by Carolyn Edlund
Selling to a business client? Understanding your target customer’s needs will help you close the sale.
Sometimes, your ideal customer isn’t a person, it’s a business. Many artists pursue “business to business” (B2B) sales exclusively, or in addition to making “business to consumer” (B2C) sales. Commercial sales channels offer a plethora of opportunities.
When selecting art for commercial projects, one thing clients have in common is that they are not making an emotional buy. Although they may personally love your work, they will not select it if it’s not a perfect fit for their needs. Sometimes these customers need a special piece, and will commission it, such as the artwork shown above by painter Tom Hanson, created specifically for a bank lobby.
What do business customers value?
Businesses are looking for providers who understand their needs, and can work effectively to fulfill them. They have budgets and deadlines to meet, and sometimes clients of their own with particular expectations. Artists who want to pursue B2B clients should understand this going in. Key to gaining this type of customer is demonstrating that you are trustworthy and flexible and can deliver what they need on time.
If you are willing to offer extra services (such as installation), all the better. Rather than thinking of yourself as a vendor, become a collaborator, and provide results that impress. This will help you gain repeat and referral customers.
Know your best sales channel
Artists in B2B sales may work in the corporate channel, selling to interior designers, art advisors, art consultants, architects, building managers or even curators. You may want to solicit these prospects and present artwork that is suitable for corporate interiors such as offices, lobbies, healthcare settings, hotels, restaurants and other hospitality environments.
Artists who license to manufacturers often design for products, enhancing their appeal to help them sell. Artwork that is chosen for this purpose must be an excellent fit for the client’s target audience. If you pursue this channel, be prepared to work as a team player who is adaptable and willing to hit tight deadlines.
The wholesale marketplace is a B2B channel perfect for artists and makers with production capabilities. Your original products are sold outright to retailers who mark them up for sale in shops, boutiques or even online. The wholesale business model thrives on strong consumer demand and repeat orders from retailers.
If your work is represented by a gallery, you are likely dealing with a business that serves both consumers and other businesses. Gallery owners and managers often search for commercial accounts of their own, and may act as art consultants. They typically take a commission on consigned work, but may handle custom projects as well.
Plan for success
To enter a B2B market sector, do your research to understand those potential customers. What do they need most? What are their greatest concerns? Can you overcome objections from this prospect? What is their typical timeline?
As you come to understand your sector well, you can adjust your marketing to fit the specific customer. You will be able to speak their language and create presentations that make impact. If you are selling to a B2B audience, your art website should reflect that focus. Use images, written content and testimonials that show your professionalism and credibility in your chosen niche. This also places you in a position to sell consultatively, since you know your own work best and can make recommendations or offer ideas to these clients.