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" :-)

Views: 911

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

From my 65 plus years professional experience it all starts with eye contact and "hello". Thereafter, your research on sales techniques kick in.  Besides salesmanship, artists need to research and study management and accounting for their medium to enjoy success IMHO. Being a "jack of all trades" also makes life easier from changing tires on the road to making tent weights.

Yes, but caution with the "direct eye contact". Know when to use and when not to. People can be made uncomfortable with direct eye contact, when not used properly.  Our body language is a part of the sales methodology.

I think the eye contact is more important out west, but I have never ventured that far east of Colorado (KS) for shows.

People become uncomfortable when that eye contact lasts a little too long.  I have experienced it in a situation in a different situation.  The other person and I made eye contact and he held it a bit too long.  Made me want to skedaddle ... linger and look at what he was selling.

I read all of Zig Ziglar's books after a neighbor at a show, a very pleasant guy, engaged just about everyone looking at his furniture/woodworking. I remember his saying as a patron walked back past his booth with someone else's work that he was unhappy with himself, that he hadn't done a good enough job with the patron. He (Lance Munn and his wife Vicki) said they listened to encouraging sales CDs on their way to each show.

Motivation, positive attitude and outlook are important. Understanding the psychology of sales is paramount. Each word has a purpose... both spoken and unspoken. I don't ask them to buy. Why not? Because they might say no. Questions are asked that will have a positive response. They will choose which piece(s) / size they desire, most. Don't convince them to buy.  They would have to convince you why they can't buy...yet.

At shows I really enjoy meeting people and having a good natural conversation. Communication is not, and does not have to be a sales presentation. Most anyone will realize when someone is starting into a sales pitch and I doubt they look forward to hearing it.

People buy what the like and buy from people they feel comfortable with and enjoy talking to. I've never bought into that crap from artists that say their work sells itself. If an artist does not want to talk to people and does not sincerely enjoy doing so than he/she should not be in this business

A good "sales pitch" does not sound like one. When executed properly, people do not realize it was a sales pitch. However you may be referring to a canned speech or boiler plate diatribe.  Proper sales techniques involve far more. The wording changes on the fly to work with the particular customer. Yet the basics / concepts don't change.  Talking with the customer is only a small part of it. Talking the correct way, with the right mannerisms, tone, verbiage, intonations and expression will create a sale, far more often.  I think my father could sell steaks to a vegetarian. They would be happy with their purchase. Yet, they would be sure it was their idea and not feel they were sold anything. they might even come back for Brisket. 

Nobody likes to be "sold to". Yet everybody buys. Our nation is the biggest consumers in the world. Do so many artists believe this is just coincidence? 

I think it's about keeping it conversational, relaxed.  High pressure puts people off whether it's an art show or the local Best Buy store.  Most people like talking about themselves.  Asking general (but not nosy) questions about the customer might be a good start.  Here are just a couple questions I have used ....

*  Are you here (at this event) for the first time?

When I ask this, if they are first time attendees, I reply that we love having new people at the event.  If they have been there before, I reply we love having repeat attendees. :D  It lets them know we appreciate them coming out regardless of their attendance.

*  Where are you from?

This gives you an idea of how far people have traveled and might open doors to events closer to where they live.  My daughter struck up a conversation in another booth with another customers.  My daughter found out it was someone I knew from my home town that I had not seen in years.  She and her husband came to our booth and she is a repeat customer now! :)

Definitely great conversation starters. Here is what happens real life at my booth: Leather. They stop to enjoy the smell and comment, or out of curiosity stop to look at the saddles (I've sold maybe 3 saddles at shows over 20 plus years, but they stop traffic). Me: "hello". Them: by now looking all around booth and starting to feel the leather (lots of different textures with cow, deer, elk, exotics like beaver tail, snake, Hair on's. etc.). Them: Did you make all of this? Me: yup or yes depending on their regional accent. Them: Geeze George, you need to get a new belt...... and maybe from there it leads to a sale. When George takes off his cracked 30 day old Walmart belt, I show him the one I wore as a geologist for about 35 years. It always helps to have a former client in the both add in that "his are the best belts made, never wear out", "I have several of his belts, love them all" . With clients like that I don't have to do much to close the sale other than ask them if the need a buckle too. The gun nuts just stand and stare at the wall of leather holsters and gun belts. Way more leather than your average gun store that will stock cheap nylon holsters. I have no qualms about telling them I am "not familiar with a particular handgun, but a lot of the frames are similar and one on the wall might work for them." If they don't have it with them, they may bring it in or they take card to do a post show custom order. This is what works for me. Low key, let them look, answer questions. If they ask "where is Franktown", I will ask where they are from. 

Yep! Questions back. I've heard it said that if you are talking, you are not selling. 80% should be you listening to them ... 

There is a point in certain sales situations that this rule applies: "First one talks, loses".


Fiber artists -- use this resource to find new buyers:  Advertise with Reach over 60,000 fiber arts lovers.

Our 50 Best Art Fairs

Look Inside the 2018 Art Fair Survey:
Who Won and Why

Join the MasterMinds Group for personalized coaching on your Internet Lifestyle Business! 

60 Page Report - Best US Art Fairs

Click Here to
Learn More


  • Add Photos
  • View All

© 2020   Created by Connie Mettler.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service