How to Sell Art at Shows Part Two

how to sell art at shows -

Top tips for selling more art at shows.

Part One covered these topics:

  • Booth Appearance
  • Inventory Management
  • Cohesiveness and Clarity
  • White Space
  • Your Appearance
  • Your Attitude

Don’t Give Yourself a Pay Cut for Your Show Income.

Here’s the thing. You spend much time, money and energy to get into a show, then set it up and lose sales. When you don’t have a game plan for what to do once the show begins – and in pre-sale and setup – you are giving yourself a pay cut. Follow the advice here to give yourself a pay raise instead.

Once you have gone past the date of a refund for your deposit or payment in full, you are ALL IN. After that, I think what happens with many artists is one or both of these two things:

  1. They initially never knew what to do to make a show the best possible for themselves.
  2. They expend so much energy getting ready, getting to, and setting up that they are too spent to do the things necessary to make the show successful.

The goal is not to get into the show, get there and get setup. The goal is to go to the show and do three things:

  1. Sell as much art as humanly possible at the show
  2. Meet as many potential art buyers as you can
  3. Collect as many email addresses as possible

Advice for How to Sell More Art at Shows.

To my mind, you work too hard to be inflicting self-damage to your income. If you have participated in just one show, you know how much it takes to get everything done to get there and get set up in time for the show. Nevertheless, you have to leave yourself with enough energy, spirit and smarts to make the show successful for you.

Are You Giving An Experience?

When show-goers make their effort to get themselves to a fine art show, they are looking for an experience. In some cases, the commotion and non-art related things going on at a show can make it that much harder for you to compete with them. For instance, the atmosphere at the First Friday Artwalk events in downtown Phoenix makes it feel like you are at a raucous block party. People are there to see and be seen, and you are trying to compete with that sort of thing sometimes.

Other shows put the art first. They offer more decorum and respect for you as an artist and art exhibitor. Whatever the case, you need to be prepared to give those whose attention you draw an experience.

It doesn’t have to be over the top. Your art can be the experience if you display it well and make your booth visitors comfortable and welcome. If you can add a bit of excitement in some way, you are closer to winning the battle.

What Makes a Show Experience?

It could be a dramatic display of your masterpiece. Perhaps an overall booth design that is unique and inviting. Your imagination is all that limits what you can do to create an experience unforgettable for show attendees.

Start paying attention to other exhibitors. What’s going on in the ones that always seem crowded? How can you adapt what you see there to make your booth experience more happening?

Don’t be afraid to creatively borrow ideas from retail stores, websites, or other vendors. Use, modify, and incorporate anything that arrests your attention wherever you find the inspiration. You don’t have to settle for being just another artist in a booth with art on display. Kick ass! You got this!

Let the Experience Carryover.

I talk extensively about personal branding and self-promotion in my Guerrilla Marketing for Artists  book. Together, they make one of the steps in my 8-Steps to Art Marketing Mastery Workshop. Work at branding your booth display, and, if appropriate, how you interact with visitors to your booth.

I’ve written before about how an intriguing bacstory will sell art and artists. All these things, show experience, personal branding, self-promotion, and backstories are part of a tapestry woven from the same threads.

I realize ideas like this are harder to do than say, and are, to some extent, over the top. However, do not let that deter you from working to put them in action. When it comes to the buying decision, how you present your art is as important as the art itself.

Buying Art Is Driven by Emotions.

A show experience pushes the emotional buttons of buyers. Logic is only used to justify the purchase. Creating an experience puts you miles ahead of your also-ran show competitors. Moreover, if you weave that experience into your marketing outside of shows, you add incredible power to it.

Promotional Materials.

My good friend, and co-presenter on our free, monthly Art2Market Sessions, Jason Horejs, is the owner of Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ.  He will tell you he does not offer promotional material of any sort to gallery visitors. On the surface, this may sound contradictory to doing everything you can to make a sale.

Jason’s opinion and one I share is that giving expensive four-color brochures, or even postcards, is a waste of both time and money. Instead of offering promo materials, Jason offers to email the prospect with detailed information about the artwork in which they have shown interest.

The benefit is the prospect does not have to haul materials around the show with them. (How often at shows have you seen abandoned flyers, sell sheets and brochures laying around or discarded? What a waste!)

Most importantly, the obtaining email address method gives Jason, and you, the opportunity and permission to send more marketing information regarding the prospect’s interest in your art.

The Importance of Collecting Email Addresses.

If you want to enjoy the greatest success selling your art, you have to work at it. These days, a primary and efficient way to sell art is to send a steady stream of focused email to targeted prospects.

Selling art is the main reason for attending a show. A secondary, and in some cases, nearly equally important purpose of exhibiting is to expose your art to potential buyers and capture their email addresses.

Email Marketing Rules.

A viable, responsive list of email subscribers is your most potent marketing tool. It gives you the ability to communicate directly with your top prospects. You do this without the distraction of other elements found in all social media and online galleries.

Eliminate Your Competition.

Your email eliminates all your competition. It offers a platform to state your case and display your art in the most favorable conditions with no distractions from competitive messages and offers. When you understand this dynamic, you begin to grasp the power of email marketing.

Art Collectors Buy Art Online.

Observing the success of online art sites proves buyers are conditioned to use the Internet to find and purchase art. Instead of giving some other third party a cut of your sales, selling directly through your email marketing program puts you in control.

You cannot overstate the power of an email list that consists of opted-in addresses from those whom willing gave you their email address. It offers a more massive potential for sales for you than any other single thing you can do to sell art directly to buyers.

Make it a point to collect as many email addresses as aggressively as you can.

Don’t forget why you are at the show. It purely is to:

  • Sell art
  • Show your art
  • Meet prospective buyers
  • Grow your email list

During show hours, nothing else matters. You are only there for a few short hours, do your best to make them matter!

You Are Not Following Up Enough with Your Clients

Jason Horejs also wrote a blog titled, You Are Not Following Up Enough with Your Clients. Now, if you don’t collect email addresses, you don’t have to worry about this. By not collecting email addresses, you will have much more time to worry about why you are not selling enough art.

For the rest of us who actively collect email addresses, Jason’s message should open our eyes to lost opportunity. Just like having an also-ran booth setup, not sending to your list often enough is a sure way to cost you lost sales. This is especially true after a show. Get a series of indoctrination emails set up in an auto-responder or drip campaign as it is also known to send to your prospects.

Use the Masterpiece Offer to Sell More Art at Shows.

Every artist should have at least one “Masterpiece.” A work that is often larger and in general just noticeably more magnificent than other works on display. If you don’t have one, get busy and make one. The only thing holding you back is you.

Your masterpiece helps you justify the prices of the other artworks you are showing. You always start by introducing your masterpiece to new visitors to your booth. Price it accordingly and proportionally greater than other works on display. This psychologically makes all your art more affordable. It automatically raises the top end of your price range.

Silence Is Golden!

Start off showing your highest priced work -- your masterpiece. Explain how much you love it and why. Go on to say you were reluctant to bring it because it means having to part with something so special to you. These are my words. Use your own to come across as passionate, believable and authentic. If what you say is true to who you are it is discernible to buyers. 

Once you are done with your introduction to your masterpiece be quiet. Let your prospective buyer soak in what you just said, view the work, and wait for them to reply or ask questions. Resist the urge to speak until your prospect speaks first. What they say will help you understand how to proceed with the sale.

Planning for How to Sell More Art at Shows.

If you show up, set up and then sit there with no idea on how to present your art, what you will say, and what questions you will ask your booth visitors, you are wasting precious opportunities.

Don’t Be An Amateur!

That’s what amateurs do — show up unrehearsed and unprepared. They are using wishful thinking, Which is better applied for buying lottery tickets. (In case you didn’t know, the odds of winning the lottery are about the same whether you buy a ticket or not.)

You want to elevate your game. You don’t have to act like the high-pressure jerks you encounter in some galleries. You just need to work on what is going to happen while you are in the booth with potential buyers. It’s all part of a grander scheme to make you more successful. Any effective tips or techniques you learn to use at shows will spill over into the other aspects of your career.


I have written about the "Offer Big" concept many times. You can neither assume the buyer knows what they want nor can you think what they are willing to spend with you. It’s impossible. The only thing you can now for sure is if you make assumptions they won't buy is you will lose. Negative thinking and projecting any internal feelings or thoughts you have on to others is a zero sum game.

When you have a buyer who is interested in your masterpiece, and some will if you show it to them, don’t stop there. Before you take the payment, or during your presentation, learn to work in a BIG OFFER.

“You have made an excellent choice with this piece; it’s one of my favorites. Let me suggest a couple of companion pieces. These two smaller paintings complement the one you have selected. In the right setting, they together will make an impressive and dramatic presentation. You can use them to command attention and make them the centerpiece of nearly any design environment.”

Obviously, again those are my words. Your job is to work on making a similar statement that comes from your genuine authentic self. 

My Promise on the Outcome of My Advice.

I promise these two things to you if you take my suggestion to offer big. The first is some buyers, to your unending delight, will take your offer without quibbling or giving it much thought. The second is you won’t lose any sales from making a legitimate upsell offer. The worst that will happen is the buyer will decline to take your Big Offer. That’s all.