Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

There have been numerous discussions on here, wherein artists complain about "salesmanship" type talk. Or having to speak with the prospective customers.

Some have claimed the "work must speak for itself"... Wrong!

We are in competition out there. Not just other artists but big box stores, galleries, buy/sell, cheap imports, the internet and low quality suppliers. As well as other forms of pleasure and reward the potential customer can acquire.

Too many do not understand that we are selling ourselves.  People do not come to an Art Fair to buy the items cheaper, than they can in a big store.  While some are collectors or seek the truly different creation from a talented artist, they can get that at a gallery. Instead, most want to meet the artist. When they purchase, they are buying a part of the artist. If you can't sell them on yourself, you likely wont have good sales. If only an artist, then just supply the galleries and let them do the selling. However if you want to succeed at the Art Fairs, then learn to speak with the prospect, using the correct verbiage / speech,  mannerisms, presentation, psychology and guidance that will result in sales. 

Some might claim they make sales without talking to the customer. well, perhaps they made a certain amount of sales with that method. However they absolutely would have made far more sales by applying the correct sales techniques and speaking with the customer.

Are you a completely self taught artist? In learning your art craft, have you never taken advice, researched techniques, studied, had classes? Of course you did. Well perhaps understanding why that was necessary will get some to understand they should do such with their salesmanship also.

Some comment they "can't stand sales speech". Those complainers are only recognizing poorly chosen sales speech. All of us have purchased things we do not need due to good sales techniques.  All can be sold. So increase your market share. Raise your sales results. Increase that bottom line. Learn how to be a salesperson... it's part of the job.

For those offended by the non-neutral terminology - I was not about to write "salespersonship" :-)

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I would add the thought that when we exhibit at a show, we represent not only ourselves and our work, but also the show as a whole. My wife and I also attend art and craft shows and we get to see  those shows the way the other  show goers do.  When we see an exhibitor making no attempt to hide boredom, or one who is bent over his/her phone or iPad, showing no interest in those people in front of the booth, it leaves a  bad impression.  And if you are not even in your booth, that is even worse. I make it a point to  stay alert to those passing my booth, as hard as it can be after several hours. A friendly "Hello" or  Good Morning" to those  folks strolling by takes no great effort, and can pay  off in  good will and sometimes even sales. After all, if it is a large show, and there are lots of attendees, it is easy   for people to miss your booth in the stream of traffic, or if their eye has been caught by a booth  across from you. My favorite example of a "ghost" exhibitor was a ceramic artist at a Smithsonian  Craft Show  I did a few years ago.   The second day, as I passed the booth, I heard a noise from the rear of the booth and I realized that the exhibitor had set up a small hidey hole  with drape in a far corner, and was  hiding out there. Over a period of 4 days, I never once laid eyes on the exhibitor.  Did her stuff sell itself?

I agree with giving a hello/good morning with a quick smile to those passing by.  Who knows, maybe hey are making a quick run to the restroom and will make their way back to your booth.  That smile and greeting may be the only one they get!

I have also gone into booths with the artist there with head buried in a book or eyes glued to the phone.  I will give them enough time to greet me.  This type usually does not.  There are some occasions where I saw things I was really interested in buying buy I chose not to due to their lack of interest in their customer—-ME.  Most of the time in this situation in walk out without even any acknowledgement, not even a head nod.  That is sad.  I figure these are the one complaining about NO sales the whole weekend.

My favorite "ghost exhibitor" was a painter at Elk Camp (Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation) gathering at the Reno Hilton.  A woman painter across the aisle from us asked if we would watch her booth one morning while she took a break. No Problem, but she was gone the rest of the day. We passed her downstairs when we went home at 5:00pm and she was busy playing the slots. 

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