“May I help you?”
“No thanks, I’m just looking.”
That’s the drill, right? If this is your opening line when a shopper walks in to your booth, it’s time to change your strategy.
Many artists have little or no idea how to really interact with retail customers. Art school never taught these skills, and it’s not always intuitive. Many times, the artist gets tongue-tied at fairs and festivals, or ends up hiding behind a book instead.
Despite what you may have heard (or what you believe), art does not sell itself. Gallery owners and their staff know this well. They make it a priority to know how to talk with shoppers, and you can learn these skills as well.
To be a good salesperson of your art, you need to be able to speak about it. Your work is a visual presentation, and you deliver the spoken one. You must be able to sell your work, not just showing it. When a customer walks into your space, it is your opportunity to make a connection. When you use authentic and conversational language to engage and relate to them, you start that connection.
When someone buys your art, they are buying a piece of your creative spirit. This means that they need to understand what you do, and why it matters. Give them a bit of compelling information about your work or your technique to draw them in, but also give them space to see your work without crowding them or jumping in too aggressively.
Any question that shoppers ask is a great starting place to move forward with the sale. Even if you have more than one person in your booth, take that as an opportunity to speak about your work, drawing in others who are browsing.
For example, “This stoneware casserole has been fired to high temperatures in the kiln, which makes it ovenproof. You can cook a meal in the casserole and take it right to the table for a beautiful presentation. That makes it very convenient when you are giving a dinner party.”
This statement shares a benefit to the customer of owning your work – convenience and great table presentation. Since customers care deeply how their purchases affect them, it’s important to stay focused on their needs. At the same time, understand and be able to convey the added value of your work. It’s handmade, it may consist of upcycled materials, or be locally made. It may have a whole set of tableware to match. It could be a fabulous wedding gift, and so on.
During the conversation with your customer, if at all possible, place the item in their hand. Touch increases the chance for a sale exponentially. Let them feel the weight, texture and quality of your work. Handing them the piece also conveys a sense of ownership. And if you are selling jewelry, clothing or accessories, encourage them to try on the item they are considering.
Meanwhile, respond to any questions in a positive and helpful way. There are no stupid questions, no matter how many times you have heard them. If a customer wants to know more, that is a green light for you to continue with the sale and could very well lead to your wrapping up their purchase.
When the sale is made, make sure that your package includes information about your work, and how to contact you in the future. And, get their information as well. Ask if you can stay in touch with them about new art you are creating, and put them on your email marketing list. Customers who have already bought from you are much easier to sell a second time.