I am fairly new to festival selling. The last time that I exhibited was 2007 & 2009 as an emerging artist at the Des Moines Art Festival, which is a super festival for sales/attendance. I have to be honest, I got a little spoiled by both the sales and the fact that I really didn't have to do a lot to sell my work. People were just buying.

Now that I am back on the scene here in 2016, I have been to a few smaller festivals (which might be part of the issue), but I am struggling with sales. I get a TON of love your work, so beautiful, wonderful palette, ect. but I can't seem to land the sale.

I did a search for selling techniques here, but I couldn't find anything concrete. The one suggestion that stuck out to me was someone made the comment "Selling isn't Telling" and suggested getting the customer to talk more. Sounded like an AWESOME suggestion, but there were no actual examples of how to do that.

When people come into my booth now, I do start with telling them about the work, but that is not working. Any suggestions on what exactly I might say to get people interacting? Do I say something like "what piece speaks to you" or "what is that piece saying to you" I was hoping someone had some real life suggestions that didn't sound so lame.

Just a few concrete suggestions to get me started would be helpful.

Thank you!


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  • I know for myself, if I walk into a booth and the vendor immediately starts in with questions about what are you looking for, or can I help you find something, it makes me want to stop looking and walk out. It feels pressured to me, and I can tell by the looks on the faces of my own shoppers, if I start talking to them before they've had a chance to look, it has the same effect on them. I let them start looking for say 15 seconds (as someone else mentioned), then I simply say if you have any questions, I'm the artist and I'm here to answer them. Sometimes if they dont look like they are about to run away, I continue by pointing out that these are all originals, oil, watercolor, acrylic, soft pastel. If i have repro's I point them out. All of my prices are on the pieces, because I found that people dont like to ask (I dont either). Some people will just start chatting right away, so it's easy. Some people just smile and keep looking. I am changing my booth set up this year to sit in the back, not the front, so I think that will help keep the pressure off too. I've found that random chatting is sometimes not good, because then the person will take 15 minutes (or more) of your time telling me all about their art life, and life in general, keeping me from talking to new customers walking into the booth. It's a struggle and I'm still learning...

  • Interaction varies at every show, every person. There is no exact formula. The goal is to make the interactions result in sales, preferably on the spot.
  • My daughter and I tag team.  :)  I can say things about her art that she can't say without sounding like she has a big head.  If you don't know what to say the most important thing is to SMILE (Resting Bitch Face doesn't help anyone.)

    Frankly I watch.  I listen.  I comment on the level in which they are on.  

    I had one guy point at something and tell his friend why he didn't like it.  I laughed out loud jumped up and said... "Oh I can see that....because of this reason."  hahahhaa . WE started laughing and I sold him something else.  Now this doesnt ALWAYS happen, but I love the banter of sales and sometimes that is what it takes.  You have to become comfortable in your own shoes and confidence is something everyone is attracted to.

    • I don't sell  anything.

      I merely offer you an opportunity to avail yourself of this fine art... through me... at a great price. Would these two here or those three there, fit your home better? :-)   ;-) 

  • Interesting discussion. Connie, I don't know if you allow links to products (and if so please delete this) but I recently recorded a video course for Interweave called "Sales Success for Artists & Makers - Sell Your Handmade Work at Retail Events" https://www.interweave.com/store/sell-your-handmade-work-at-retail-...

    I completely agree with the earlier comment that Bruce Baker has some great content. I worked with him for years as a speaker for us at The Arts Business Institute, but the last time we spoke the manufacturer who produced his CDs was out of business and he is no longer selling any educational products that have sales strategies.

    That said, there are also a lot of great ideas in this thread that any artist can use. You must be proactive, know your story, and understand how to talk about what you make. Most people will find it fascinating!

  • As far as selling... I don't demonstrate. People tend to not want to bother you. I can't see really who's interested and who's not if I'm demonstrating. I have a hard and fast rule... I don't sit in front of the booth, I sit behind where someone can tell that I'm there but they can't see my face, I have a back door. I may sit so that my foot sticks out or my side is apparent...in other words, they can tell there's someone there. I do not go into my booth unless someone has stayed more than 15 seconds and I count. If they are still there after 15 seconds, I do go into my booth taking care NOT to make eye contact. I have a feather duster in my pocket and I begin dusting my paintings and straightening them. The door is open if they would like to ask questions. I do agree that it's best to just strike up a conservation about the weather, anything. Just a thought.

    Just my opinion, saying, " how does this piece speak to you"..or something similar
    Is offsetting, especially to a man or someone who isn't an artist, just my opinion.
    • At the 2 shows I did recently I began conversations by asking if they been to that show in the past or if it was their first time.

      First time?  Well thank you for coming out.  We love to meet first-timers here.  Thanks for being here.

      Been before?  We love knowing that people love the event enough to come back.  Thanks for being here.

      Either way they are thanked for coming out and know we appreciate them whether they are a newbie or a regular attender.  It sort of broke the ice without being a sales pitch right off the bat.  Then if they took particular interest in something we could continue conversation about it.

      • Precisely, Cindy. It is not about you or your work, unless they are asking you about it, but about them -- "what brings you here today ... " asking questions and listening to the answers. The more you talk, the less you will make the sale. If they are talking the relationship gets started. Here is a podcast I did on that topic: Selling Art Face to Face, http://www.blogtalkradio.com/artfairs/2016/06/22/selling-art-face-t...

  • Brandi, and any one else -- surely hope you'll be listening today (Wed. 5 pm ET) to our podcast where this is THE topic of conversation with a serious expert ... click here to listen: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/artfairs/2016/06/22/selling-art-face-t...

    • Connie - the podcasts are a struggle for me as they are at a specific time. I hope others can join in. I would love to, but I am not available at that time. Will there be notes somewhere or something? Thanks for letting me know anyway! Brandi

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