How to Sell Art Prints Using This Classic Retail Trick

Selling your art. How to Create a shortage banner.

You’ve probably read about the use of scarcity as a sales ploy and it works just as well when you are selling your art. But how do you create that shortage and apply it to your art sales? Today I’ll show you how.

Limiting supply is a classic retail ploy. Stores create a deliberate shortage and entice buyers with a time-limited offer. The deadline creates urgency. Marketers exploit the psychological fear of missing out. This method works in every retail environment.

Convincing someone to hand over their hard-earned cash for a piece of art is never easy and watching people admire your work and walk away empty-handed is so frustrating.

In this guide, I’ll give you 5 super effective tactics that can make all the difference to your sales.

Try these…

  • Having a limited supply available
  • Selling limited edition prints (built-in shortage)
  • Imply you’re packing up early (uncertainty)
  • Make a now or never offer (discount)
  • Blame the weather! (I’m serious, this works)

I use a number of tactics to give the impression of a shortage. They are selective truths. I’m not lying but I’m not going to give the game away either.

“Sales based on the fear of loss are more effective than promises of gain.”

Booth sales are all about impulse and urgency.

So what are the tactics?

Sell More Art Prints With A Limited Supply

We’ve all seen the promos:

*** Hurry While Stocks Last! ***
*** Sale End’s Monday! ***
*** Everything must go! **

Contrived shortages maybe, but THEY WORK.

There’s no reason why you can’t use the same psychology to sell your art prints. Why re-invent the wheel?

All you have to do is modify the tactics to suit your situation.

I carry only the number of prints I am likely to sell on any given day. Naturally, I keep more of the popular prints and less of the rest. That said, I rarely sell out of any line.

If I told you I have only 3 prints remaining and I only have 3 prints, how have I lied?

On the other hand

Why would I go on to say,

“But don’t worry I never sell more than 3 per day anyway?

That would be crazy right?

Your efforts should be directed towards instilling uncertainty. Your customer should be saying to themselves, will this (print) be here if I come back later?

The level of indecision will vary between people and you can only use your experience to judge how likely the person is to buy or not.

A quick follow-on may make the decision easier. You might say,

“Are you worried about the price? I can knock 10% off, .. if that helps?”

That might be all you need to sway the sale but ONLY if they take it with them straight away.

Your offer has to be confident but not high pressure. The moment you pile it on, the customer will back off. You must present your offer as a helping hand. The moment they detect desperation you’ve lost it.

It’s got to be now or never.

Sell More Prints With Real Limited Editions

You cant get a more easily tangible shortage than a genuine limited edition. As long as it is genuine of course.

In many ways, it’s an overused device but it still works. The value has been undermined somewhat by daft marketing and downright dishonesty.

  • A limited-edition ice cream? Give me a break,
  • Re-issued prints branded as ‘gold’ editions,
  • Dubious availability of ‘Artist Proofs.’

Imagine how annoying it would be to see your beloved limited edition appear on a greetings card? The bloody cheek of it all.

Here in the UK, where I am based, ‘limited edition’ is not a legally binding term. It’s not enforceable. Instead, you must rely on the seller’s integrity.

Some buyers ask for a certificate of authenticity but I must confess, I don’t bother. My limited editions are so affordable I don’t think there’s a real need and I’ve never lost a sale over it. If I charged more, I would probably supply one.

How limited is limited?

The size of your edition is a matter of suck it and see. When I began trading I did some editions of 950 which were far too big. Now I print editions of 350 which feels about right for my market.

It’s all guesswork. If you are prolific you could get away with very small editions and charge more. I’m painfully slow and unproductive so I prefer the larger print run.

Either way, some prints will sell well and others will hang around for an age. That’s the nature of sales.

Further reading: Selling your art – Does size matter?

Have you ever heard of the Pareto Principle? It’s known as the 80/20 rule. The theory goes that 80% of your outcome is determined by just 20% of your input.

In other words, concentrate your efforts maximizing the successful 20% and ditch the rest.

Easy to advise but hard to apply.

I certainly know that the bulk of my sales come from just a few images. The rest are effectively ‘padding’ out my display.

There are days when I want to tell my customers to stop looking at everything and take the elephants – they’re going to choose it anyway!

I don’t of course.

Imply You’re Leaving Early To Increase Your Art Sales

Why would you go home? It’s a business after all, and packing up would be commercial nonsense. Yet inferring closure is a powerful sales ploy.

In my early days, I had a spell of illegal trading, (TUT-TUT I had no license!) and I used my precarious position to full effect. I could not, in all honesty, give any commitments.

I could be moved on at any moment. I would explain this to wavering customers and explain my predicament.

No one thinks an artist should have to pay anything to the local government to sell their art so I played-up the little man against the system line to bond with my customer.

It’s us against them!

I was genuinely looking over my shoulder so that helped me to instill urgency. I could offer no guarantees.

I’m not a natural lawbreaker and I have never felt more stressed in my life, so I don’t advocate trading illegally. I was in a tight spot and had to try something.

That said, I was never in ‘REAL’ trouble. It was all threats and bluster but I didn’t know it at the time.

I use the example to demonstrate my point about commitments and urgency.

I will project uncertainty, avoiding commitments if at all possible.

If a customer wants to know what time I finish, I’m vague with an answer and say something like,

“Well, yesterday I went home at 4 pm, why’s that?”

The idea is to force a reply and that reply is the start of a chat, and that in turn can lead to a sale.

Once you know the reason for their inquiry, you can temper your reply accordingly.

Often they have more time than they imply and a few incentives can get them interested.

I try not to admit to being available all day, every day. Those certainties are impulse killers, but sometimes I can’t find an excuse. If the day is perfect and the trade is good, I’m obviously not going anywhere.

I won’t lie so I change tactics.

“Take a look now and I’ll give you my card, then you can come back later”

This relaxes the prospect and they look. Just the act of looking can create an impulse and attracts passers-by to look too.

Then you can make an offer which leads us to the next section.

It’s Now Or Never, The Sales Ultimatum

It’s in your interest to give an ultimatum. You must imply that this is the only chance to get your product, service or offer. You could break it down into steps

  • Entice the customer to browse
  • Bond by finding common ground
  • Create uncertainty
  • Make a choose it, or lose it offer
  • Sale

In an ideal world, it would be that simple. It’s not, of course, none-the-less, as a framework, it helps to see the process.

Each step requires different tactics and strategies and all of them must be adapted to circumstances. There are so many variables that formulas must be seen as guidelines.

The ultimatum works if your prospect wants your item but is about to leave without buying anything.

Don’t believe their assurances and promises to return, the vast majority will never come back. It doesn’t matter how genuine and sincere they are, you must never take their words as gospel.

  • People get waylayed
  • Distracted
  • Forget
  • Can’t find you
  • Change their minds

There are any number of reasons not to return so always make an offer that forces a decision.

DON’T TAKE THE RISK!

Say something like:

“Take it now and I’ll give you a better price”
“Don’t lose it. Pay now and pick it up later”
“I can’t guarantee I’ll still be here later”

You have to judge what’s right as the situation arises.

Many will take their chances and leave anyway. All that means is they were never going to buy in the first place, or less likely, they have every intention of returning later.

It’s the waverers that make a difference to your bottom line. It’s your job to get as many people on board as possible but in such a friendly way the balance tips in your favor.

The easiest thing in the world is to step back and not bother to follow up with your pitch. It’s tiring and repetitive.

Take the lazy route at your peril. When you tally up your take, you just may come to regret all those missed opportunities you let go.

Blame Everything On The Weather

People procrastinate and defer decision making. They look for ways to avoid committing. No one wants to buy the wrong thing.

It’s fair enough, we all do it. So inevitably they look for an escape route.

  • Will you be here tomorrow?
  • What time do you finish?
  • Well, I’ve got to come back this way
  • Have you got a website?
  • I’ll think about it over lunch.

And there are many more.

Luckily or unluckily depending on your point of view, I work outside in a country with fickle weather. You can sum up the forecast in one phrase, sunshine, and showers.

The weather is my enemy but also at times my savior. I use it to create uncertainty.
For instance, when I’m asked the inevitable question:

“Are you here all day?”

I reply with:

“As long as the weather holds, if it rains I’m off. If you want it, you’d better grab it.”

It’s a simple and effective reuse. In reality, I’m not going home if it’s only a shower. I only pack up if its a prolonged wet spell.

Any degree of uncertainty will force a decision. If the prospect walks away accepting the risk, they were never going to buy in the first place and won’t be back.

The weather really is one of my trump cards. In the UK its seldom a perfect day. Its either too wet, too windy, or too hot!

I can always find a way to throw a spanner in the works. by saying something like:

“If it gets any windier I’ll have to pack up.”
“Have you seen the forecast? It might rain later.”
“It’s gonna get busy, take it now in case I sell out”

It can’t work all the time so I adapt and use a different tack:

“I might pack up early today, it’s slow and I’ve got things to do.”
“Take your chance but I can’t hold it unless you pay now.”
“I’ll sell it for less but only if you buy it now.”

There’s an inherent contradiction in projecting uncertainty while at the same time establishing and building trust.

To build a business relationship you must be straight and reliable, so how do you do that if you can’t even guarantee to be there later?

Simple, you must close your transaction with your details. It’s at the end, and only at the end that you reveal your website and contact details.

This is your guarantee.

Even after piling on all that uncertainty, no one bats an eyelid when you give them your business card and effectively admit that you can always be found.

It doesn’t seem to register as an inconsistency.

Conclusion

If you take away just one selling tip from this article, it should be this,

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

These scarcity tactics are extremely effective. I use them every day, indeed, they’re now second nature. I use them to sell my art prints but the same principles apply for selling most things.

Try them out for yourself and see what happens.

I hope you’ve learned something today.

Will you use scarcity to gain more sales? or do you use a tactic I didn’t cover?

Let me know in the comments below.


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How to Sell more Art by Creating a Shortage. Framed drawing of a family of elephants. For Pinterest

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