by Lisa McGrimmon
Developing some skill in building rapport can really help you to sell art work.
Most people can think of several times when they chose one company over another simply because they liked the person they were dealing with at a particular company. Unfortunately, plenty of artists make incredible items but fail to build good connections with potential customers.
People who sell art work successfully and seem to naturally establish rapport with customers aren't always just "acting naturally". Often they have practiced specific rapport building techniques.
Some professionals use a range of techniques to establish rapport with clients, and some of these techniques could be very helpful for you to become more skilled at connecting with your customers and sell art work. I was actually amazed when I started selling my jewelry, at how often the rapport building techniques that I learned as a counselor helped me out when I was talking to my jewelry customers.
The techniques for building rapport to sell art work that I'll cover here can be divided into four categories:
If you're trying to get your customers to talk, for example, to discover their style preferences, then open questions can be a great tool to sell art work. Open questions are questions that can't be answered with a simple yes or no. The answers to open questions require some elaboration and provide a lot of information about your customers.
If you're working on a custom piece for a customer, and you're trying to establish what he or she wants, open questions will get you the answers you need. If you ask closed questions like, "Do you like red?" or, "Do you like a modern style?" you may only get a yes or no answer. Unless your customer is particularly expressive, you won't likely get the kind of information you'll need to ensure you create the piece of her dreams.
If, instead, you try open questions like, "What colors do you like to wear?", or "How would you describe your personal style?", your customer will have to give you more detail than yes or no. That way you'll get much better information from your customer so you can create exactly what she was hoping for.
Most experts agree that at least 85% of communication is non-verbal. It's not only what you say, but how you say it, and what else you're doing while you say it that counts. So, if you understand the non-verbal messages you are sending to your customers, as well as the non-verbal messages your customers are sending to you, establishing rapport to sell art work will be a much easier task.
Keep in mind that body language and non-verbal cues are different in different cultures, so what might be appropriate for many of your customers might not be appropriate for every single one of them. Establishing direct eye contact is interpreted as a sign of interest in much of European-North American culture. If you are talking to a customer, look at them. Don't allow yourself to be distracted by the vendor at the next booth or the need to straighten your display. Stop what you're doing, and look at your customer while you're talking to them.
Leaning forward is an easy way to show interest. If you're leaning forward, that can communicate to your customers that you're interested in what they're saying. If your customer is leaning forward while you tell a story about your work, he or she is compelled by what you're saying.
Mirroring body language can also show you are connected and in tune with the person you are speaking with. If you're sitting down working with a customer and you cross your legs, then your customer crosses her legs, that's a good sign that the two of you are connecting.
The tone you use when you speak to your customers and when they speak to you often adds a lot of meaning to what's being said. Think about how many ways you could say, "That's an interesting technique that you've used." Depending on your tone of voice, you could indicate that you are genuinely impressed by the technique and want to learn more, or you could be expressing dislike for the use of the technique. To pick up on subtle cues and build rapport to sell art work, it helps to be aware not only of what's being said, but also how it's said.
Counselors use a technique called paraphrasing and summarizing to ensure they've understood exactly what their clients have said, and to make clients feel heard. This technique is a great tool to use with your customers.
Paraphrasing and summarizing are just what they sound like. When a customer expresses a thought or preference, you repeat it back to them using your own words. You can also check to make sure that what you've said is accurate.
The only difference between paraphrasing and summarizing is that paraphrasing involves restating a shorter statement, and summarizing involves restating or "summing up" a large chunk of information. Using these techniques allows you to ensure there is no misunderstanding between you and your customer and makes your customer feel that you are really tuned into his or her needs, and that can help you to build rapport and sell art work.
Imagine you're with your customer who has asked for a custom piece. Let's say she has asked you to make her a custom necklace. If your customer says, "I really wear a lot of blue, and I love the south west feeling of the turquoise you showed me. I think I might want you to use that in my necklace."
You could respond by paraphrasing, "It sounds like a turquoise necklace would complement a lot of the clothes in your wardrobe, and you're leaning towards choosing that for your necklace. Is that right?"
This paraphrasing technique shows the customer you're listening, and checking that you're correct ensures that you're both thinking along the same direction. Your customer could respond by saying, "Yes, that's exactly what I want." So you know she's made up her mind. Alternatively, she could say "Well, I'm not quite sure yet." So you know she was just thinking out loud and wants to consider other options.
Imagine that you continue to talk with your customer until you finally think you've established what type and style of necklace she wants. Take a minute to repeat back what the two have you have agreed upon. You might say, "Just so I know I have all the details, I'm going to go through what we've talked about so far. You said you'd like a sterling silver chain with three turquoise drops. The chain will be 16 inches long, and I'll add a two inch extender so you can adjust it up to 18 inches. Does that sound right?"
Taking some time to repeat back to your customer exactly what she has asked for will help eliminate any miscommunication, and she'll feel like you're very aware of her needs.
You could even take this summarizing technique one step further by emailing a written summary of the necklace specifications to your customer for her final approval. Again, this step ensures that your customer feels heard, and you didn't misunderstand any of her requests.
It also minimizes any chance of her being dissatisfied with the final results because you've checked in with her final decision more than once.
Reflecting feelings simply means to state the feelings a customer appears to be expressing. You don't have to feel the same way yourself, you're simply stating how the customer appears to feel in order to help your customer feel understood and heard.
Reflecting feelings, when done well, can be a powerful tool when working with a customer who is angry or frustrated.
Imagine a customer comes to you, and she is fuming because she bought jewelry for her wedding from another company, and she feels the jewelry she received was not what she asked for. She has come to you to customize the pieces to make them more like her original vision, but you are having trouble getting her to clearly communicate exactly what she wants (which is crucial, because you don't want to get it wrong!) because she is so focused on being angry at the first company.
Instead of trying to immediately steer her away from talking about her anger or frustration, give her a moment to get it out. Simply say something like, "It sounds like that was very frustrating for you." and she will probably tell you more about the frustration, but she will also know that you heard and understood her, so she will be able to refocus on the task at hand.
Again, you don't have to agree with the feeling. In this example, you might know and truly respect the owner of the company that made the original jewelry. You're not stating any opinion about the source of your customer's anger and frustration; you're simply stating that it sounds like your customer feels angry or frustrated. That is usually enough to make your customer feel heard and move forward so you can gather the information you need.
Once you see her frustation starting to ease a bit, you can say something like, "I will do everything I can to make this jewelry closer to your original vision. Let's sit down and talk about exactly what you want, so I can get it just right for you."
It's easier to turn an emotion-filled conversation back to a place where you can move forward if you first let the customer know that you have heard and understood their emotion.
These techniques really aren't rocket science, but they do take a bit of practice to be able to use them naturally and effectively.
When I was first learning them, I would practice on my friends and family without telling them what I was doing. It is a great way to get comfortable using the techniques in an environment that is comfortable for you.
You'll be surprised how well these strategies work. When I practiced on my friends and family (remember, they didn't know I was doing it) many of them started to comment on what a great listener I was and how comfortable they felt talking with me. When I started using the strategies with clients and later with customers, I was always amazed at how effective the were at building rapport and moving a conversation forward in a productive, positive direction.
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