If you want to learn to sell your art effectively, step outside of the gallery world for a moment and visit a street market. Forget drinky-poos on opening night and all that arty-farty nonsense. Market traders know how to sell. If you want to know how to negotiate the price of your art prints, this is it in a nutshell.
In order to sell anything as a bargain and get the price you want, you must convince your audience that your item is worth more than the price you’re asking. The bargain is the disparity between those two figures.
To prove the valuation, the trader compares their product, favorably, to the competition, they highlight their products implied worth, limit its availability, and finally, deliver a huge discount for an immediate sale.
Everyone wants a bargain, even at the higher end of the market, and it’s your task to find the price that satisfies both you, and your buyer. So how can artists use this psychology to sell their work?
There are 2 obvious routes to take. Let’s cover both options
How to Negotiate the Price of your Art Prints even with a Fixed Price
You can always stick a label on each item, sit back and relax. The customer can take it or leave it.
The simplicity is tempting. It’s a passive approach which involves little input beyond a display and calculating the correct markup to earn a good profit.
It works if you have many and varied items for sale. Customers tend to assume that prices will differ across the board and will want to know what prices you’re asking.
Further Reading: How Do Artists Price Their Work? (and Increase Their Profits)
Customers are reassured by clearly marked pricing. It’s a written contract, what they see is what they get, no less, no more. They don’t have the embarrassment of asking the price only to gulp when they can’t afford it.
It’s not, however, as effective as having a tempting offer.
My main bargaining strategy is to devise a multi-buy deal. The more you buy, the better the price.
It works for supermarkets and it will work for you.
Don’t underestimate people’s desire for a bargain. Many people are hardwired to get a good deal.
What I don’t do, with my offer, is compromise it.
The deal is in the offer, it works because I’ve worked out the costs. I won’t budge if someone tries to get a better price.
If they can’t afford my lowest prices, they can’t afford them at all, and anyway it’s disrespectful.
I have a bottom line and I keep to it.
The other bonus of advertising your prices is the perceived value it implies. You are in effect saying, ‘this is what they are worth’ and ‘this is what others are paying’. It’s straight forward and honest.
You can also take a leaf out of the supermarket book and advertise your discounts for the world to see.
Never be ashamed of your prices.
At present, I choose to display my open edition prints with a sign saying £6.50 each or 2 for £10 The offer is in large, bold print and there’s no room for discussion. People mostly go for 2 prints.
Some will ask the price for three. As 2 prints are £10, they should all be £5 each and that’s a fantastic price. The customer is hoping for more. I can say £5 is my lowest price or I can weigh up our encounter and move slightly if the extra sale is uncertain.
I will repeat my offer for 2 prints for a tenner, and then £4 each thereafter. In effect I’m offering the third print for a 20% discount. That sounds like a great deal and everyone accepts it. That’s £14 for 3 prints.
I don’t advertise 3 prints for £14 because it’s a clunky price offer. The magic price is £10. That’s the hook to get people really interested. I can up-sell the better offer.
How to Negotiate the Price of your Art Prints by Haggling
Outside the western world, haggling is often the norm and second nature to all those involved. No one bats an eyelid discussing a price, it’s ritualized and follows a set of unwritten rules.
The asking price is way too high, the offer is way too low, and somewhere in the middle there is a sweet spot acceptable to both parties.
It works best when all concerned know roughly what the price should be anyway. This is not the case with artwork so a little more thought must be put in to the process.
I display my cheapest prices but leave my premium prints unmarked. This allows me to construct and pitch my offers and increase my sales.
From the start you must have a clear price point in your head, one that you will not fall beneath. All your efforts must focus on achieving that minimum price or above.
It takes timing and practice to get the delivery just right. As a seller, you have to develop a traders’ patter and have a supply of tried and tested quips and phrases at the ready.
At the point when a customer asks the price, it’s important to state your preferred price confidently. Don’t apologize, stutter, or hesitate. Then wait for the reaction.
If the customer is unphased or let’s slip their surprise with a comment such as ‘is that all?’ You’re onto a winner.
If the reaction is one of disappointment you can follow up with a question, ‘ Is that a bit steep for you?’ then continue ‘If you are keen I can offer you a deal.’
Ideally your customer will enquire ‘how much?’ This is a clear sign of interest.
There are three ways to proceed you can offer a percentage discount, ask the customer to make an offer, or throw in a freebie. the most profitable is the latter.
The Discount Offer Without Haggling The Price of Your Art Prints
It’s easiest to discount your price there and then. Most people are not affected by 10% so I’ll offer 20% upfront, which is generous. If on the rare occasion anyone tries to get a better ideal, I will offer 25% if they want to buy two prints.
It’s simple but there is a very real chance the customer will back away.
I prefer to turn the table on them.
Inviting the First Offer to Take Control of the Haggling
If someone shows a distinct interest in a limited edition but is reluctant to pay the price I will ask them directly to make me an offer. This disconcerts people. They don’t know what to say. They are frightened to offend you.
I reassure the reticent and urge them to give it a go, ‘I won’t be offended’.
Almost no one offers half, they are too embarrassed, they usually offer about three quarters.
I know this is going to happen!
My initial asking price was £20 but I will secretly and happily accept £15.
I know they will offer £15 from the start, nearly everyone does, so when that happens I accept their offer there and then! The sale is mine. No one backs out of a verbal contract. I get the sale. It’s a commitment.
Why risk losing the sale for an extra couple of quid, they might back out!
Offering a Freebie, the Most Profitable Haggling Option
This is my favorite.
I’m prepared to cut a deal by offering a freebie instead of a discount.
Some people are too shy to make me an offer or more likely, they are torn between choosing one of two prints, one costing far more than the other. From my point of view, it’s the difference between taking £20 for the limited edition or £6.50 for an open edition.
Human nature being as it is, the indecisive customer is likely to choose the cheaper option but I, naturally, want them to spend £20.
I make my move.
‘I tell you what, if you want both prints I can do a better deal. If you want the limited edition for £20, I will INCLUDE the other one for the same price. You get both for £20.’
This is almost too good to be true. That appears to be something for nothing right? In the mind of the customer I’ve just given away £6.50.
If the customer is suspicious I simply tell the truth, I can always reprint the open edition and sell it again. The Limited Edition can’t be replaced. All is fair and everyone is happy.
Decision-making is traumatic, people find it stressful. I’ve solved that problem and now the buyer can have both without the angst of making the wrong choice.
For my part, as the seller, I was initially unlikely to get the £20 sale, but by offering the freebie I’ve secured the sale with the loss of only 80 pence for a new open edition print.
Relief all round
Learning to haggle is a useful skill and it works. Whether you choose to spend all day bargaining is up to you. For my part, I prefer to combine fixed and flexible pricing. I just haven’t got the energy to haggle all day long.
How to Haggle Politely
Attitude plays its part in haggling a price.
Sometimes a customer gets everything wrong and adopts an unpleasant manner. I would rather miss a sale than sell my work to someone who shows me disrespect.
And sometimes a customer will almost beg for the discount. I find this approach very embarrassing and awkward.
Another ploy is to suggest they’ve seen something similar for less money. My answer is always the same. I suggest they buy the other prints because I can’t match it. I know they’re fibbing.
I don’t sell at any cost. It’s not worth it. It leaves is a bad taste in your mouth.
The best approach for the seasoned haggler is to warm the seller up first and make a few jokes. If the buyer entertains you, it’s a form of giving and that’s a reciprocal thing. Any cheeky request for a discount is likely to be met with a positive response.
I’m happy to discount to good people because it make me feel good too. It’s very basic psychology.
Negotiate The Price of Your Art Prints Using Contrasts and Comparisons
Art isn’t like other goods. There is no fixed benchmark to refer to, instead, you must construct one yourself.
- Who inspired your own work?
- What prices do their originals command?
- What do their prints sell for?’
Use these as your benchmarks to contrast and compare them to your own work.
Have you got an example to show your audience? can you reasonably claim to be as good an artist or even better? Use it.
‘Look this is by ‘so and so’ and its for sale right now for £600 online and it’s only a print. I’ll sell you one of my originals for that!
Is it better? I don’t think so’
If that’s not easy for you, why not use ‘modern art’ as your contrast?
Believe you me I seldom meet anyone who has any time for conceptual art. I’d go as far as to say, most people I encounter, treat it with scorn.
The public mostly likes things they could never do themselves. They admire the skill and patience.
Use that insight to your advantage and offer up an outrageous contrast
‘A pickled shark is worth millions apparently, it’s supposed to be high art. It took me 40 years to draw this well and you can have a signed print for under a tenner.’
I use the price difference on my own website as proof that my prints are worth more.
‘You can get them on my website or Etsy for a tenner each, plus postage. It’s only cheaper here today, you can have two for a tenner with no postage.’
I also highlight the difference between my open and limited edition prints.
‘My limited prints are £20 each and printed on a higher grade of paper. There are only 350 prints, once they are gone, they are gone for good.
The open editions I will reprint as many as I can sell, that’s why they’re cheaper. I sell more but ask for less.’
Use photos of your work hanging on a wall.
Photoshop your image into a beautiful interior. Show people what it looks like.
‘This is how it looks all framed up and on the wall, look at the difference that makes, Its a 100 times better.’
People are afraid of framing costs, they’ve probably been burnt before.
If you don’t sell frames make sure your prints are the right size to slot into a standard shop bought frame and promote the savings that can be made.
If you do sell the frames yourself, tell everyone how much it normally costs to get one made in the framers down the road.
‘It’s daylight robbery’
How to Build a Bargain by Being Unique
By emphasizing the uniqueness of your offer, you’re increasing it’s scarcity value,
These are the kind of things I say,
Saying what they are not, is just effective as stating what they are, it’s a way of allaying fears and suspicions while at the same time reinforcing the value.
Let’s round this off by looking at the most effective form of face-to-face selling.
The Cascading Sales Pitch
It’s an old-school market traders device to deliver a sales pitch and a knockout price to a crowd of people. I’ve seen modern versions of the same oratory online but it doesn’t have the same punch.
I include it here merely to be comprehensive and inform you. I’m not sure its suitable for art but good luck to you, if you try.
It takes nerves of steel and perfect timing to pull it off.
The idea is to start with the highest price your item (your art) could possibly sell for and rule out each subsequent price drop in descending order.
The final price is announced with a clap or the clack of an auctioneers gavel and is far lower than expected. That’s the key.
It might go something like this,
‘You’ve seen them in fancy galleries all lit up with fancy lighting and fancy frames and what will you pay? They can go for hundreds.
This is the same thing in a different package, I should know it’s my own work, and I’m not asking for silly money.
I’m not asking hundreds, I’m not even asking £50. We are cutting out the middle man.
I don’t want £40 or even £30.
These are fine art prints, signed by me, the artist. I’ve got 5 here, when they are gone they’re gone, all I want is the price the gallery gives me…..first come, first served, put your hands up if you think they are worth a tenner. Well, I’m asking UNDER a tenner.
First come, first served!….PAUSE….
CLAP!… GIMME £7.99′
Of course, the routine would build up the final countdown with an elaborate display of colorful rhetoric and humor. It’s a sophisticated sales routine that’s part theater, part psychology.
It’s a method market traders and demonstrators have used for centuries and was a common sight until a few decades ago.
I remember being mesmerized as a child by these professional performers pitching their wares.
Shopping was fun, a market was an event. We’ve lost something.
You can see why this approach to mass sales would be tricky for an artist. I wouldn’t say it can’t be done, all I can say is I’d like to be in the audience when someone does. But not me.
For it to work you must rinse and repeat all day long.
The only trader that operates this way where I work is a magician/escapologist who gathers an audience by using similar psychological tricks.
He builds an audience of onlookers first by creating a commotion. In his case by getting a few volunteers to conspire with him to clap and cheer.
A crowd likes nothing better than something happening and people rush over to have a look.
He does this every 30 mins or so throughout the day and ‘hats’ the audience at the end of each performance.
Imagine doing that all day long. Exhausting.
But boy, does he make money.
So what have you learned? How are you going to price your art prints? Are you going to sell them as a fixed price or have a go at haggling? Maybe you are brave enough to pitch to a crowd.
Keep in mind that however you decide to sell, the most important skill of all is to engage with your customers.
Be positive, smile, and offer a bargain
If you found this post helpful, you should read these too:
- Sell More Art – 9 Selling Skills For Artists (Are You Missing Sales?)
- How to Sell Your Drawings (Everything You Need to Know)
- How to Sell Art Prints Using This Classic Retail Trick
- How to Make Prints of Your Art if You Don’t Know What You’re Doing
- How to Make Cheap Art Display Panels That are Light and Strong
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