Selling fine art takes skills that can be different from selling other products. Art is personal and emotional. An excellent gallery sales associate needs to be able to tap into these attributes to make the sale.
There are two types of sales skills required for success in the art industry – hard skills and soft skills. What’s the difference?
Hard skills are things like being able to find new art collectors, qualifying them for a particular artist’s work and presenting the benefits or value of owning a piece. Soft skills are things like good communications, empathy and relationship building and are much harder to train, but with practice, they can be developed. Soft sales skills are an asset for selling fine art, and yet they are often undervalued when hiring new gallery sales employees.
How Does Soft Selling Increase Art Sales?
Soft selling is a subtle but persuasive way to sell your product. This often makes all the difference when selling a luxury item like art. It can be helpful to put someone at ease who is intimidated by being in a gallery or making a smart art purchasing decision.
The overall soft selling process is all about long-term sales goals and client nurturing. While the process may be longer for some collectors, the benefits include happier client’s, with greater gallery loyalty, more sales and referrals.
Soft selling focuses on developing trusted relationships over aggressive sales pitches, which means sharing the value of the gallery artist’s work in a natural conversational way. It should never feel forced for either the salesperson or the client.
Improving soft selling skills is a good strategy for gallery sales staff that may be uncomfortable with sales, the pressure to close a deal or fear of rejection. If they are more confident throughout the sales process, they will be more successful in meeting their sales goals.
Traits of a Successful Soft Seller
Empathy is probably the most important quality needed for soft selling success. A gallery sales associate must be able to see and understand the collector’s perspective. This could be empathy for how they feel about a particular painting, budget constraints or timing for purchasing art. An empathetic sales associate puts a collector at ease throughout the sales process and helps them feel more in control. It can also go a long way towards creating trust with the gallery.
It’s vital for a successful soft seller to be emotionally self-aware. Let’s face it – you will have difficult artists and collectors to deal with in sales situations. Being able to control your emotions is a necessary trait to have when things get pressured, and your mind goes blank.
Using a Soft Selling Strategy in the Gallery
The seven sales strategies below are all fundamental to effective soft selling.
Identify strengths and weaknesses in yourself and your gallery sales staff. Work as a team to master these strategies through role-playing and constructive feedback. These can all be practiced until they become an automatic part of the gallery’s sales process.
- Share your passion: A gallery consultant that genuinely believes in the art they represent, shows they are knowledgeable and passionate will shine in a sales situation. Passion can be infectious, and you want your collectors to feel that as well for an artwork they add to their collection.
- Build a relationship foundation: Soft selling is all about relationships and should be at the core of your sales strategy. They are how you get prospects to open up about their needs and tastes. Good relationships are essential for nurturing trust.
- Customer-centric: Keep the sales process customer-centric. In addition to understanding collector’s needs, try to make as personalized an experience as possible. Make communications clear and accurate without using too much “art speak” that may be intimidating or irritating.
- Tell great stories: Soft selling means tapping into a prospect’s emotions. Telling an engaging story about an artist or artwork is more likely to be memorable over basic technical or biographical information. Use personal anecdotes to create a stronger connection between you, the artist and prospect. Storytelling is also a great way to get a conversation going.
- Royal treatment for clients: Give your clients white glove service long after the sale. This shows them their business is appreciated and maintains the relationship. It is also the most effective way to gain referrals for new art collectors.
- Create a customer journey: If a relationship is just beginning with a new art collector, use marketing tools that puts them on a client journey with you and your gallery.
- Show your integrity: Prove you are an honest and reliable gallery to work with and that your relationship is built on trust.
Soft selling skills should be part of your art gallery’s sales strategy. These skills are so crucial to luxury selling, especially art that is such a personal and emotional investment. Practice your skill development with particular attention to empathy and relationship building.
Focus on long term goals rather than the immediate sale when developing your soft selling skills. With a good relationship in place and understanding of the client’s needs and interest, a client who is a repeat buyer and refers your gallery within their network is the grand prize. With every prospect, keep the big picture clear in your mind and allow it to drive your daily sales activities.Follow me on social for more fuel, insights and occasional silliness: