Monday, March 10, 2008


Can you ask for what you need or want? I don’t mean ask in the hypothetical sense, but really ask.
When I met my husband, it was love at first sight. We hit it off immediately. Within six weeks, he made a hypothetical proposal. Not the most romantic proposition, but he clearly wanted to know where he stood before he took the risk of asking for real. “Hypothetically” he asked, ”if I was to ask you to marry me, what do you think you would say?” Finding out what someone is likely to say before you ask the question makes it much easier to decide if you want to take the plunge for real. If the answer looks iffy, it is safer to avoid asking for real.
So what does this have to do with being an Artrepreneur? Well, let’s say you get people to your booth at a show. Or you get a gallery interested in your work. Can you close the sale? Can you ask for the order, or, do they walk away saying they have to think about it? And as they walk away, are you left saying, “What did I do wrong? Why didn’t they place the order?”
First, ask this. Did I ask for the sale?
Or, did I find out what the obstacles are to placing a sale? Did I ask, “What else do you need to know about my work to make a decision? Is there any questions I can clear up for you?”
At this moment, you are asking them to move from being on the fence, to making a choice. You are giving them a chance to voice their objections, if they have any. They may have a few issues that remain in their head. But, given the chance to verbalize these objections, they may, given a bit more space to talk, continue to talk themselves right out of their objections, and right into an order. If they had been able to leave the booth first, to think about it, the next thing they think about might be the work they are considering by another artist. You and your work are out of sight, out of mind.
The response might be, “I just want to be able to think about it a bit more. I think I have all the information I need”. At this point, you could thank them, and ask them to be sure to contact you if they have any questions.
Or, is it possible to create a sense of urgency? “This product line has been doing very well. I just introduced it, and already it is selling very well. As I receive more orders, my lead times will get longer. I know you are excited about this work, and I would hate to see you have to wait an excessive amount of time to get it for yourself.” Then wait. They may still move on. But, this new piece of information might just be the thing that helps them make a decision.
Asking for the sale is difficult. It is like asking for a date, or for another’s hand in marriage. We are risking rejection. So, we need to feel a degree of confidence to do that easily and comfortably. If we feel unsure about our work, our prices, our ability to satisfy the expectations of a potential customer, those words may not be able to comfortably fall out of our mouth. We rationalize our hesitancy by saying we don’t want to be pushy.
If you read through these scenarios, and say to yourself, “I couldn’t do that.” Maybe, you need to stop and ask why? Why not? Is there something about your work that feels uncertain? What is it? And, what can you do about it? How can you feel more confident about the work that you are putting out there so that you can comfortably have this dialogue with a potential customer? Answering this question may be what is needed to help eliminate the roadblock to asking for the order.
If you still feel like you can’t do it, ask yourself this, “Could I sell someone else’s work?” Think of another artist whose work you admire. Could you sell that work? Could you comfortably tell someone what is wonderful and unique about their work, and why they would want to own a piece for themselves, or place an order for their gallery? If you can, then your ability to sell is not where the problem lies. You need to fall in love with your own work. You need to believe that someone would want own your work, or carry it in a gallery. When you get to that point, these scenarios will naturally happen.
If you believe in your work. If you know your prices are fair and reasonable. If you know the customer loves the work. If all of these things are true, there is no reason in the world that you should not ask for the sale. You can deliver a value to the customer in return for the money they are spending. But, if you do not ask, do not assume that having good work is enough. Sometimes it is, but sometimes, people want you to ask!

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