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Running Scared

Hi Gang!

I work in a retail environment, where relationships are made after the sale, but rapport is bulit very shortly. I get people involved in some of the greatest art on the planet (art is personal, so I'm sure some might disagree). I believe my artist with a passion, and I believe that comes through when I am showing this incredible artwork. We cater to all types of collectors. My artist is a master realist, surrealist, impressionist, and works in abstracts and cubism. His orignals start at as little as $3,500 and go up to more than $300,000. His limited editons start at $495, and go up from there. With every presentation, I let my potential clients know how they can acquire this incredible artwork. We have several incentives for the clients if they wish to pay in full, and about half my clients take advantage of one of our incredible 0 interest payment options.

Most potenetial clients that have never made a decision of buying a piece of fine art have serious reservations. They don't need it. They cannot logically justify it, even through appriciation. I cannot legally sell the art on how much value it will gain, and I don't want to anyway. I want them to buy it becuase they love it, and it will give them happiness for the rest of their lives. I want thier children to have it, so when they inherit the art, they will think of thier parents.

First I try to find the right piece. It has to be something they absolutly adore. I bring the art into our viewing room, seperating them from the other potential clients, other art, and all the potential distractions. I do my normal presentation, gathering info, and tayloring my presentation to them. Throughout the conversation, I mention our payment options, as well as current incentives to buying now.

MY problem is when they have the right art. They have the right frame. It is the perfect size. They have confirmed that they can afford it, whether it be through our payment plan, or payment in full. I will often ask if they have ever spent this much money on art before, and then am empathetic with their answer.

I ask quesions like, On a scale of 1 to 10, ow close are you? or If I may be so bold, what is it that is making you want to think about it. I usually immediately followup with "Is it the money?". When I link thouse two questions, I usually get the truthful answer, in which case I can go back over payment options, or pricing. So the big question is:

How do I help a client, who I know can afford it, who loves the piece oof art, and is just terrified of making the wrong decision? Lahaina is the third largest art capital of the world. If they don't buy from us, they will buy from someone. Any help would be aprreciated.

-Jon - by Jon on Maui
Do you keep in touch with your buyers after the purchase? If so, do you know of any stories related to buyers remorse, or lack thereof?

If you were able to relate with a story about "I have a client from Boston who was having a hard time taking the plunge. When they got the piece home it didn't pop quite the way they had hoped. I suggested a few avenues that they could explore to sell the piece. They quickly did so and picked up another piece that they love last time they were here".

Or - "I often get letters from people after the purchase who tell me how glad they are that they made the decision to buy"

I'm not sure what kind of feedback you get, but if you have some genuine scenarios like this to both empathise and help them relate it could go a long way.

Also - this may just be a personal opinion, but when I hear the type of close you referred to "scale of 1-10", or anything like it, I shut down as a buyer. It's very difficult to turn me at that point because my brain is in defense mode. I'm not in retail and you certainly know better than I, but that is my take.

Hope you find this useful!

Justyn Howard - by Justyn
Hello Jon,
At a glance I agree with Justyn, Keep in contact with your clients as the piece is worth a great deal and no doubt you would make some money from the sale. If you are so certain that the customer if not buying from you would definately buy from someone else then you MUST keep in contact.

I would avoid your closing question - This is where you are steping into the eagle position of sales and swooping to hope for the grab to be successful. Rather try to help and guide the customer through the process. For instance - I don't know how busy your store would be but every art place I have ever been in consists of the front counter operator filing her nails with one or two clients walking around aimlessly - No doubt you are different as it sounds like you care about your customers.

Try sit them down at a table and maybe even offer them a tea or coffee - Get a piece of paper and list their objectives. Show them how small it really seems that they are worried about it not fitting in with their new loungsuite. Then cross the objection out once you have discussed it - This will let the customer know that the objection they had before is no longer relevant and you will be closer to the sale.

All the best. - by Snowboy
Jon I started a thread on the topic of procrastination.You might get some ideas from that thread too. - by Marcus
If you do feel the need or are comfortable with the money question, I would ask it in the negative, "It's not the money is it?

I like the idea of sitting down with the client with tea, coffee or a soda. I would imagine that if a person is spending several thousand dollars on a discretionary item, they would like to take some time to do it. Is there a conference room or sitting area where you could hang the art so you and your client, or just the client, could sit with it, ponder it, and get a feel for it?

I liked Justyn's idea about getting feedback from current clients. Could you follow-up with past buyers who have become repeat buyers and share your dilemma with them? They may have some insight as to what took them over the edge with that first very expensive piece of art they purchased. Also, if you had that sitting area, maybe you could have a fancy binder with letters of thanks and appreciation that the prospect could look at and read.

Is there an incentive that you could give as a thank you if the purchase is made? Like a $50.00 gift card to a good restaurant? I know that may seem small when they are spending thousands, but I do believe that people with discretionary money still like to get stuff for free. - by sallysellsseashells
Justyn, Keith, Marcus, & Sally...again, excellent answers and insights...It's sounds like Jon is doing the things he should be doing and I think your tips are icing on his cake... - by Dougd55

The sales process that you described is known as "Pursuit and Capture" by high tech defense contractors. It does not work very well for them. They too, are dealing with clients who have a lot of money and will only spend it with people they trust and respect. And, that sales process does not instill trust or respect.

When you say, "I work in a retail environment, where relationships are made after the sale, but rapport is built very shortly," you are putting yourself in the position of a pleasant peddler. That is what you are being when you do all of that logical manipulation you described.

You demonstrate your lack of respect for the prospect and yourself when you say things like, " If I may be so bold, what is it that is making you want to think about” … "Is it the money?" That appears to be a transparently obsequious act.

Relationships of profound mutual trust and respect can be developed, with most prospects, in twenty minutes or less. However, only by people who are trustworthy and worthy of respect. That alone can give you an overwhelming competitive advantage.

The technology of Mutual Commitments starts the sales process on the road to closing, with the question of money handled immediately. At the very least, it prevents you from trying to sell the wrong product to a high probability prospect or wasting time on a low probability prospect.

In short, clever tweaking won’t do much to improve a flawed sales process. - by JacquesWerth
I have never sold art to the public, but I often have to sell my husband on a piece of art. I think maybe the problem may be that you need to focus on the emotional attachment that your potential buyers have. Paint a picture for them in their mind, of a world that reflects how they want to represent themselves. Explain how enlightened they will become when their sanctuary (their home) is a direct reflection of the beauty within them. I believe this is the case with art, for those who love it, anyway. I know that my successes in life are influenced in some part by my environment. Not in sales, but the rest of my life. I hope this helps. Art is an emotional subject, treat it accordingly. Not as business. (though I realize this is the way it is) If you do this, the business should fall into place. - by staceylee
Jon, I can appreciate your questions and comments. I used to run an art gallery. I have a few comments you may or may not find helpful:

1. You said, "I want them to buy it because they love it." I would encourage you to remember that people LOVE various works of art (and refrigerators and homes and cars and people) for various different reasons. "Love" is a broad reason for buying something. But there are always more specific reasons why people buy a particular piece of art or anything (to pursue beauty, to pursue quality, to belong, and five other reasons that I call "macro needs"). Although one might assume that all art purchasers decide to buy because of their quest for "beauty", that's not true - and even if it was, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So it's really important to understand what "loving a piece" is all about for your prospect, as opposed to what loving a piece is all about for you.

2. You wrote, "I will often ask if they have ever spent this much money on art before." I would advise against asking this question. $5000 could be "much money" to some people, but to others it isn't. Additionally, I don't know that their answer, whether it be "yes" or "no" really helps you in the sales process. A better question might be, "how do you feel about spending $5000 on a piece of art for your home?" This open-ended question might encourage some dialogue about the budget issue.

3. You wrote, "How do I help a client, who I know can afford it, who loves the piece of art, and is just terrified of making the wrong decision?" My first comment is that if you know this is the prospect's objection, than hats off to you! Knowing the objection will help you devise a strategy to deal with it so the customer can feel comfortable to purchase. But my additional comment is to make sure that you don't jump to conclusions that this is the objection. In my experience, a lot more prospects are terrified by spending, say, $7000 on a piece of art than they are terrified about it possibly being the wrong piece of art, and those are two different objections.

Before you spend a lot of time with your prospect, you could ask them this question, "If you find a piece of art in our gallery today that you really love, and it meets your price requirements, is there any reason you wouldn't go ahead and purchase it?" The answers you get from this question will vary from, "oh, we just like looking at art, we're not going to buy any" to "we're ready to move forward when we find the right piece." In either case, that's really helpful information to have, especially before you spend an hour or more with a prospect.

The best to you, Jon.

Skip Anderson - by Skip Anderson
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