How to Talk to a Customer

I spent many years in sales so I tend to use these techniques automatically. Sales is not particularly natural for me, I’ve just spent a lot of time in roleplay for sales situations. Sales is not a terrible thing. A salesperson can’t sell you something you don’t want and won’t likely try to trick you, but an unscrupulous salesperson might. Someone needs to sell your artwork so you had better be able to do it yourself, or at least recognise someone who can. When you are talking to a potential buyer here are some tips.

“So, you like my painting!” this isn’t actually a question. I think you should be able to recognise a real interest.
First of all, “thank you”.
“Is there something that you like that jumps out at you?” “Do you like the colours or the subject or the water or…?” I believe you need to get a prospective buyer to think about what they like about your artwork, because they probably don’t know themselves. “Thank you, I had trouble with the water” (just tell it like it is). “I couldn’t decide if I should paint it like I thought it should be or paint it like I saw it”. Get into a conversation (a short conversation) and try to get as much information as you give. Don’t talk to them about ART. They don’t care about ART, they like YOUR painting and they are thinking about buying YOUR PAINTING.

Most artists (me included) hate talking to non-artists about their work and ‘selling it’; hell would be preferable. If someone wants to buy your work then ask them why and be honest about wanting to hear the answer. Let them tell you why they would like to wake up to your work every day. If you realise that they shouldn’t be buying it then don’t be afraid to try to talk them out of it; remember, they want it. Don’t talk about price (unless they ask) and never discount your price because if you do you can never go back. Let them persuade you to sell it to them, but don’t be too hard about this, just remember that you do want their money. I don’t think you can talk too much about the work that they are thinking about buying, so long as the customer continues to ask questions. Art is different than a widget, it doesn’t do anything or save money or make life easier, but it might help your customer appreciate life more. Your customer wants your work so don’t be afraid to stand back a little and let the work speak for itself. If you talk too much, you can talk yourself out of a sale.

Never be afraid of talking to a potential customer. Remember you are the crazy artist and your customer believes that they could never produce anything like your work so in many ways it doesn’t matter what you say; just be polite and thankful. Don’t ask them to buy it because it will be interpreted poorly, but it’s OK to tell them how and direct them where. THEN LEAVE.

Sales is a balancing act so everyone should read at least one book on salesmanship. I recommend Zig Ziglar’s books and recordings.


Some links:

Look up Zig Ziglar on Google or YouTube. He wrote a number of books, choose one relating specifically to sales. He is a good speaker if you can stand his speaking style. Unfortunately, most of the ‘sales’ speakers are lumped in and confused with motivational speakers. A good salesperson is always positively motivated.

The worst book and movie bar none is “Death of A Salesman”. Read or watch it at your peril.
This one is very specifically about selling a product but I don’t see how it could be compared to selling art. Think about it, you might find a way.