Four Words That Make Us Cringe

At ABI, we frequently speak with artists about strategies for growing small businesses. We hear about the struggles and challenges that entrepreneurship presents. And sometimes, how artists trip themselves up.


Sad Man


A perfect example is when we hear those four little words that really make us cringe. They are: “I never followed up.”

Yes, it’s true that even seasoned artists sometimes take business for granted. They just roll with orders as they come in, and feel that they don’t have time for anything else. As a consequence, they never bother calling wholesale customers about an order that was shipped, to make sure it arrived, the merchandise is on the floor, and nothing else is currently needed.

And, they don’t do their follow ups a few months later to see how merchandise has sold and gain that fill-in order to keep the display full. Or, to discuss sales results, solve problems or even expand their presence in the store.

One production artist confessed that in past years he had sold his work wholesale into many stores, but that most of his orders went to three large accounts which kept him very busy. He didn’t stay in touch or build relationships with his smaller stores. Recently, two of the three major accounts had stopped ordering, and the third was buying less than in past years. He was now desperate to get back in the good graces of the “mom and pop” stores who had purchased from him but had been ignored. It would take a lot of work to revive as many small accounts as possible to keep his business afloat.

Other times, follow ups close the very first sale with an account, and start that beautiful relationship where you work with galleries on a long-term basis. Buyers might see your work at a trade show, or even online, and you may have a conversation with them. It usually takes more than one contact to get that opening order. Don’t be the person who gave up before you even began.

Make sure you follow up with interested accounts through phone calls, direct mail, email marketing and even through social media. If the customer is a good fit, persistence will close the sale. Staying in touch will ensure that you don’t miss an opportunity because the timing wasn’t right or they needed to know more about you and your collection before they were ready to commit. It’s up to you as a business person to take the initiative and act.

Likewise, retail customers need follow ups. Have you ever gotten an inquiry about a commission, or met someone at a retail show who is interested in a particular piece of art, but you never followed up with them? The result? Nothing.

Don’t waste your booth fee and your time meeting the public if you aren’t prepared to close sales after the event as well as during it. Get their phone number, or their email and tell them you will be in touch. Then, keep them on your list. Even if you don’t make that sale, you can always invite those interested parties to future shows, studio sales and other events. It’s not unusual to close the first sale long after your initial meeting. Smart salespeople know this – and you’re smart, and in sales, right?

Have you been guilty of not following up? We’re not asking for confessions or mea culpas. If you need to be more active with follows ups, resolve to make the effort this year to get in touch, stay in touch, build those relationships and make more sales. It’s as easy as that.



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  1. After the first wholesale show, i got wrote 12 orders – all new galleries for me… how long after shipping should the first follow-up occur? 6 weeks? more, less?

    • Six weeks would certainly give the store manager enough time to see how your work was being received. A simple check-in to make sure that they feel the display looks great, and they are pleased with sales would be just right. You might want to offer any materials they might need such as signage, a tent card with your story, etc. – or perhaps a list of merchandising and sales tips for your work if they did not receive these with the shipment.

  2. I always follow up with customers to make sure product arrived & they are pleased with it. I follow up on leads too! To have a newsletter in place is a great way to stay in touch with both groups & keep them up to date on what your company has been up to & future shows. A must do!

    • Absolutely – you have a jump on all those other makers who don’t follow up as they should. Quite often, most sales are made after the initial contact and with ongoing marketing efforts. Good for you!

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