The foundation of any sale is trust. Without it, the potential customer will never move beyond the “just looking” phase, and trust is a very fragile thing. It must be developed and cultivated throughout the sales process, but it has to be established first. A professional salesperson achieves this in many different ways. A car salesperson, for example, dresses appropriately for their business situation, and the good ones carry themselves with an air of confidence that says, “I know what I’m doing.” Most creative people do not wear business attire on a regular basis, nor should they. In most cases when it comes to clothing, what would work for selling a car won’t work for selling a form of art. However, there are still things a creative person can do to come across as professional.
First and foremost, always look your customer in the eye and maintain eye contact as much as possible. People who cannot do this, even if it’s just from shyness, come across as having something to hide, and few people want to spend their money with someone who seems shady. If you have trouble with eye contact, work on it. If you are good at what you do, don’t be afraid to look at your customer as you talk about your work.
Also, if you don’t already have a brief synopsis of what makes you a professional in your field prepared, you need to develop this now. This synopsis needs to be brief and poignant, conveying in less than twenty seconds why you are qualified for what you do. A good synopsis avoids personal information and focuses on your background in your field. Mine is fairly simple, and I use it at almost every show I attend: “I have two books on the market and am currently working on the third in the series. I have a Master’s degree in writing from the University of Memphis and have worked as an English Instructor for over eleven years.” That’s it.
Obviously, this statement has evolved over the years, and if you are just starting out and feel like you don’t have much to offer, don’t worry. Talk about your influences and study in your field, but don’t overload your customer with “data-dump.” Few people have the patience to listen to your dissertation on the cultural influences of the Aztecs on Spanish pottery. Just mention the names of your two or three biggest influences and be done with it. If the customer wants to know more, they will ask. If you are more established, avoid overwhelming your customer with all of your achievements, as this can be just as annoying and might make you come across as pretentious. In terms of this synopsis, brevity is the key.
The most important part of trust sounds obvious, but it can sometimes be the most difficult to maintain. Be honest about yourself and your qualifications. Don’t exaggerate yourself or embellish your background. You may get over on some people for a little while, but eventually, you will be found out. If your credibility ever gets damaged, you will have a hard time getting it back, and in the long run, your career will suffer. For those of us still in the early stages of our careers, we sometimes feel like we need to “puff-up” our accomplishments to stand out from the crowd, but in my experience, talent shines through in the long-run. Trust yourself and your ability, and your customer will trust you.