks for the great contribution!

REPLY

I had just that experience at an open studio this past weekend. I placed the mosaic in the hands of the potential client, who had expressed interest in it, has asked the price and was talking about how it would look over the fireplace. I was sure she would take it. I do not recall my specific words to her at that time but I think I very gently urged her to take it. She was looking at a variety of other pieces at the same time, so I waited and she and her mother left without buying anything. In spite of “handling” several pieces and asking prices. One of my concerns in that particular sale incident is that the clients were Asian and I am not and I was unsure of cultural issues that might intervene. On the other hand, I have trouble nudging any clients. In your view, are there cultural issues involved in selling to anyone not of one’s own ethnic background?

REPLY

Good question Betsy – I’ve not found ethnicity or nationality to be an issue in my 20+ years of experience. If you are natural and not pushy you’ll find that people are very forgiving of any cultural differences – especially if they are on your turf (it might be a different story if you traveled to Japan and tried the same approach). I will say that there have been times where there might be a language issue more than a cultural one, and in those cases I sometimes have to be more direct about the close so that they understand exactly what I’m asking. “Would you like to purchase the painting?” or “Would you like to buy the sculpture?”

REPLY

I offer monthly payments to me instead of a credit card with high interest payments. I charge no interest. I have never been burned in decades of being an artist. That mostly works for local clients.

REPLY

During the last open studio, a man I sort of know said, “I want that painting”. I said, “Great – let me wrap that up for you.” His wife said, ‘NOT UNTIL YOU GET A JOB, YOU’RE NOT!!”.

Come on, Ground, Open Up NOW. As if selling weren’t hard enough. . .

I am currently reading a book called Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. I think it will help me with the false notions about “filthy lucre” and that selling is not a legitimate part of earning a living with art.

REPLY

Wow Jana – those spouses really know how to put the kibosh on things, don’t they. There’s only one way out of a situation like that – humor. “You know, I’ve got the feeling this painting is just the inspiration Bob needs to get that next job!” It might not have overcome the wife’s veto, but humor gives everyone an easy way out without having to feel sheepish about it.

REPLY

Very interesting topic but that only seem to mention face to face sale.
What if the client says something like that ”i’ll go home and measure” or ”I really like it, just need to think about it”, and you have to ”continue” the sale process by email?
A client came to my home to do a painting workshop and saw a 1.5×2 meter painting I have almost completed. She loved it (although it’s 95% finished) but she caught me off guard asking for a price, which I had not worked out yet. I emailed her a photo of it with dimensions and it sounds like the painting would fit in her lounge. How do I now give her the price and move on to closing the deal?
Thank you for your interesting post 
Mimi

REPLY

Great point Mimi – and you’re right that there is a different dynamic, though not as different as you might expect. Be direct. Follow up with the pricing information and go straight for a close to get a feel for how serious she is. I might right something like:

“Dear Jane,

I am following up on the image I sent you last week, which is now complete. This piece is valued at $X,XXXX. It sounds like it would be perfect for your space and I could see how much you loved it when you saw it in the studio. How can I help you make this piece part of your collection?

Mimi”

Something along those lines. Of course, you had the conversation with her and will have a better sense of the write tone. You will also have your own way of speaking – make the note your own. I would encourage you to strike while the iron is hot.

I’d be curious how you price your work that you weren’t able to give her a price right then – most of my artists price by size and would have been able to give a price on the spot. I like to be able to do that because you run the risk of having the client think you are raising the price because you have an interested party. That’s a discussion for another blog post, but you might watch our video at http://www.reddotblog.com/wordpress/index.php/pricing-your-artwork-to-sell-podcast-video-recording-now-available/

Be sure and let us know how it goes!

REPLY

There’s a connection made when someone sees the spirit in my painting that I also love. That simple joy is all I keep my focus on when I sell, so it is easy, like being on the same team. “Well, so is that a go?” “Okay, did I hear you say that you want the piece?” “Is there anything else you need to know, or are you ready to have this piece look amazing on your living room wall?”

REPLY

Great phrasing Julie – I can imagine the sparkle in your voice as you are ask for the close using them. Thanks!

REPLY

In a 2004 outdoor spring venue I was displaying about 15 pieces of my embellished fabric collages- quite large pieces On a nearby table I had a bunch of smaller framed prints -Mostly 10 x 12″ going for a ridiculously low price actually. Mosf everyone was thrilled by the originals because of the fabric texture & embellishments making the originals only – quite extraordinary ( if I may say so myself). However those prices are between $1500. & 4,500Dollars. The man was debating whether or not to buy the print. He works for the government so I know he could afford $15! Going back-and-forth it was a big decision! Finally I just said, “Well, this is $3000 for the Twin Towers and this print…, Well? I” Shelled out the money- Quickly too. Though I don’t know how you can extrapolate – for me the messages was they won’t buy the most expensive, but if you show them something lesser they may just buy it if it’s of the same content.

REPLY

“I simply assume that they are going to say yes.”
This and the closer phrases. I rarely sold paintings never a high dollar one until I changed my outlook, tweaked my conversation to be less fluff and more direct and I recently sold 6 pieces in a matter of hours. Can’t say it’s going to happen at every show, but it definitely was the confidence that got me there and gave me the confidence to keep going.

So my main things were to streamline my talk, know how and when to close, and knowing I can sell.

REPLY

Vincent – attitude is really important in my experience. The truth is that the vast majority of people who look at your work are not going to buy. That can lead you to believe that no one is going to buy. It can be difficult to keep the energy up when you face a lot of “no”s. I would turn that on its head though and think in terms of the excitement of never knowing exactly when the next person who comes along will buy.

If you don’t put the effort in with every single buyer your success is going to drop. Having the right attitude makes every event more successful, and makes the ones that are less successful more enjoyable.

REPLY

A phrase that’s worked well for me is, “would you like to add this to your collection?” sometimes they’ll say we don’t have a collection, and I say with a smile, “well then, would you like to start one?”

REPLY

Great Lori – I love it! There’s just nothing like being direct.

I watch the Patron’s eyes, widen.  I see them dialate. I tell the ;‘ART STORY’

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: