This one’s for you, Dawn!
Well, it’s for anybody who sells art, or wants to sell art, at an art fair.
Lots of money has been made by artists selling advice to other artists about selling at art fairs and art shows. There are some great books and CDs out there explaining the rules of selling. I want to let you know that they’re not rules but guidelines.
I’m going to go through some of my favorites, and give you my opinion about each one.
How much art should you show?
I’ve read that there’s a magic number, somewhere between 10 and 15 pieces. You don’t want to look like you create more art than you can sell, but you don’t want your space to be sparsely stocked.
In a 10′ X 10′ booth, fifteen 16X20 paintings will look empty. In a 6’X6′ booth, it might look OK.
I had about 25 paintings in my booth, and I feel it looked good. Most were medium sized, some were small, two were big. There was enough there that people could linger and gaze, but not be overwhelmed. It was a good body of my work.
If you have small to medium sized paintings, I think you can display 20 or more. Bring backup in case you sell lots! Don’t bring anything too old.
Greeting and Talking with Customers
I’ve learned two lines of thought on this:
1)Greet and Retreat: When a customer walks into your booth, you should greet her with a short, friendly welcome. “Good morning!” “Hi, how are you?” “Good afternoon, ladies.” “Hello, Sir.” Then, you should retreat. Hush. Be quiet. Turn you attention from the customer to some small, mundane task like straightening the art, finding your pen, getting a drink, etc. Until they ask questions.Then start selling.
2) Talk, talk, talk: If there’s someone in your booth, strike up a conversation. Ask where they’re from. How was the ride in? See where the conversation goes. Find common ground and use that to sell. Tell a story about your art.
I’ve tried both approaches. I like the greet and retreat approach. But once a customer starts talking back to me, I carry on the conversation with zeal. Rarely, I talk them into buying something. Often I talk my customers right out of the booth! I noticed that the more a customer talks, the less likely they are to buy.
I had a customer who walked into my booth and chatted me up before grabbing a painting and buying it. I had another customer who barely responded to my greeting, then wondered quietly around my booth and bought something. I didn’t have to sell to either of them!
Just be nice, friendly, and for the love of God, smile!
Where to Stand?
Stand in the back. I think it’s very important not to park yourself in front of your tent. You look like a guardian. Many people don’t want the attention, and don’t like the perceived pressure of walking past the artist to get to the art. So stand in the back. Get out of the way.
I liked to walk out of my booth to get some air and check the crowd. I discovered that when I walked back into the booth, I was behind the customer, like I was stalking prey. That makes people nervous, and may even startle them. Try not to do that.
Standing behind a counter works, if you have one. It looks professional and safe.
Try not to sit…
Don’t Sit? But I’m tired!
I’ve seen and heard many times that sitting is bad business. There are two reasons: Less importantly, sitting looks lazy, like maybe you don’t care, or you’re bored. More importantly is that when you get up, you’re taking an aggressive action, ‘lunging’ at the customer, putting pressure on the customer by giving him too much attention before he’s ready.
I think this one is bullshit. On my second day at Art on the Rocks, I was tired! So I sat in a chair in a corner behind a rack of oil paintings, and greeted people as they came in. If I did feel the need to stand up, I did so slowly, and was sure not to move in the direction of the customer.
Guess what? Nobody cared! It didn’t have any negative affect on my customer’s behavior towards me. In fact, maybe the customer felt ‘safer’ when I was sitting, more in control.
As long as you’re attentive to the customer, I think it’s okay to sit.
I don’t carry business cards. When you give a customer a business card, you’ve given them permission to walk away without making a decision. If they want your work, they should get it now.
Alternatively, I take THEIR information. I add them to my email list. As soon as I can, I email them from my website and let them know that I remember them, and that they’re on my list. I include a link to my site.
It works well, except for the guy who told me he doesn’t have internet or email. What the hell good would a business card do? I didn’t know where to go with that.
Should you take Credit Cards?
Hell yes. No question. Get a square reader and a smartphone. Even a cheap smartphone will work. It doesn’t have to be iPhone.
Smile! Be nice, energetic, and positive. Don’t let people talk to you so much that ignore customers, but do talk to people.
I’d love to hear your opinions!
Let us all know what works for you!