TRANSCRIPT: Ep. 057 The Art of Closing

THE INSPIRATION PLACE PODCAST

Miriam Schulman:
Well, hello, this is your host, artist Miriam Schulman, and you’re listening to episode number 57 of The Inspiration Place Podcast. And I am thrilled that you’re here. Today, we’re doing a debrief of how I sold thousands of dollars of art last weekend, that was in one day, at a sleepy outdoor show in the local park. In this episode, you’ll discover what to say to close the sale, what motivated my art collectors to buy, and ninja tricks I use to help me stand above and beyond the other artists at the show.

Last Saturday, I had a record day of art sales. This was in my sleepy town of Scarsdale. It is a wealthy town, that is true, but it is not an art town, meaning that just because people have money doesn’t mean they want to spend it on art. You’re more likely to see people walking around with Chanel bags and things like that. That’s where a lot of people put their money. I would never buy a Chanel bag. I’d spend my money on travel, but that’s just me. So the point is just because people have money does not mean that they are motivated to spend it on art. Likewise, just because you may live in a town where it’s less wealthy, doesn’t mean that they are less motivated to spend money on art.

Anyway, the local art association that puts on this annual art show in the park event is a group mostly made up of white haired hobbyists who liked to show their art for fun. And this art show definitely reflected that attitude. The woman who was hanging her art next to me on Saturday had absolutely no prices on her art as she was not ready to part with any of the art she worked so hard to create. I think she had about 10 pieces that she hung up that day, and I bet these are the only ones she has ever created.

The way this art show is set up is that you send in your check ahead of time to reserve your fence space. I reserved two fence spaces giving me about 18 feet of fence. This is like a chicken wire fence, and you can hang your framed artwork on it using an S-hook. Then I also am able to pay for space to show additional art in portfolios. Now, over the years, this show has dwindled from a thriving art community, buzzing with artists actively selling their art. And in the past, you had to be juried into the membership and the publicity was actually quite amazing. One year I even ran the show, that was a few years ago, and I do know firsthand what it takes to put on a successful show. It is a lot of work. I’m not really criticizing the people who run it.

Now, they’re doing what they’re capable of. However, publicity is not what was happening this past year. The applications for the show didn’t even go out to the artists until a few weeks prior to the event. Now, with less artists participating, that means there are less people chipping in to share in the publicity of the event. So less people who may be sharing it on Facebook or emailing their lists, and that’s assuming that the people participating do those things. Also in years past, they used to give us artists postcards to mail out ahead of time.

None of that happened this year. Also, normally, the local Scarsdale paper has a full spread article about the show. This year, the paper didn’t even have a mention of it in their listings, let alone the full spread article of years past. I assume that’s because either the people organizing it didn’t submit anything or didn’t submit it in time. Not really sure what happened there. Try not to get involved because I don’t want to run the show.

On the Friday before the show, I was actually in the village and I spied one of these senior members asking somebody to hang up a flyer. In other words, there was pretty much zero publicity up until then. And then the only thing we had going for us was there was one of those vinyl banners hanging in the park that said “art show” and then a second one on the main road. And that was it. However, in spite of the lack of publicity and the limited attendance, every year, I managed to sell about $1,000 worth of my art. On the days leading up to this year’s show, when I was bemoaning the lack of publicity, I started to wonder out loud to my husband if he thought the show this year would still be worth it. Now, I’m so glad my husband shut down that negativity. He’s actually been getting into self-help books lately, reading a lot of Wayne Dyer and whatnot. So he shut down that negativity before it could fester. I’m really glad that he did because this year, I more than tripled my usual sales.

This episode is all about that. I’m going to be spilling those sales secrets. But before we get there, I wanted to tell you about the free strategy calls that I am hosting. If you’re a fine artist, whether you’re a photographer, commission portrait artist, or you sell your paintings or other fine arts, and you want to increase your sales to make the last quarter of 2019 your best yet, I can help you. So if you’re a little stuck right now or maybe a lot stuck, or you need to know where you should be focusing right now because you’re spinning your wheels, or maybe you just want some more momentum going forward and some outside expert eyes on your art business, listen up because this is for you.

One of the most helpful things you can do to grow your business is to get someone that knows what the heck they’re talking about to take a look at it. Now, that’s what I’m offering right now for a limited time. It’s a confidential one-on-one breakthrough and strategy session to turn your passion into profit. For the next few weeks, I’ve blocked off time in my calendar and I would love to talk to you. Now, as you might imagine, I don’t have time to talk to everybody, which is why I made this opportunity by application only.

By the way, did I mention that this strategy and breakthrough session is free? Yeah, it’s free. So if you’re wondering what the catch is, there really isn’t one, but let me explain. The goal of the session is to help you 100%. I want to learn about you, I want to learn about your goals and help you identify strategies to develop a plan forward. It does not matter if you’re just starting out or if you’re a seasoned pro looking for your next steps or somewhere in between. As long as you want to turn your passion into profit, this is for you.

Now, the other kind of catch is obviously, spaces are limited. I can only do so many calls, and I only want to talk to people who are 100% committed and serious about selling their art. So there really isn’t a catch except that if after our conversation I decide that, or we decide together that we want to work together in the future and there’s opportunities to work together as a result of this call and you’re a good fit, then I’ll have to share with you that opportunity. So maybe or maybe not, it’s only going to be discussed if you’re a perfect fit. So here are the next steps. Just go to schulmanart.com/biz. That’s B, as in business, I-Z. Fill out the application for a free strategy call. I cannot wait to hear from you.

All right, now back to the show. I’ve said this before on the podcast and I’ll say it again. Your absolutely best art collectors are going to be the ones that you meet in person and they will come back to you again and again, but there is a catch. You have to invite them. Now, for this particular show, there is a local art collector who loves the outdoor show. Her name is Mary. She comes every year and she spends literally thousands of dollars on art. Some of the other artists speculate that she resells it, but I do not believe those rumors, even for a minute. She has bought art from me in the past and her name is in my database as well as on my mailing list. So it’s both on my list to send out physical mailings, as well as email. I’ve sent her both a physical invitation in the mail this year, as well as emailed her.

And by the way, those of you who are subscribed to my mailing list and you wonder if I send too many notifications, well, this person has been on my list for many years and has not unsubscribed yet. The people who stay on your list are the ones who want what you got. You would think that the other artists who have sold her art kept her mailing address or her email address. But apparently not. I was the only one. At least I was the only one participating this year who invited her.

Let me just share something with you. When we were setting up the show and the organizers were explaining to us how to fill out the sale slips, one of my artist’s friends said she is lucky as she gets even a first name. I was like, “Are you kidding me? Why don’t you get their addresses to invite them?” In my mind, this was caveman marketing, like marketing 101. You just can’t wait and hope that people are going to come to your sleepy town and you can’t just hope that the right collector is going to stumble upon your art. There just aren’t enough of them to do that. So what I do when I get a new email address, like I did over this weekend, I put them in my database as well as my MailChimp account, and I tag them. So I write down basically where I met them. That way, the following year, I can invite them back.

I don’t send a postcard to absolutely everyone who has ever joined my mailing list because that would be cost prohibitive. What I do is I print out all my mailing labels for everyone who lives locally because I can sort by New York, I don’t send invitations to people who live like in Albany or Rochester. Then I sort them by whether they had bought originals, prints, or maybe they’re just prospects, meaning that they signed up for my mailing list. By the way, I use Artwork Archive to do this, and I think you can get a discount code if you sign up through my link, which is schulmanart.com/archive. I’ll make sure I put a link to that in the show notes, which is schulmanart.com/57.

For this particular show, I decided I would send out 100 invitations to my hottest prospects. So these are people who live in my town, have bought originals from me, and then I gave extra points for how recently they might’ve purchased my art. So if it was somebody who maybe bought something several years ago and then never returned to an art show again, then they may not get an invitation. Now, if I was sending out 200 invitations, I probably would have included them. I just decided this year I was limiting it to 100. Now, know that not all 100 people of course come to the show, not by a long shot, but even those who don’t come. This is a great excuse to get my art in front of them again. After all, there is no spam filter on the mailbox on your front door. It reminds your art collectors that you exist and they truly feel good knowing that you thought to invite them.

In addition to the physical postcards, I also email everyone tagged in my database as local. You can also use your email service providers geotagging, but that isn’t quite as reliable. So what I do, and I used MailChimp, but I understand other email service providers probably have something similar, I send the save the date or come tomorrow email to everyone who is either tagged in my database as having joined my email list as a result of meeting them in-person at a show or someplace else, or the geotag marks them as being within 20 miles, or maybe it’s 25 miles, of Scarsdale. So not everybody has accurate geotagging, which is why I use both.

Okay, so now you may wonder why I send a physical postcard as well as an email. And here’s the thing. There is a spam filter on your email inbox. And of course, not everybody who has ever joined my email list stays on the email list. Besides, we get so much email nowadays that it’s really impossible to read all of it. So doing both is a really great idea. And actually, I also do that Facebook event invite thingy, but I have to say that’s probably the least effective. So if that’s the only thing you’re relying on, reconsider that strategy. But I still do it anyway, just because it’s really a no brainer. And for all the same reasons, it’s really like an additional point of contact. So I think direct response marketers call this multichannel marketing. It’s really great for people to see your message in more than one place.

So, last Saturday, Mary did go to the show. And although she did make her rounds and she did buy art from the other artists, she spent the most time, which meant the most money, with me. Now, first thing she said to me after I greeted and hugged her, by the way, you have to treat your art collectors like they’re your best friends and their family, which they really are. The first thing she said to me was that she wouldn’t even have known about the show if it weren’t for my invitation. By the way, I did go up to one of the other artists, this is though coincidentally or not, the same artist who said she normally doesn’t even get their names. The one I was scolding earlier, and I joked that she owed me a cut from the sale that she made with Mary.

So back to Mary. She took her time at my art fence carefully considering which art she wanted. I asked her questions because telling is not selling. The best way to move a collector forwards towards a sale is asking questions. I did ask her what she does with all the art. I was really curious. And also the more questions you ask, the easier it’ll be for you to know what to say and ask next. I said, “You must have a really large home.” And she said, “No, actually, I don’t put all the art out.” And that is what collectors do. And if you think about the really top collectors, they usually have their art in storage.

This reminds me of a story about the son of a Nazi art collector that was hoarding over a thousand works of art in his tiny Munich apartment. From time to time, he would pull the art out. A lot of it was just stashed under his bed. He would pull the art out and he called his art his precious, kind of like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings. He was finally caught a few years ago because to maintain his reclusive lifestyle, he would sell a piece or two from time to time. That’s a pretty risky business when you’re selling art that’s looted by the Nazis.

Now, if you want to learn or read more about this story because it’s truly fascinating. The art collector in question was Cornelius Gurlitt, who passed the year after he was apprehended. He was the son of the Nazi art dealer, Hildebrand Gurlitt, who worked directly under Hitler.

Much of the art was stolen from their Jewish owners. I believe others were seized during the degenerate art campaign that Hitler had raged during this time. Now, to date only five of the 1,200 artworks that were seized have been returned to their Jewish heirs and many will never be identified or perhaps they belong to collectors whose entire families had perished in the Holocaust. It’s a somber story, but let’s go back to the whole idea of collecting.

My point was bringing up with that story is that he didn’t have the art hanging up and decorating his apartment. He just liked owning it and having it. And that is something that a lot of our collectors or a lot of collectors do. I have a couple of collecting habits myself and my husband does as well. So I kind of get that collector’s mentality. My husband is a collector of vinyl records. Our basement has been turned into a man cave and he has over 1,500 albums, which line the shelves that are built into this listening room. He basically has more music than he can listen to, but he really enjoys owning them. And he also enjoys the physicality of it. The way they have interesting album art.

And he also enjoys the collecting process. I think that Mary enjoys the collecting process as well.

For me personally, I love to collect books. Now, I do read a lot, but I also buy books faster than I can read them. Art technique books are my favorite to collect. By the way, one of the benefits that I’ve just recently added to the Inspired Insiders’ Club is that I’m actually cataloging all of my art books and making the complete catalog list available to the members in the members area. I’ve also collected art from other artists and sometimes, I have kept it under my bed. No, I don’t pull it out and call it my precious. Usually, it’s under my bed just because I’m hiding it from my husband. But the point for me was in the ownership, in the collecting process, not because I needed it to decorate. So that’s true of a lot of collectors.

Now, let’s get back to Mary. When she first started working her way slowly through the originals and prints, I wasn’t sure that she would collect any. Collectors can be very fickle that way. But as she worked her way through my collection, she asked me about my inspiration.

She shared that she loved my watercolors and she preferred my watercolors over my other artworks. So I made sure to direct her towards more of those. She also mentioned that the artwork looked quite different in-person, which would explain why she hadn’t bought any of my artworks online, even though she’s remained on my email list, and then she also reminisced about other works that she had collected from me in the past. Now, at first, she wasn’t sure if she connected with the animal art and if you follow my art, you know I paint a lot of animals.

She wanted to know how I got their eyes and face to look so expressive. And I explained to her that years of painting portraits had helped, but I love painting animals because they become a vehicle for my own emotions.

That is the side benefit of an art show. You learn so much about your own art when you’re trying to explain it to other people. You also learn a lot about what draws people to your artwork. So I had, for example, I said a note cards that had a mixture of animals and flowers, and a few people said to me that they really only wanted note cards with flowers on them, which I thought was very interesting. Let’s talk about what happened. Now, Mary bought $2,500 of my art that day. Truly, the majority of my art sales. And you may wonder, but what if Mary hadn’t come? But let me tell you, it’s really always that way. Throughout art history, it has been the patronage of a few select collectors that have supported artists. You can name them, the Cone sisters, Gertrude Stein, among others. A passion for creating that’s matched by a passion for collecting. And art doesn’t really sell itself even to the most enthusiastic collectors.

Remember I shared Mary was skeptical about collecting animal art. So let me tell you what I said to her to help close the sale. Now, before you get squeamish that I’m about to share used car salesman tactics, and full disclosure, I am the proud granddaughter of a used car salesman. You’re never selling something that they don’t want or convincing them to get something they don’t want. You’re helping them see the possibility of ownership.

Now, since I already asked Mary what she does with the art, and I knew she liked to collect, but not necessarily to decorate, I did not ask her my go-to question. For most people who express an interest in my art, my favorite question to start moving them towards a sale is, where do you see this in your home? It makes them imagine a future self that owns the artwork. And once they start envisioning it in their home, selling it becomes so much easier. So for Mary, I didn’t ask her where are you going to hang this up? For Mary, I asked, why does this speak to you? And the idea is to let the art collector tell you why they want to buy the art. Then what happens is you can ask some gentle nudging questions such as should I put this one aside? Do you want me to write this one up? And that’s how the dance continues.

At one point she wanted a subtotal. The subtotal was over $2,000 of set aside. And when she gleefully kept going rather than pulling something out of that stack, I knew that my prices were too low. Now, since Mary was not the only art collector that day, I do want to share with you the strategies I used for taking a stranger from browser to our collector as did happen many times that one day. First of all, whenever I saw somebody come towards my space, I went over to them and I greeted them and I did not ask them the dreaded, can I help you? Or worse, what are you looking for? Do not ask those questions by the way, nor did I wait for them to come up to me to ask me to buy something because that almost never happens.

So what I did say was, “Hi, I’m Miriam Schulman and I’m the artist. What’s your name?” Now we’ve moved from stranger mode to acquaintance mode. And that’s the first step in the getting to know, like and trust factor of any relationship. Get to know their name. My next question might be, have you collected art before? Mostly, I listen and I ask questions. When they ask for prices, I make sure I let them know that the prints, usually there are looking through these prints, by the way. I don’t know why, but there seems to be that treasure hunt mentality that people love to look through stuff to discover something. So if they’re looking through the print bin, I make sure they know that those are the prints, they’re all the same price, and they are segregated from the originals obviously. If they’re looking at the originals, I let them know that that’s what they’re looking at. And then I explain how my pricing works. And I also ask them if they prefer to collect originals or prints.

When they compliment an artwork, I don’t just thank them. I ask, “Where do you imagine it in your home? Why does that speak to you?”

Now, an attractive couple had come up to me and they were looking at my artwork and they shared with me that they really liked the pig painting. It was year of the pig and the pair of pigs reminded them of themselves. And then I asked, “Should I write this up? Or how would you like to pay?” Of course, the pig painting went home with them.

By the way, it turned out after I was putting their address into my records, it turned out that this couple had purchased art from me in the past. I am not sure if they were there that day because of me. I don’t think so because they’re not on my email list. This was one of the people who did not get that coveted 100 invitations. The husband had bought a print from me a couple of years ago. I hadn’t made the connection when they were standing in front of me. I didn’t make the connection till after I had gone home and I was working on the thank you notes and all of that. Maybe he remembered me, maybe he didn’t. He didn’t mention it. I didn’t mention it. They liked the artwork and I handled the sale in the right way. They have now an original pig painting in addition to the print. And I did ask them, by the way, if they collected prints or originals, and they said they do a combination of both.

Now, what’s equally important isn’t just what you say, but how you say it and your body posture. If they’re admiring my art, I neutral to whether or not they buy it. If they buy it, that’s great, but if not, it’s okay. Somebody else will. And I just let it go. It’s really important also to keep your hands busy. I like to keep my hands poised with the pen and my sales receipt book. Often, I’ll even start writing their name on it before they indicate interest. It helps me remember their name so I can say it again in the conversation. And if they don’t end up buying, that’s fine. I just void that sale slip. If they choose not to buy, I try to invite them to join my mailing list. And of course, I especially do that if they do buy something.

But I promised I’d share some other ninja tricks that I’ve used to help me stand above and beyond the other artists. So in addition to the whole invitation strategy, but here’s the thing. First of all, because I do invite people, including my friends, which you should do, because it’s rude not to invite your friends to something you’re having by the way. So, because I invite people, there’s usually a buzz around my artwork. Just as nobody wants to eat at a restaurant with an empty parking lot, an art display with nobody looking at it appears sad while ones that’s buzzing with people attracts other people.

But there are a few other things I do that help me look truly professional and stand out. I mentioned on a prior episode that I did the blueprint art show, that’s a trade show. And for the trade show, I created these standing vinyl banners. So I used one of them this year to mark my space. Whoa, that was a huge hit. It meant that people can spot my artwork from quite a bit aways, and it really made me look professional. Now, I have both high-end art as well as affordable, but affordable does not mean cheap reproductions. The premed prints all fit into a standardized frame, which collectors love. They love to know that they don’t have to spend a fortune on custom framing if they don’t want to. And all my original watercolors are also matted to fit standard size frames for the same reason. It really makes for a nice cohesive presentation.

I also don’t go through the expense of custom framing or even framing my works that need to be under glass. And I was reminded about why I do that this last weekend, because one of the woman next to me who has gorgeous watercolors, one of them broke and there was glass everywhere. Paintings on the glass, they’re very heavy and usually collectors are not always going to like your choice of framing. So it’s almost better to keep it as neutral as possible, which is why all of my prints and all of my originals are matted with a soft white mat. So there’s no thinking that the pink or blue mat you picked out doesn’t match the decor. You want to make the art the highlight and keep everything as neutral as possible. No, I don’t want to buy this because it’s a brown frame and my furniture is all white or whatever. They can put their own frame around it.

Okay, this has been a lot today, but as always, I hope you got a lot of value from today’s episode. So if you love the concrete marketing strategies that I shared today and you have a thirst to learn more, I’d love to invite you to apply for a free strategy call. Go to schulmanart.com/biz. If you qualify, you’ll get my eyes on your art business and if we’re a good fit, I’ll tell you all about how you can get coaching by me. Right now, I do have a few spots left in my Artist Incubator program. That program is for artists looking to make their first $50,000, but I also have other options available. Now, there’s no link to sign up for coaching anywhere on my website because it’s by application or invitation only. I hope you do apply by the way.

Thanks so much for being with me here today. I will see you the same time, same place next week. Make it a great one. Bye for now.

Thank you for listening to The Inspiration Place Podcast. Connect with us on Facebook at facebook.com/schulmanart, on Instagram @schulmanart, and of course, on schulmanart.com.

Miriam Schulman:
Don’t forget, this episode was sponsored by the Artist Incubator. It’s my small group coaching program where I help you take your art business to the next level with practical strategies that work. Imagine what it would feel like to be easily selling your art and profiting from your passion.

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