This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….” For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
To make a sale, you need a dialogue, not a monologue.
To date, this series has focused on how to respond to the (usually) innocent but sometimes awkward or even tricky questions people ask us when they are intrigued by our artwork.
I still have questions I want to cover. But I also sense that many of you are “getting it”. You now realize that these moments are not an inconvenience, but an opportunity for you. A chance to have a conversation about your work, and you….and your potential customer!
Yes, them! They know who WE are. Time to find out who THEY are.
So we’ll set aside for now about how to answer the questions about your prices, your process, your website, your galleries.
You’ve gently shifted the questions about your materials into your reasons WHY you choose those materials (in ways that benefit your customers).
You’ve used the questions about your process to share WHY you work the way you do (and how that benefits them). You’ve answered the questions about your subject matter with the reasons WHY you feel drawn to this work, these subjects, these landscapes—and how that lifts YOU, and why it might lift them, too.
You’ve used their questions to direct their attention to another work they may not have noticed, or another piece that tells a similar story.
If they’ve asked for a discount or made an offer that’s not acceptable to you, you’ve used the “No, but if…” response to challenge them gently to commit.
You’ve answered the questions about where you get your ideas, with the story of how you came to be the artist you are today, and where you want to go with that in the future—and how that’s made you a better person in the world, and how that helps OTHERS be better people in the world.
Now there’s a lull in the conversation, but the person is not looking around for a way out, moving away to look at another piece, or saying, “Thank you, I’ll be back!”
There’s more to say, and it’s up to YOU to start this particular conversation.
By asking THEM questions!
Let’s focus on some simple guidelines for the questions YOU will ask.
Every question you ask will be a gentle, light way of finding out what this visitor finds fascinating about your work.
“So I’m curious—what brought you into my booth?” or “So what is the piece in my studio that first got your attention?” “What spoke to you about it?”
From their answer, you can expand into what’s special about that particular work, what it is that supports and justifies their attraction to it: “I’m glad you like that one, it’s one of my favorites because…..” or “You’re right, it’s an unusual piece for me because….”
You’ve explained what you’ve learned about that “first enticing piece”—that it’s not the same for every visitor, that every person has been attracted to different works, for different reasons. There’s an unspoken, non-verbal, unconscious connection between your visitor and that particular piece. And it matters, on a deep level. Let’s find out!
Use open-ended questions. Keep away from questions that can be answered “yes” or “no”.
Instead of saying, “Is this the kind of work you usually collect?”, ask “What kind of work do you usually collect?”
“Are you attracted to a piece for yourself, or are you shopping for a gift?”
Instead of, “Is the price too high?” ask, “What price range are you working with today?” If it’s higher, or lower, show them a similar piece, accordingly. If the price is right, keep moving!
And when it’s obvious they really, really, REALLY love that one piece, and yet they’re still hesitating….
If you’ve done your homework, anticipated their questions, replied in good faith, in an authentic way that’s kept the conversation going…
If you’ve asked YOUR questions…if you’ve determined what it is in your work that’s calling to them…
If, in spite of the connection you’ve made, and the trust you’ve established…
They are still hesitating…..take a moment.
NOW You can quietly, gently, ask:
“What’s holding you back?”
Listen carefully to what they say.
These will be what are known in sales as “objections”. It may be one thing, or several. They may be major concerns, or simple. They may be insurmountable, or easily fixed.
It’s good for us artists to anticipate what these concerns are. Some we may have heard before, and many of us will assume it’s the price. Often, it’s not about the price, though, and “assuming” they can’t afford it can be off-putting for the client. This is why I prefer to simply ask, rather than assume, or guess.
I’ve been astonished by some of the responses I’ve received.
And most—if not all of them–are easily addressed.
Next week, I’ll share some of the objections I’ve received, and how I’ve handled them.
Take some time to make a note on the “objections” you’ve heard (“I love this one, but I hate the frame!” “It’s a little more than I usually spend.” If you don’t see your customers’ usual objections in the list, let me know.
I also know some of you have come up with some wonderful solutions, yourself, to meet these obstacles. Be sure to share them!
Be prepared to respond in a way that moves the conversation forward. (Hint: “Sorry, can’t help you, gotta go” is not a way to do that.)
And remember, even if we can’t find a way around the issue NOW….and they leave without purchasing the work…..
They’ve asked. You’ve engaged. You’ve asked, and they’ve responded.
They know who you are, and they’re intrigued to the point of allllllmost buying something.
Give them your card. Now is the time to refer them to your website. Get their address (email, snail mail), and stay in touch.
Because someday, they really, really will BE BACK!
4 thoughts on “HATERS GONNA HATE: Your Turn to Ask the Questions!”
Really well written and thoughtful. Thanks for the information.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Pam, thank you! Glad I can pay it forward! :^)
Hello Luann…I am sure you can help me spread some light on this question . A member on a Art Quilters page on Facebook I have and I were discussing prices and she stated the following “But – see my newbie attitude affects fair pricing for textiles. When I brought the work in I asked a bit about the pricing – ” Her work is labor intensive , framed beautifully and worth every dollar and more that it is marked because the Gallery? gets 40% ? I feel that as artists that we should not charge less for our work than established artists (not talking about the stars of our field) . But if our work is created well and presented well than the average $1-3 per square inch is well deserved. I work on a combination of two pricing techniques $20 per hour or the per square inch. depending on its intensity.
So my question is Do new artists have to earn Brownie points if our work is already at a good or higher standard?
FGM, there is no single ‘right’ answer for your question. On one hand, people who underprice their work do a disservice, not only to themselves, but also to those other artists who charge a fair price for their labor, materials, reputation, and quality of work. On the other hand, I’ve found that many people new to the trade tend to overestimate their abilities. (I believe you when you say this is not the case for your friend.) And of course, it’s not JUST about the skill and quality, it’s about the AUDIENCE we grow for our work, and the reputation we build as our work becomes more well-known, and more desirable. Many people told me my work was amazing when I first started out, and it certainly was unique. But I cringe when I look back at those early pieces. OTOOH, my work was distinctive and said, “Luann Udell” from the get-go. AND people thought my work was ‘too expensive’ when I charged $18 for a pin. Those pins are now $60-$120–and I sell exactly the same number each year.
So I’d say, if our work isn’t selling, then many factors might contribute to that, INCLUDING we haven’t found your audience yet, and/or we may not have the chops we think we have. If you want to se;l steadily, either examine the prices, AND OR consider bringing your work to a new audience. The internet has made this process easier than it was almost 30 years ago, when I was just starting out.
It’s ALSO true that many, many gallery patrons do not understand that the artist usually gets only 60% to 50%–OR LESS–of the ticket price. And yet selling the item for a lower price in our studios, or online, undercuts our integrity, and undercuts our gallery relationships.
I still struggle with this, too. Greater artists than I bemoan this fact, so it’s not just you, or me, or your friend. Pricing is a sticky wicket to figure out. And here I am, on the West Coast, trying to grow an entirely new audience for my work. Getting into certain respected galleries is a credentialing piece. They introduce my work to an audience who otherwise might now cross my path. We’ll see where I am in seven years, which is about how long it took for me to get a foothold in New England! I wish your friend success, she has a good ally in you!