how you sell work

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by omalley, May 3, 2005.

  1. omalley

    omalley Member

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    I'd like to know what are your methods of approaching potential buyers at an opening. Here's what I usually do, and it doesn't work very well for some reason. It could partially be that New Yorkers are tight-lipped and constantly suspicious of people approaching them, I don't know. What I do is go up to people, and say, "thanks for coming. If you have any questions I'd love to talk to you about the work". People tend to nervously say,"okay, thanks," and then try to escape.
    Another method I have used is just standing around smiling and nodding at people, not saying anything unless approached. Doesn't work for me either.
    Worst of all is when the owner takes me around, introducing me to everybody, proclaiming loudly (to my embarassment) "this is the artist!"
    I am not an intimidating looking person, and I try to dress appropriately for openings and make sure my breath is fresh. What is my problem here?
    My work is kind of weird, so maybe people are afraid I am some creepy crackpot or something.
     
  2. argus

    argus Member

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    Try to look like your work?

    G
     
  3. B-3

    B-3 Member

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    Good question - the answer will probably differ from artist to artist, and then from venue to venue (some have a "friendlier" atmosphere than others), but it does seem that one wants to strike a certain balance. Accessible, but not intrusive. I think people will pick up on your general comfort level too. If you're nervous and uncomfortable, then they will feel uncomfortable. So... hang out in the corner enjoying the free wine? :smile:

    I'm sure there are others here who have far more experience than I do.
     
  4. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    My customers walk in off the street - it's a retail environment and our gallery provides a small respite from the "normal" shops which surround us.

    However, I also face the same problems you are describing - what do you say to open the dialogue? (Remember, my gallery is permanent and there are no "openings".)

    First up, I smile and greet them from my desk as they walk through the door. I then give them a lot of room and time to walk around. After several minutes, I approach them and ask if I can offer any further information about the photos (all prints have "captions" underneath them now - as of two weeks ago).

    About 50% ask questions and I listen carefully to what they have to say. I will base my conversation on their lead - if they want to talk about digital photography, we talk about digital photography. If they want to talk about the beautiful light of the area I live in, that's what we talk about. I never ask them if they will buy my work - that's in their body language.

    I talk with enthusiasm about the work I do. I smile and I joke with them as if they are friends who I haven't met yet. That attitude works better than any sales pitch I've come across.

    In short, I actively listen and respond to their prompts.

    Cheers,
     
  5. panchromatic

    panchromatic Member

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    I think this is a very good description of salesmanship in general. I sell digital cameras for a living (a sin i know...) but usually I begin with simple questions on there usage, skill level, previous experience to kinda get an idea as to what they are looking for. If they want a 7 megapixel camera, i find out why and lead them in the direction that benefits them. Of course since i play with these all day they usually ask my guidence and with the information they have given me ususally there is something that meets there goals.
     
  6. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    I think Graeme's approach would make me, as a gallery visitor, more at ease than other approaches. However, I think I'm enough like other people that my wariness of being 'sold' something, or feeling that I shouldn't be 'just looking' instead of regarding what I'm looking at as something I should consider purchasing, that I may be representative of many. In short...people really like to 'just look' and feeling, however unfairly, that they're being 'sold to' is unwelcome. I think people feel that they can far more easily rationalize buying clothes, or electronics, or housewares etc than they can rationalize buying 'art'. So...I imagine the 'just looking' to 'looking to buy' ratio must be highly skewed toward not buying in galleries. Part of the territory I suppose.
     
  7. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    Openings are very strange events. At least half the people are there to be seen, not to view the art.

    I tend not to want to speak to people when I'm looking. If I want to ask something, I am neither shy nor worried about sounding a blithering idiot :cool:

    My wife is almost incapable of passing work she likes without talking to the author. Since she is a very positive critic, I think everyone enjoys the conversation.

    I wish we had the wall space and funds to buy more. It would help if we were selling more of our own work, I suppose!
     
  8. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    Graeme has it right! It is more a matter of listenting to what the person is saying, and not trying to sell them. Be friendly. listen, and give information. Or if you see them enjoying one photo in particular, talk about any experiences that were different about taking that picture. Be a story teller, not a salesperson. NO ONE likes the hard sell. Also watch for que's that they would like to be left alone. Give them space to explore. After a while you will be able to size up a person from the way they walk around a gallery, as to what approach or leave them alone stance you should use. Above all, Smile.
     
  9. mark

    mark Member

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    When I am in a gallery I really do not want to talk to the artist. In my opinion the work should speak for itself. On the other hand if I find something interesting or have a question I would like to find the artist and ask them, unfortunately they don't wear signs or are not around.

    I don't go to openings anymore because most folks there irritate me-especially those who want to be seen and wear silly artist wanna be clothes. I think Graeme's method obviously works great in a retail setting but in an opening it might work too
     
  10. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    Something I forgot to mention: if somebody doesn't like my photos they will not buy them, regardless of the approach I use. Sounds obvious, I know, but that's the reality.

    My pictures do their own selling (or not), I'm only there to answer questions and make friends ....
     
  11. NikoSperi

    NikoSperi Member

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    Disclaimers: I have NO experience on the sell side of the photography

    Just a thought, but is it possible that the photographer might be the worst person to sell his own photographs? Without stretching the truth or indeed blatantly lying (say, about the author having suddenly given up all form of imaging), many potential buyers are looking for the vindicating push of the trend setter or similarly authorative opinion. Perhaps one should deny even being the photographer in the gallery in order to provide that comforting ideal that "someone other than the author" thinks this is valid work.
    Thoughts?
     
  12. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    I can't see dishonesty being a valid policy to sell your work. I like to form a relationship with the buyer, so starting off with a lie is counterproductive to future sales, assuming you make one in the first instance.
     
  13. John Bartley

    John Bartley Member

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    I have NO experience selling art in any form. I have decades of experience in retail sales and service. My experience is this :

    1) Not everyone is cut out for sales. If you're not comfortable it shows and that discomfort transfers to the customer - find someone to sell for you.

    2) People HATE being "pushed" almost as much as they dislike being ignored. I've always made it a point to say "hi" to customers when they came in, then left them alone until the body language said that they had a question.

    3) Most customers (at least the ones I liked to deal with), hated BS. Just answer the questions in an honest straightforward manner and then quit talking. The ones who "needed" a push (and almost anyone can be "pushed") weren't always the best customers later on down the road.

    4) If you're the one selling, the easiest way to make a sale "when the time comes" is to ask for it. "Yes Ma'am, I'm glad you like this item, may/can I sell it to you?" When the sale is over - say "Thank you" very clearly. Customers like to be appreciated.

    Just my $0.02

    cheers
     
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  15. NikoSperi

    NikoSperi Member

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    No, I wasn't saying that. That was just for the sake of exageration. I was wondering if it wasn't better for the photographer NOT to be involved in the marketing and salemanship, but rather be distanced from the work to provide (by his absence) a sort of second neutral opinion that the work is valid.
     
  16. NikoSperi

    NikoSperi Member

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    Who exactly is the one forming a "relationship" with the buyer? The Graeme that offers the wine glass and the canned smile at the gallery, or the one that spends lonely hours on a hilltop waiting through the night to catch those epic lightning strikes on film? Can you be good at both? And more importantly, do you want to be?
     
  17. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    Niko,

    You suggested denying being the photographer or in some other way misrepresenting one's relationship with the photographs. I call that dishonesty, but you are free to disagree.

    As I mentioned earlier, my gallery is essentially my retail outlet. There are no "openings" with wine and canned smiles. We open 6 days a week during normal retail hours. Much as I'd like to give out wine to all our customers, I think the Liquor Licensing Board might have a thing or two to say about it. I'm the same person in the gallery as I am when I'm out making photos, running workshops or at home with the family (or for that matter, typing over the internet).

    Anyway, enough of my defencive stance. My wife runs the gallery for 6 hours a day, Monday to Friday. She doesn't have any better sales ratio than I do, even though I'm intimately involved with each photo (which is why I stated the photos sell themselves). She is a good example of the "slightly disassociated" person who is trying to sell my work. Neither of us have ever worked in retail before this venture - we simply interact with customers in the same manner as we would with anyone - as friends.

    Do I want to be good at marketing my work? You bet!!! Then both my wife and I can make a full time living from it (only she does at the moment).

    Cheers,
     
  18. chuck94022

    chuck94022 Subscriber

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    I too do not sell photos for a living, but I have been a potential customer in a gallery. Does that count?

    Here is what I think: If you approach a random person at the opening and ask them if they have any questions, that is certainly intimidating. The reason is that many folks might not feel educated about the art and might feel that they'd be asking a dumb question. After all, you are the guy with your name up on the wall. Plus, they don't know you, so there is the natural intimidation of starting a conversation with them on your terms rather than theirs (you are setting the terms by basically saying "ask me a question").

    I think there are a couple of other approaches to put them at ease. If you really want to engage someone at random, or the gallery owner introduces you, ask them something on their turf, like "I'm so glad you came - how did you hear about my show?" and then follow with simple questions like "what kind of photography do you like?". If you want to qualify them as a buyer, you might ask "what kind of photography have you purchased in the past?"

    If you want to start with a "warm" customer, you might hang back and wait until you see someone lingering over a photo. Then approach them, introduce yourself, and rather than ask them to ask you a question, perhaps volunteer some information about the photo - why you took the shot, or perhaps an interesting story about taking the shot "I took this shot right before the truck drove through, hit a puddle, and drenched me and the camera!" - tell a story that makes you human in their eyes, rather than the Very Important Guy with his name on the wall.

    Anyway, just my thoughts...
     
  19. Mateo

    Mateo Subscriber

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    I don't sell pictures for a living but I've had more than a couple of openings and here are my thoughts:
    1. I hate openings and am happy if the car breaks down on the way there
    2. Drink something early and often until you don't care that the car didn't break down
    3. Become more interested in the possibility of seeing something nice in a little black dress
    Don't know if this will help you sell something but who likes a salesman anyways?
     
  20. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    LOL, Mateo, I can see you being quoted in some magazine about this is how to deal with gallery openings. This whole thread seems to be headed that way.
     
  21. chuck94022

    chuck94022 Subscriber

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    And what magazine might that be, Emulsion maven... :smile:
     
  22. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    Naw not me, we are about the nuts and bolts of doing and portfolios of those who do. I leave the marketing to B&W and others that are good at it.
     
  23. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    Chuck,

    As a potential buyer, you are the most qualified person on the forum to answer this question . I hope others chime in too.

    Thanks for your thoughts. I'll think most carefully about your answer.

    Cheers,
     
  24. NikoSperi

    NikoSperi Member

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    I have to say I'm surprised by your defensive stance. I don't believe I said anything warranting that, but sorry if I did.

    My "wonderings" concern the formation of opinion. As idealist as we tend to be as individuals, believing we are able to decide for ourselves what to wear, what to listen to, and what art to buy, the truth of the matter is otherwise. You will have trend-setters, early adopters or some other catchy term used by marketeers. They are the ones who form an opinion and act as leaders which many of the followers use to "form" their own opinion.

    In this marketing context (that's what the thread was about, no?), is it possible for the creator to efficiently act as the trend-setter? Or is it more effective to have a third party between the artist and the potential buyer that can be seen as "independently" validating the customer's purchase? A buyer, daunted by the unknown value of a piece, would be comforted by a critic writing positively for example. Even more so if a friend of the buyer could say, "Hey, I bought one for X." Or if a gallery having bought the artists work for resale... etc etc. The artist can not offer that independent validation the buyer is seeking, just as Nike or Quicksilver can not offer that validation to their customers. Of course they will say their surfer shorts are the hippest etc. They lack that certain "credibility" by being too close to the product. Instead, they (try to) cultivate a group of opinion formers and trend setters, who then evangelize to the followers while appearing to be independent (sponsorship as an example).
    That's the only question I was trying to raise. Is this approach, widely applied to the consumerist world, applicable to art?
     
  25. David

    David Member

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    It seems that the approach is applied to art in that people are often compared to sheep in their tendency to follow. A good marketer would, of course, attempt to put a trendsetter in a positive light. Art, on the other hand, at least to me, should rise above this hustle and come from a place of purity (not necessarily in a moral way but a single-hearted sort of way). I would love to have my work sell and become popular, but not at the expense of charlantry or sales propoganda. If art is meant to inspire and if it comes from a place within then isn't that enough? The approach you are suggesting seems to smack of manipulation which ultimately causes resentment and cheapens the true value of the art into a 'how many' or 'how much' business. A person may live in more economic ease doing so but I would think that the process of attempted influence, be it overt or covert, would diminish the artist. We must each find our own way.
     
  26. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    Hi Niko,

    I think I assumed you were attacking me personally with the message:
    No matter which way I look at it, you appear to imply hypocrisy on my part. You have implied that I deal with people differently when I'm selling my work to when I'm out making photographs.

    Such an affront is bound to prompt me to defend my integrity, hence the defencive stance.

    There is principle tenant through which I live my life: Treat others as you would like to be treated. You might do well to heed that advice too unless, of course, you prefer to be duped into buying something of little value by a sneaky photographer's agent.

    Regards,