HOW TO sell your artwork
"Companies have simply not known what makes one man able to sell and another not."
--Harvard Business Review on "What Makes a salesman"
Selling your art may prove to be even more challenging than creating it. You don't really control it anymore at this point and you might not really want to speak to others about it, but every serious artist has to find a way to pay the bills. And if art can pay the bills (or at least some of them), then you've reached a level of success some of the masters never even got to in their lifetime.
We've researched and compiled what makes a good salesperson an narrowed down the essentials for artists trying to sell their work.
1) KNOW YOUR PRODUCT
It's your own product, so of course, why wouldn't you know it? Well, do you know other artists who paint in a similar style? And not just the greats like Monet, but do you know contemporary Impressionist painters? Do you know their Instagram handles to rattle off to someone who asks, "who else's work do you like"? How does your work compare to their's? What type of paints do other people use versus the brand you use? What's the difference? What markets of people buy your type of art? Can you go on Etsy and Saatchi or are you better off just using one of them?
The real point of this is to empathize with your buyers. Something drew them to your finished piece, now see if the process or inspiration draws them in even more. Maybe an accountant or a lawyer will identify with the painstaking process of alcohol-based ink and how much of the hard work is actually out of the artist's hands (much like a court decision).
2) DON'T MAKE IT A HARD SELL. BE WILLING TO ACCOMMODATE.
Heavy sales pitches make people uncomfortable and feel bullied. You don't want to come off like a carnival ringmaster and force a piece of art on someone who is quietly walking by (but by all means, reach out with a gentle "Hello," if they walk by a few times).
You have to approach the successful sale as a win-win situation for you and your buyer. It's a "how can I help you?" instead of "what can I get you?"
If someone is drawn in by your work, see what aspects of it speak to them and offer your vision of their ideas (possible commission? Or even just a future piece in your gallery of work.)
Always be ready to make a deal, especially lowering the price if they buy multiple pieces or if you see them considering going from the $30 print to the $200 actual painting.
3) Good salesman always follow-up. Build personal relationships.
Effective sales are long-game. You don't have to sell it right this moment. Have sign-up sheets ready to collect email addresses, get/give business cards. Don't let the conversation you started end at the show.
Have your phone ready and maybe invite them to like your page on Facebook or follow them on Instagram while you're engaged in the passion of talking about your work.
Again, show how your art and their world is connected.
4) LISTEN and care
Art, despite how we feel as artists, is not an essential buy for people like dinner or a windshield wiper. So you need to show why it's a strong want.
Of course it's an art show and the center piece is your artwork, but the buyer needs to express himself as well.
Genuinely listen and care about their opinions or thoughts and don't try to "correct" them if they have an opinion that isn't quite in line with your vision. Here's a good deflection and re-route:
"It looks like circles."
"Yeah, exactly. The configuration of the circles is actually based on the architecture of St. Petersburg (pulls out phone). Here's the aerial shot that inspired me."
View your buyer's successes and positive associations with art as your own. NEVER sully a potential buyer's artistic experience, no matter how condescending of a view you have on it.
"I went to a neighbor's paint nite and I hung the seashell painting in my den."
"That's one of the hardest parts of creating art: embracing it enough to let it be viewed. Tell me what you liked about it so much."
"I really like Thomas Kinkade."
"He certainly influenced art-collecting for a generation. What is it about his work do you think people gravitate towards?"
5) BE ON YOUR "A" GAME
Sales is similar to performing on-stage, therefore you have be "on." You have to be confident. Dress in your power outfit. Maybe that's a tailored Banana Republic suit with Louboutins, although probably not. Maybe it's a vintage 90s Courtney Love dress---the point is to play the part you want to be so you're most confident in presenting.
Also, get enough sleep. Artists are notorious night owls and caffeine addicts, it'll show in your skin and your lack of pep if you're cranky and aren't in the right mindset to talk about your art.