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.
Make it easy for your customers to make difficult decisions.
In this series, a spin-off of my Haters Gonna Hate series, we explore ways to make that impulse purchase happen. We’ve talked about getting around the issue of price, including the “how” (by creating a layaway plan that works) and the “why” (by explaining the value of your time.)
This week, we’ll discuss another obstacle that people sometimes give when they hesitate about a purchase:
“Will it go with my antique rug/living room wall color/sofa/other collections??”
I’m sure you’re familiar with the pre-internet meme that’s circulated for years: “Art doesn’t have to go with the sofa!”
I get it. Art is…should be….bigger than that. Art should be something spectacular, something you build a room around, not something you match to the décor. Sometimes it’s good to go bold and colorful, edgy and provocative. Art doesn’t always fit in a box.
But truth is, people have their preferences. They have a beloved cheetah patterned-sofa, they have an heirloom rug that’s been in the family for years.
They have their color scheme, and they love it. They have their favorite possessions, and they love them. They have a style they prefer, and that’s okay. They have chewing, scratching pets, or young children, or a spouse with strong opinions. Perhaps they are at the stage where living quarters get smaller. They have NO MORE ROOM for more stuff. And even when they have room, they may simply prefer empty spaces, clear surfaces, bare walls. (WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE??) (Oops…please pretend you didn’t hear that….)
So if your color palette doesn’t align, or your work is delicate, if it takes up a lot of room, or no room at all, if it’s simply not a style that fits in with everything else in their environment, then even if they love love love your work, you may face push-back.
Look, when people shop, even for art, they often hesitate, especially over a major purpose. That’s when questions, and self-doubt about our choices kick in, especially if we didn’t intend to fall in love with an expensive piece of work.
That’s when our lizard brain goes to town. “It’s too expensive, you already have enough art on your walls!” it buzzes. “You have tons more at home just like it!” Or the reverse, “It’s not like anything else you own, it will look weird!” Or, “It’s so fragile, what if I drop it??” Or, “What if it gets dusty/dirty/fades/shrinks/tarnishes???”
And when the lizard brain wins, your potential customer will walk out the door without your work in hand.
That’s why many sales techniques involve urgency: “Going out of business!” “Last one!” “Sale ends today!” Or massive pressure, or any other techniques we hesitate to use (and rightly so!) when engaging with our audience. We aren’t selling used cars here. (Although one artist friend said it would be a lot easier, and more lucrative!)
The power of asking what’s holding them back is in finding out what their lizard brain is telling them. And responding in ways that are logical, that are truthful, and that reflect our integrity.
In the case of will-it-go-with-the-sofa, a woman fell in love with a wall hanging in my booth at a show. She’d seen it before, but this time she’d made the decision to purchase the piece.
But as we discussed the work, I noticed she was resistant to me actually closing the sale. I made the mistake of assuming it was about the price. No, she replied, she was fine with that. We both looked at the work in silence.
Finally, very gently, I asked her, “What’s holding you back?”
And she confessed that she had a treasured antique rug in her living room, where she planned to hang the piece.
She was afraid it would clash with the rug.
I asked her about the rug’s colors and pattern. I spoke about the antique, vintage, and recycled fabrics in the piece, noting that the slightly subdued palette would go with the rug. She still hesitated.
Who woulda thunk that working with OLD fabrics would be a powerful selling point??
Finally, I said, “I know this piece will shine in your living room. Do you live in the area?” (Many vacationers attend this show.) Yes, she said.
“Then here’s what I can do for you. Take the hanging home with you. I’ll take your credit card number, fill out a slip. I WILL NOT RUN the slip until you make up your mind. If it doesn’t work, bring it back, and we’ll tear up the slip. Then you can commission one in your choice of colors. If I DON’T hear from you by the last day of the show, I will run your credit card for the purchase.”
This worked. Greatly relieved, she agreed.
I had the security of her credit card. I also wrote the agreement in my notebook, and she signed. (You can do the same thing with a check, of course. And you can text them a copy of the agreement, too.)
In past discussions, some artists have let the patron take the work home with no deposit. I was ripped off once (admittedly, a relatively small amount), and I hesitate to do that again. But sometimes, that amount of trust in a potential buyer is powerful. That’s up to you.
But even with this secured method, the trust element is huge. She was amazed, even honored, I was giving her a way to set her mind at ease.
I wrapped up the item for her. And as she turned to leave, she leaned in to me and whispered, “I don’t think I’ll be bringing it back!”
And she didn’t.
Does this always work? Nope. But when it does….!!
I waited five very long days to deposit that check. But when the last day came, and it was obvious she was, indeed, not bringing that artwork back, it felt wonderful.
Especially because it was a pretty big check!