Case 1: Last summer, I had a woman come into the gallery after having received a copy of our Art Catalogue. She and her husband were nearing the end of a long remodel of their home in Paradise Valley (Arizona’s version of Beverly Hills). She was now starting to think about artwork for the home. I spent some time getting to know her and trying to discover her tastes.
This kind of sales prospect can pose some real challenges. The client was obviously interested and had the resources to make a purchase. However, she wasn’t quite ready to buy – she was still a couple of months away from the end of the remodel. As you probably already know, it’s far easier to make an immediate sale than to keep the fire burning in a potential buyer who can’t make a purchase right away.
After the client left, I immediately dashed off a quick thank-you email and started working on putting together images I felt might be of interest to her.
After our initial meeting, the client and I exchanged dozens of emails. She visited the gallery several times, including a visit with her husband. I took artwork out to her home. Four or five months passed from the time we first met to the time when we finally helped her make her first purchase (3 pieces, totaling over $10,000).
Over the course of the next 12 months we sold another $8,000 worth of art to her through follow up.
Case 2: About a month ago, I had a couple come into the gallery at Art Walk (which we hold every Thursday evening in Scottsdale). The couple is from the Chicago area and is also completing a remodel. They expressed interest in several pieces we have on display. I obtained their email addresses and promised to send them images of the pieces.
The next day, I sent an email with images, dimensions, and pricing of the pieces. When I didn’t hear anything back for a week, I sent another email, and a week later, another. This last week, I sent a fourth email, this time including some additional information about the artist. On Friday, I finally received an email from the husband in return. He thanked me for my emails and said they are still working on the remodel and acquiring furniture. They are still interested in the ceramics. I will continue to follow up until the sale is closed.
Case 3: Several years ago, I had a client come into the gallery and express interest in a particular piece of artwork. As in the two cases above, I followed up diligently with emails and notes. I contacted the client 10-12 times without ever receiving a response in return. Finally, after months of trying, I got an email back saying something like “Thanks for following up, but we’re not interested in buying the piece right now. We’ll contact you if that changes.”
All three of these cases illustrate the importance and challenge of good follow up and of persistence. We all love it when we make an immediate sale – when someone walks in, sees a piece of art, and makes an instant purchase. These sales are easy and gratifying. Often, however, a sale takes prolonged effort. If you are only closing immediate sales and letting the long-term sales fall through the cracks, you are missing out on a potentially huge part of your business.
I understand the temptation to abandon a sale that drags on. You might feel that it’s simply too much work when a good percentage of these follow-up efforts result in nothing. You might be afraid you are irritating your customers. You might simply not have a good system in place to keep track of your customers and their interests.
I would argue that these are poor excuses for letting potential collectors forget about your work. Today, I want to give you three tips that will help you better follow up with your clients.
#1. Develop a Follow-Up System
You will be far more likely to do good follow-up if you have a system in place that makes it easy. I’ve used many systems over the years. My current system is very simple. I use todoist.com to manage my task lists. When I make a new contact that requires follow-up, I put a recurring task into todoist that pops up every week, reminding me to contact the client again. I include all of the client’s contact information right in the task so that it’s very easy for me to quickly dash off a note.
You might do the same thing by writing the client’s info on a note card (which is what I have done in the past). Once a week, go through all of your note cards to get in touch with your current batch of prospects.
Do something that makes sense for you and is simple. The simpler it is, the more likely you are to follow through.
When you consider the lifetime value of a collector who ends up buying multiple pieces from you, the cost of a failure to follow-up is staggering
I have found that weekly contact works best for me. More frequent than that, and it tips into being annoying. Less frequently, and your clients will lose interest.
#2. Be Religious About Your Follow-Up
A follow-up system only works if you apply it 100% of the time. Sales is a numbers game. Out of all of the people who express interest in your work, only a percentage are going to end up buying. The catch is that you don’t know which people will end up coming through with a purchase. If you aren’t following up with every single potential buyer, you are going to lose sales. It’s that simple. Moreover, when you consider the lifetime value of a collector who ends up buying multiple pieces from you, the cost of a failure to follow up is staggering.
#3. Provide Valuable Information in Your Follow-Up Communications.
I have heard artists object to persistent follow-up campaigns. They say that pestering the client is unprofessional and they feel that it degrades their position as artist, making them look, instead, like a used car salesperson. Poorly-crafted follow up might do just this, but if you engineer your follow-up communication to provide valuable information, the client won’t find your efforts annoying.
In my book, How to Sell Art, I lay out very specific information and give examples of good follow-up communications. It’s not my intention to recap all of those details here, but, in brief, you should include the following information, scattered throughout your follow-up communications:
Image of relevant artwork
Story about the creation of the artwork
Testimonials from clients who have bought your work in the past
Press clippings about your work
Interesting information about the subject matter (for example, if the client is interested in a landscape, you could include information about the locale)
Not every follow-up attempt is going to result in a sale – many won’t, but I can promise you will see an increase in sales if you consistently follow these three simple tips (feel free to send me commission for every sale you make using this advice!)
These same principles apply not only to your direct customers, but to other contacts you make. You should mount follow-up campaigns with galleries that have expressed interest in your work. You should be persistent with journalists or other writers who express interest in writing a story about you and your work.
A final note. It’s never too late to try to rekindle a follow-up fire. Even if some time has passed since a client expressed interest in your work, you’ve got nothing to lose by attempting to reestablish communication. At worst you will be ignored or discover the client isn’t interested, but there’s a chance you will re-spark interest and move toward a sale.
I invite you to reach out today and make a follow-up contact with someone who has expressed interest in your work.
What has your experience been when you’ve followed up with customers? What are your concerns and doubts about following up? Share your experiences, thoughts, and questions in the comments below.