My dear friend and writer Lily Gearhart has nominated me for a TED talk by the name of The Art of Selling Art, and I fell in love with the name. It’s what she said I do, teach artists how to sell their art, and there is an art to it (not to twist your brain...or maybe just a little). Plus I promised you this post one post ago, so here goes.
How do you sell your art?
What I’m about to tell you will require you to leave your old life and step into a new one, and in the process learn to step outside of yourself to sell, then return to yourself to create.
We artists come to making art by traveling painful, thorny roads of life. We’ve been through horrors that left us two choices: go out of life (become numb to it by various means or to end it altogether) or to stay alive and channel our pent-up emotions into a creation that can be destroyed if we want to (a much better outcome rather then destroying ourselves) and that makes all that ugliness that happened to us into something beautiful.
It’s a very personal process. It requires one to be vulnerable, to be one with one’s truth. It requires standing out there in the middle of the crowd, naked, and just be. This is one mindset. This is making art. Being you and showing you as you are.
Selling requires the opposite, and what’s why for us artists it’s often quite difficult.
Selling requires you to step outside of yourself like you’re not there. After all this work, after all this searching and owning yourself suddenly you must leave. How come?
Because selling isn’t about you. It’s about them.
You don’t exist. You must step outside of yourself and become one with whomever you’re selling to. You must abandon that precious vessel you worked on so hard—this switch takes practice. All of a sudden you no longer cater to your own needs, you must cater to the needs of others. Because selling is solving someone else’s problem.
Selling isn’t talking about your art.
Selling isn’t describing your process of pouring your soul and sweat and guts into your creation.
Selling isn’t asking for the right price—the price your art deserves.
None of these things.
Selling is helping another human being solve their problem. Period.
You’re not there, you see? It’s not about you or your art. It’s about them and their problem.
A handy little list for you:
S — SERVICE. You’re not there for yourself. Your job is to provide service.
A — ASK. You’re not to talk about yourself or your art. You’re only to ask questions.
L — LISTEN. You’re not to interrupt under any circumstances. You’re to listen.
E — EMPATHIZE. You’re not to disagree or assert your opinions. You’re to empathize.
And finally, you’re there to thank the person for sharing with you whatever it is they’ve shared. So if they yelled in your face that your art sucks, as an artist you’d get pissed and tell them some choice words. But as a sales person you’re there to thank them for sharing with you their feelings so openly, EVEN IF THEY’RE WRONG (their opinions might be wrong, but their feelings never are).
Yes. That’s what The Art of Selling Art is about (I'm working on making it into a little book and on offering online video classes). It’s about loving another human being. It’s about seeing them as whole, no matter how hurt or mad or disagreeable or non-communicative they are. It’s about forgetting about your own needs and servicing theirs. It’s about stepping outside of yourself as an art professional and becoming a sales professional, and understanding that your income depends on it, and doing it and prospering as a result.
Because if you help other people prosper, those people will help you prosper in return. It’ll take time and patience and faith to see this prosperity. Never waiver. It’ll come.
So I invite you starting today, right now, right this very moment, to do the following in every conversation you have with anyone, anywhere, at any time:
- Ask the person for their name. Memorize it and repeat it during your conversation as many times as possible (make sure to pronounce it right).
- Ask them how they are and simply listen. Keep asking questions. Don’t talk about yourself. As a guideline use this ratio: you should talk only 20% of the time or less, the other person 80% or more.
- Get excited about what it is they’re sharing with you and offer any service you can to help them with whatever it is they need help with. Don’t ask for anything in return. (This is not a contest of "I'll give you this if you give me that." Read The Go-Giver by Bob Burg for inspiration.)
- Thank them for sharing their story/need/problems with you.
- Do what you promised to do.
I’m deliberately not giving you the actual sales questions here (the ones I teach my clients) because I’ve learned that this simple switch from talking about yourself to asking questions and listening is difficult enough to occupy most of your time until you master it and are ready to move on to the actual sales. But I can guarantee you that if you do only this, your world will change. And if you do this enough, you'll begin to prosper.
P.S.: I’m starting a little daily newsletter, no longer than a few sentences—daily tips on sales, so email me if you want to get on the list. It’s not even public yet as I’m still working on finalizing it. I’d love to get your input to help me service your needs better.
Let me know. Thank you. I love you.