The official site for the Detroit Art & Business Institute and Andrea Rosenfeld, professional artist and business consultant to the creative community in metro Detroit and beyond.

Creating Sales Opportunities: Every Moment Counts



Birmingham, MI art fair – artist working on their craft

Creating Sales Opportunities: Every Moment Counts

This was a busy sales season meeting artists and people selling their wares at art fairs, galleries and retail locations. I’d also get to a few garage sales and find artists selling there too. It’s always adventurous for me, leaning about their materials and techniques and the stories behind the items being sold. And no matter how often I engage, I can’t help but be amazed and sometimes disappointed.

The first time was extreme. I entered a garage sale filled with designer clothing and shoes.  I’m not a big shopper but I appreciate well made clothing and unusual pieces and this home was stocked. The husband and wife sat on a coach in their garage holding their phones with their heads down, doing whatever-the-hell they were doing online.  They never looked up.  Not once.  Like I didn’t exist. I spent some time perusing her sales expecting her to at SOME point notice me and smile.  Introduce herself.  Nada. Needless to say I left empty handed.

In a local outdoor market/fair, I was reminded of that garage experience. The majority of vendors chatted with me, some smiling, some not but they all talked and answered my questions.  Then I entered a booth and even as I expressed interest in the artist’s pieces and her materials, that artist never looked up from her phone.  Not once. She answered me but kept her head down. I left quickly without taking her card and I’m sure many other of her potential clients did the same.

I could go on and on about people who don’t choose to connect with their clients but instead I’ll share some ways to create sales opportunities even when you REALLY don’t feel like “selling”.

1. DON’T SELL: Stop talking about yourself and your art long enough to listen to your potential client. Find out their likes and needs then lead them to a piece that will suit them. Ask them questions and if you have time, take out a notepad and write down what you remember about them so you can personalize their follow up note/email (you DO have your customer, followup system down pat, right? If not, I can help).

Use Down Time to See Further and Strengthen Your Business

2. SMILE: Really. It’s a simple thing but it’s very important.  Yes, it’s drizzling on your tent.  Yes, the show is horrible and you’re sales are down 40% this year. Yes, you’re exhausted and there are people shuffling in and out of your open studio event, eating your cheese and drinking your wine. I get it, I’ve been there. Tune down your disappointment and frustration and turn the experience around by smiling and connecting with people who come into or walk by your sales area. It’s been proven that the simple act of smiling sends a message to your brain that you’re happy. And when you’re happy, your body pumps out all kinds of feel-good endorphins. Plus smiling is contagious!

3. PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE: I walked into a booth with an artist sitting behind her table watching a loud video on her phone. She never looked up. In fact I counted 10 artists during one festival who were looking down at their phone when I walked into their booth. Not walked by, but walked up and in. I realize that 2-3 full days of potential customers entering your tent and then walking back out again (without buying anything) is upsetting and you may not want to EVER look up again because, “why bother?” but yes, bother.  Put down your phone when every person enters your booth because you never know who that one person is going to be, what they are going to buy (if not now then down the road) or who they will know that will turn into a great, new client.

4. BE KIND TO YOURSELF: You’re going to do the best you can with the energy you have. If you don’t do your best, don’t get down on yourself.  Accept it and know that you’ll do a better job next time. Write down what went wrong and right to learn for next time. As importantly, gather the opportunities you made at the show and work to create sales during the year.

5. LOOK BEYOND THE EVENT ITSELF: Turn every opportunity into learning as much about the people involved, the show and the surrounding area as you can. Don’t make the experience all about you, “the now” and sales (even if you’re selling well). How many new people can you meet? What is their background and sales experience?  What can you learn from them? What can you learn about your clients? Are there stores in the area you can possibly sell to?  Did you research that before you drove into town to set up your booth? Going beyond takes you outside of yourself and expands your opportunities and ability to learn something new.

Of course you’re in business to profit but if sales are slow or you JUST don’t feel like being at the event, you can choose to focus on your misery and making sales, or choose to look further and make the most out of each and every moment and experience.

How do you handle slow sales?  What do you do when you really don’t want to be at an event? How do you turn a bad situation around? Comment below so we can learn from you!

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