I learnt a fabulous trick the other day which suddenly sent my painting sales through the roof.
Every now and again I will hold and exhibition at my home. I have a lovely dedicated studio in the back of my garden which I kit out for the exhibitions.
This particular exhibition was part of a collaboration with other artists in town. Once a year all participating artists in town open their studios to the public. Public then follow a map to visit all the studios.
The exhibition runs over two weekends, so I thought that I would try a few experiments this exhibition to see if I could improve my sales.
I had four days to try different sales techniques.
On the first day I sat inside the studio quietly writing in a corner. If somebody came in I looked up and smiled, greeted them and said: "Welcome, please browse around. If you need any assistance just let me know". I've then only spoke to them again if they spoke to me. We will call this experiment the Introverted Salesman.
On the second day when somebody walked in they would find me standing around inside of the studio. I welcome to them and had a short chat to create a rapport with them. I then let them walk around trailing not too far behind. If they stopped to look at a painting I would tell them more about it. If somebody wanted to chat to me I would chat to them. I didn't confine the conversation only to the art, we would chat about whatever came up. We will call this experiment the Extroverted Salesman.
On the third day I sat on a bar stool at the door of the studio, but outside the studio. When somebody came I greeted them and they walked in. Although I was outside, I was still within view and hearing range so that if they needed assistance I would be immediately available. If somebody spoke to me or needed assistance I would stand up and assist them. We will call this experiment the Meet and Greet Salesman.
On the fourth day I sat on the garden swing outside the studio. When a visitor arrived I welcome them and told them to wander in and let me know if I can be of assistance. They then entered into the studio. From then on I was out of sight and if they needed my assistance they had to walk out of the studio to come and talk to me. We will call this experiment the Missing Salesman.
Which of these three methods would you prefer if you were a visitor to my studio?
Which of these methods do you think brought in the most sales?
Here are the Results:
Day 1 - Introverted Salesman - 76 visitors
People would walk into the studio, we would greet, (occasionally some people would have a short chat). They would then quietly walk around the studio looking at the artworks. Most would not talk and when they did it tended to be in whispers. They would do the proverbial "round trip" past each artwork, occasionally stopping for a closer look. Once done they would greet and walk out. Occasionally somebody would ask a question, but very seldom.
I found that today chattier people would walk up to me for a short chat after their "round trip". Most however would thank me and quietly leave within 4 to 5 minutes after arrival.
Day 2 - Extroverted Salesman - 57 visitors
As I started to chat to people the minute they came in, I found that the studio was pretty rowdy on this day.
As a lot of people that attend exhibitions are artists themselves, great relish the opportunity to chat and in particular ask questions about the artist, the artworks and how the artworks are made.
I had times when multiple groups of people were standing around chatting to me. There were fabulous discussions about the artworks and art in general. There were times when everybody was roaring with laughter. Even groups that we're not chatting to me were chatting among themselves in their normal voice, as opposed to the whispers of the previous day.
People we're making the usual "round trip" plus walking back and forth between the artworks several times.
People would stay a half an hour or more at times, most visited at least 10 minutes.
Day 3 - Meet and Greet Salesman - 101 visitors
To be honest I felt this day was very similar to Day 1 in that most people were back to whispering to each other again, even though I was seated in such a way that I was not looking into the studio. (I didn't want the visitors to feel like they were being watched, but I did want to be visible and within earshot so that if somebody needed assistance, I would be instantly available.) There were however a few people who were happy to chat to each other in their normal voice.
The visitors did stay longer than Day 1 though and many would walk back to previous artworks for a second look.
Many people did come up to me and start chatting as they left. Others also asked me questions, drawing me into the studio as a result. I did however retreat again as soon as the conversation was finished.
Most people stayed 5 or 6 minutes before leaving on this day.
Day 4 - Missing Salesman - 61 visitors
On this day I was initially a little worried as the first few groups of people would take awfully long before exiting the studio. So much so that I would actually go back into the studio after they left to make sure they didn't steal anything, lol. (My equipment was well packed away and out of sight as you can see from the photos, so the chances of theft was very minimal.)
As the day went on though I got used to the people taking longer to emerge from the studio. This was the norm using this sales technique.
I could hear couples discussing among themselves, even groups chatting to each other inside the studio. All in their normal voices.
When needed people would come and ask me questions and if required I would walk into the studio to assist.
Many would come and have a short chat to me before leaving.
Most people were spending at least 10 to 15 minutes inside the studio.
How many Sales Did I Make?
Here are the amounts of sales made on each day:
Day 1 (Introverted Salesman) - No Sales
Day 2 (Extroverted Salesman) - 3 Sales
Day 3 (Meet and Greet Salesman) - 2 Sales
Day 4 (Missing Salesman) - 9 Sales
My thoughts on the results:
Day 1 (Introverted Salesman) - 76 visitors - No Sales
I felt that quietly sitting in the corner created a very formal, library like atmosphere in the studio. People were certainly afraid to speak to each other.
I think this is the single reason for the lack of sales on the day.
People buy art either to decorate their homes or as a potential financial investment.
If there are multiple parties involved in the decision making process, they need to be able to discuss among themselves. Preferably in private.
With me sitting in the corner I think they felt like I was eavesdropping on the conversations, hence the whispering.
This made it difficult for them to come to a decision, so they rather left.
Day 2 (Extroverted Salesman) - 57 visitors - 3 Sales
Even though I am not a natural extrovert, I really enjoyed this day.
Most people like to talk to the artist. This is a fabulous opportunity to build a relationship with your buyers so that when they buy one of your artworks, they can saying that they know the artist.
I did however find that the people who spent the most time chatting to me were fellow artist. Many of those were clearly never going to buy anything from me. They were however happy to siphon off as many painting tips and tricks from me as they could.
Don't get me wrong. Chatting to, making friends with and collaborating with other artists is a vital part of becoming a successful artist. You just have to be careful that it is not at the expense of a sale. You have to ensure that your exhibit remains and exhibit and does not become an art lesson.
I did however feel that the chatty atmosphere allowed people to open up and discuss their artworks more.
Couples were openly discussing where specific artworks would look good in their house,etc.
People were all so openly discussing the possibility of commissioning and artwork from me. (None of these did however materialize this time, but they could just as well have, which would have increased amount of sales for the day.)
I also felt that people were spending more time chatting to me instead of looking at my artworks.
Day 3 (Meet and Greet Salesman) - 101 visitors - 2 Sales
I was quite happy with this tactic. I think it would work well for an introverted artist.
I was still interacting with the people during the day, but it tended to be short conversations.
People were however still able to browse their artworks without feeling as though I was breathing over the shoulder.
Day 4 (Missing Salesman) - 61 visitors - 9 Sales
To say that this day was a huge surprise to me has to be the understatement of the year.
This method was clearly a success because the visitors were under absolutely no pressure.
They could wander around, look as closely as they wanted to at the paintings and chat to each other without worrying about me hearing them. They could go back and forth between the artworks as many times as they wanted in order to discuss, compare (and negotiate with their partner), etc.
Today the artworks did all the talking and the selling. Seems like they did a better job than I do and that makes perfect sense.
It doesn't matter how nice it is chatting to me, it is the artwork that they will be looking at on a daily basis for years to come.
By keeping the salesman at a distance it was up to the customer to sell themselves.
People were however not shy to talk to me when needed. And many people chatted to me for ages outside by the swing.
Although it is nice to chat to your customers and it is an important part of becoming a successful artist, always try to give your buyers the space they need to have a good look at your artworks and make a buying decision.
Remember everybody likes to buy things but nobody likes to be sold to.
Whether you are selling a tiny charm or a large painting, don't buying trigger stays the same: The buyer must like the item.
The more time you can give them to like one of your artworks, the higher chance you have of making a sale.
What will I be doing during my next home exhibition?
Sitting on the swing of course.
Wow! Thank you!
Dit was baie interresant! Baie Dankie!
Very interesting, great experiment and thanks for sharing!
Interesting! I was about to unsubscribe from your newsletter and saw this headline. I think I’ll stay on a little longer.
I’ve been to galleries that use each of these tactics. A few weeks ago I dropped a piece off at a new gallery. When I went back on opening day, there were two employees chatting when I got there. They greeted me and left. Odd. I had a chance to wander around the whole place and look at my leisure. As I was leaving an employee came back to say thanks for visiting. It was very comfortable.
What do you think would have happened if you had been demo painting on day 5?
Thanks for testing and sharing your findings! The thoroughness of your research is appreciated.
I often demo paint at my exhibitions. I find it attracts a lot of attention – from fellow artists as well as collectors as they also like to see the artist at work. I do however find that you have to be careful when using this approach as your attention is split between painting and chatting to those watching you which means you can easily loose a sale as a buyer may have to wait their turn to speak to you. They just subsequently leave. If you are demo painting then it is nice if you have an assistant available to take sales and sales inquiries for you while you paint.
This is very helpful. In a few weeks we are having an open house celebrating our new renovated studio and working together creating art for someone special.
We are having a ribbon cutting ceremony not indicating that our paintings are for sale so our disappearance After the ceremony and during the refreshments at our open house maybe the ticket to success. Possibly interesting are Guests which are from three states.
good luck with your opening. Let me know how it went 🙂
Nolan: Your insight and observation is very helpful. I will try your suggestions at my next show.
Nolan, this was super interesting.
I’m wondering if the element of urgency on the last day of the event might have added something to the day 4 sales. It would be interesting to see what would happen if you switched tactics – e.g. tried the introverted salesperson on day 4 and the missing salesperson on day 1? (Science! And swings.)
Good point. I will obviously be try the swing technique again to see if the results repeat themselves, but I am sure they will, so am looking forward to trying some new tactics as well.
Thanks for sharing this great experiment.
I find doing a demo is really interesting to guests but for me it works best to do something I call “fake painting;-) That is – a painting that’s 3/4 finished and I’m just popping in a few more clouds or flowers. People get to see the whole set up and can even buy the art
Thanks, Nolan and best wishes