Written by Terry Ouimet
SIMPLE TAKEAWAY: When your desired outcome is crystal clear and your mindset is determined it lays the foundation for you to boldly implement the sales tactics necessary to build your business.
SIMPLE ACTION STEP: Craft your elevator pitch by answering the four questions outlined below in the Role Play section under point number four.
RELEVANT BOOK: How I Raised Myself From Failure To Success In Selling, by Frank Bettger
Full disclosure, we are affiliated with Amazon. We receive a small referral reimbursement if you buy the book through this website. Your price is not any higher, but you help easuccess to stay up and running.
We all want to influence more people toward our creative products and make more art sales, but us artists can be weird folk. I’m going to give you some practical steps that I learned in my award winning sales career that have helped me overcome my fear of rejection and selling to people.
I want to help you sell more art and see you make your dream business successful for years to come.
Is there a business, person or organization that you know you should “pitch” or make a “sales call” to but are too fearful or insecure about actually doing it? You are not alone. Here are five helpful ways to overcome your fear of selling.
5 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Selling
Crush Your Fears
A Clear Desired Outcome
Proper Attitude About Self Worth
Get The Customer Talking
People marvel at how we can start with nothing and create works of art that are so beautiful.
However many of us have a tendency to be introverted and antisocial when it comes to promoting our work or influencing others toward it. Deep down we sometimes doubt our work, ourselves and our ability to build a successful dream business using our artistic gifts and abilities.
So much so that the thought of calling somebody on the phone or meeting them to discuss the purchase of our creative products can create high levels of anxiety.
Let’s get down to some practical steps that will help you feel more confident selling your artwork.
1. Crush Your Fears
These steps will help you effectively devise a plan to conquer this fear that is standing between you and your successful dream business.
Identify the root of your fear of sales. Where does it come from and why do I believe this to be true? Is it a perceived fear?, a real fear that has happened?, a fear wired into my brain during my childhood? Identify it, name it, acknowledge it, admit that it has been holding you back and is real.
Example; “I have had a fear of public speaking since I was young. I hated reading or speaking in groups or in front of the class and I was terrible at it. I admit that it has had a very real hold on me and prevented me from effectively marketing and selling my artwork.”
Next you doubt your fears by questioning their power over you and your inability to do what you fear. You need to put the fear in its cage, leash it up and bring it down in size. Many times people are more afraid of the “fear of fear” or the gripping sensations and emotions experienced when they think about the possibility of becoming fearful.
Similarly, a strategy of “avoidance” or avoiding necessary business tactics such as selling only strengthens the grip of fear on you. It keeps you weak as it subjects you to failure by making you avoid all kinds of situations that involve selling.
The fact is, our assumptions and attitudes about what could happen if we face our fear has had control over or lives and prevented our success. The chance of it actually playing out the way we imagine it is highly unlikely. So those assumptions need to be challenged if you want to realize your full potential and build your dream business.
Now it’s time to plant seeds or doubt about the prison of fear that you have been in. You begin to embrace facing the fear head on and making a jail break.
Example; The truth is that my past fear of public speaking won’t define my future success.
Speaking with others about buying my art is really about relationship building and serving them than being measured on how I perform .
The truth is, selling art is more about solving my customers problems and fulfilling their desires than it is about people judging me or my asking for money.
It is possible to change my attitude toward public speaking and selling so that I become fearless, confident and completely comfortable doing it. Others have done it and there is no reason why I cannot do it. If I have overcome ___in my life, certainly I can do this.
Purposefully and systematically renew your attitude and mindset toward the fear. Out with the old and in with the new. You change and rewire your thinking by using your affirmations, mantras, readings or whatever best fills your mind with the truth about this fear in your business.
Example; “I have nothing to fear but fear itself”, or “I will no longer be afraid of speaking in public”, “I have nothing to fear when I speak in front of people”,
“I choose to speak publicly about my art and others will benefit from it. “I am more than capable of speaking to people about my art and it will make my business successful.”
“I can visualize myself speaking fearlessly and comfortably to a group of people about my art and I am having fun doing it.”
Immerse yourself in your fear. There is no other way to conquer it but to go through it. The short term pain of putting yourself in the exact selling situation that you previoiusly feared will yield long term gains. And, with a new mindset you can now confidently face your fears with small baby steps.
Along those lines, in the beginning you may have to do it afraid. If you wait until you have no fear or nervousness, you won’t ever do it. A little fear is all right and even expected as long as its controlled and put on a leash.
Ideally you want to begin to gain exposure to your fear in smaller safe environments to increase your skills, build confidence and a sense of accomplishment. The resulting actual proof of your ability to face your fear and survive it feeds your sense of empowerment. At the same time it cripples the now unrealistic fear which loses its strength and hold on you. Now you have less worry, anxiety and fear.
Example; First I begin speaking about my product in front of a few people that I feel safe with or one on one with somebody that I know or feel comfortable with.
Next I begin setting appointments with people with more authority or decision making power. Or, I schedule some presentations in front of smaller groups or at smaller local shows and venues.
Ask yourself what attitude or belief below might be a fear of yours, and then determine what actions you can take using the steps above to overcome it.
Fear of rejection or somebody saying no to you.
Fear of talking to people I don’t know or speaking in public.
Fear of somebody not liking your artwork, inadequacy.
Fear of being “salesy” or a slimy salesperson.
Fear of asking for money or a sale.
Fear of prospecting or searching around for people to sell to.
2. A Clear Desired Outcome
This was how I thought about cold calling and sales calls. If you are clearly focused on what you want and are motivated by the rewards of that desire, you will do what is necessary to make it happen.
Some of these things that are required of you will be fun and exciting, and some will not. But all together they contribute to the desired end result and they all must be performed. Whether you think you can or want to is irrelevant.
Therefore, to begin you should have absolute clarity about what you want to accomplish in your business and how you expect to do it. And you should draw a line in the sand of your mind that you will be accomplishing this and there is no other option. No turning back. A mindset of determination and success. None of this will work if you do not have goals, a plan on how to achieve them and the drive and determination to get it done.
So, first let me assume that you already have set clearly defined goals for your business. However, have you typed them up on a spreadsheet as “SMART goals “and verbally told them to at least three people who could realistically ask you about them again? In other words they need to be real goals that you are working toward with specific strategies, otherwise they are just hopes, dreams and ideas in your mind that will likely never come to fruition.
Next you should have a list of tactics that will help support and achieve each of these goals. Tactics are shorter term daily and weekly activities that you engage in and they help you reach your longer term business goals. And tactics that involve influencing others towards your art products by making sales calls fall under the umbrella of what we are talking about here.
Perhaps your goals are to gain gallery representation, reach a certain status in your niche as an artist influencer or leader, achieve social media marketing goals, get interviewed on a podcast, receive a scholarship, reach specific sales goals, obtain a mentorship or apprentriceship, sell your products in large retail chains or online to your desired customer niche or win artistic awards.
When your desired outcome is crystal clear and your mindset is determined it lays the foundation for you to boldly implement the sales tactics necessary to build your business. It unlocks the door and makes it much easier to engage in business actions such as selling and self promoting that you previously avoided or did not excel in.
3. Proper Attitude About Self Worth
We need to have right thinking about rejection in order to make more sales. Many times a fear of selling our art stems from feelings of inadequacy or a fear that people will wrongly judge us for our creations. We as artists probably already have a little thicker skin than others when it comes to dealing with rejection from customers about our art work. We are somewhat used to customers not wanting to buy our products at shows or in stores. Many times they don’t understand our process or vision and say something negative about our work out of ignorance that offends us. “Why did you put that there?” “Is that a cow or a person?” We often associate their negative opinion as a direct attack on us personally because we created it from our hearts and the product is an extension of ourselves more so than other retail products.
This is the secret to overcoming your fear of selling. You have to disassociate the customer response from who you are and your self worth. They are unrelated. No man or woman has the control, power or right to decide your value and self worth and tell you what to think about yourself. They can certainly succeed in rejecting and offending you. But only you have the power and choice to take the bait of offense and lie to yourself with negative untruthful thinking, or not.
For example, in my sales career I would cold call or make sales calls over the phone and in person. Some days I would make 30-40 phone calls, one right after the other. Some days I would stop in and make sales calls in person on 10-12 people in a row.
This was my thought process with decision makers when the strong possibility of rejection awaited me time after time. These are the truths that will enable you to overcome the fear and insecurity of “putting yourself out there” in a selling situation. Perhaps you are nervous about calling the purchasing agent of a large retail chain about stocking your product. Maybe the thought of calling, emailing or stopping in to see a gallery owner about looking over your portfolio keeps you up at night with dread.
They don’t know me , if they did, they would like me and treat me with kindness and respect. But since they don’t know me , I won’t take it personally or hold it against them. If they met me at a bar b que, we would sit down and talk, laugh, have a good old time and they would like me without a doubt.
They are only doing their job. Much like I don’t buy everything that comes my way, I can’t expect them to make time for everybody or buy from everybody that comes their way. It’s not personal at all, just business. I’m slippery like a duck and that rejection just rolled off my back like water does a duck. Who is next? On to the next person. You sir just brought me one person closer to my goals, thank you. This is like treasure hunting, it’s actually fun and before the week ends, I will have found some treasure.
They have issues. We all have bad days on the job and regretfully mistreat people to some extent. They could be stressed, or have personal issues going on in their life right now. Perhaps they just got diagnosed with cancer, I don’t know. Or, they just simply lack the personal skills to treat people properly and it’s a weakness of theirs. Whatever the reason, the problem is not with me, they have some issues.
I have a clearly defined end outcome in mind and I am willing to do whatever it takes to get there. I will succeed and I won’t let fear, uncertainty or rejection prevent me from taking what is rightfully mine. That is, realizing my goals and success. I am determined. I am focused on my task at hand. I will rise above and succeed and I will not be denied what is certainly coming to me.
I understand the odds and statistics and have realistic expectations. I expect some failure and rejection so I am not surprised when it does come my way. I know going in that 80-90% of my attempts to sell or gain an influential decision in my favor may not work out. But I know full well that it is a numbers game. If I try hard enough and be diligent, eventually I will find the 10% of people who appreciate and need what I have and are gladly willing to pay me for it. I want the people who are excited and thankful to work with me and want a long term relationship as I do. And I am willing to push through to find them because the payoff will far outweigh any struggle or uncomfortableness I may have had to pay to get it.
Life is 10% of what happens to me , and 90% of how I respond to it. I keep this quote by Chuck Swindoll at my desk to remind myself that attitude is everything and circumstances are not. I am in charge of my own attitude.
As you can see, what you think is what you are. If you think you are going to be miserable, scared and fail you surely will. So it is vital that we put the right thoughts in our mind if we want to reach our goals and sell more art.
4. Role Play
Practice makes perfect and that goes for selling and influencing. Role play in the mirror first and when you get better, practice with somebody you know very well and feel comfortable with. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing this as silliness, it will help you, I guarantee it.
When I worked in sales for a very large successful company we would fly half way across the U.S for sales meetings to do this exact exercise with each other. I can tell you it works. I would role play at the meetings and then go out the next day and speak confidently with highly educated and esteemed doctors on the same level as them, all the while earning their respect trust and sales.
The reason you are afraid of selling is because you don’t have experience or confidence in your ability to do it. You have no experiential road map or grid to base this foreign experience on so your mind tells you that danger lies ahead, and that you should be afraid and insecure. Or even worse, that you cannot do it.
This is why some artists have trouble influencing people toward the purchase of their products; they are unable to speak confidently and knowledgeably about what makes the product unique and how it can fill a customer desire. Remember, people don’t buy art because they need it. It’s not a washing machine. They buy on emotions, impulse and desire.
The theory behind role play is to first gain experience making mistakes and practicing in a “safe” environment where there is no judgment so that you can grow your confidence in your abilities and knowledge. Additionally, you are training and programming your brain much like a muscle in the gym to perform a certain task automatically and perform it well. In this way you remove the overthinking and emotions such as fear while your brain gets programmed to execute the task of speaking clearly and confidently about your artwork.
You see, when you sit and overthink how you will perform or what negative outcome “could” come about, you do not move forward with the correct business actions toward the success that you deserve to have.
Here is how I would role play; first start talking to yourself in the mirror. Come on, you know you do it anyway so what’s the big deal if you just change the subject to your artwork. I will tell you specifically what to say below. Once you have that down and the words are flowing off your tongue, next get a family member or friend to listen to your “sales pitch” and practice with them.
This is the important part. Here is what you want to practice talking about until it becomes natural rolls off your tongue whenever you need it. It will be unique to your specific niche and product;
a.Your Winning Position
What makes you or your art unique and unlike all the others out there?
Your winning position is the one thing you are hanging your hat on to accomplish your objectives and business goals. All of your tactics will be built around supporting your winning position. Your winning position is preferably a unique value proposition that strategically positions your products and services on a different level than you competitors.
It’s what will make your competitor’s customers want to cross the street so to speak and do business with you instead of them. It’s your secret sauce. According to Harvard strategist Michael Porter, “Strategic positioning means performing different activities than your rivals, or performing similar activities in different ways.”
It could be your process, materials, philosophy, beliefs, functionality of the product itself, or something less tangeable such as the emotions and desires that you fulfill. It can be anything, and you probably already know what it is. Preferably it solves a problem or fills a desire. Now you just need to get better at comfortably explaining it and and effectively leveraging it to influence people toward a sale.
For example, as a plein air landscape oil painter trained in Russian Impressionism this would be my winning position and what I would say if I had 10 seconds with somebody who was interested in my oil paintings; I live, play and paint in these mountains and my beautiful impressionistic paintings with bold colors and thick confident brush strokes allow you to take home a special memory of your vacation to the lovely mountains of Southwest Colorado.” Think of me as the Monet of the mountains.”
I live in a tourist destination and I’m counting on people falling in love with the beauty here and their desire to cherish a painting which serves as an emotional attachment to these mountains. Also it fills a need for a memory of their amazing time here. My impressionistic colorful style and local knowledge and expertise of these mountains is why they will buy from me.
What is your secret sauce or winning position? Be able to clearly and comfortably talk about it to potential customers or anybody that you wish to influence.
b. Your Elevator Pitch
As you may know an elevator pitch is what you would say to influence somebody toward your business in the time it takes to ride up or down an elevator.
This may look a little different for an artistic product but I purposely wanted you to see what a true business elevator pitch looks like. For example, many art products do not solve a problem as I’ve said, but they do fulfill a desire. So just substitute that in under the problem section. We need to be able to clearly articulate to potential customers who we are , what we do, what we bring to the table, and why we do it. The elevator pitch clarifies this information succinctly so that you can talk confidently and quickly about what matters about your art business to potential customers.
So just craft this template to your own niche and product.
Here is our elevator pitch for easuccess to help you formulate your own. Answer these four questions below;
WHO ARE YOU?
We are “ENTREPRENEURS, ARTISTS & SUCCESS” a podcast as well as sales coaches to artistic entrepreneurs.
WHAT PROBLEM YOU SOLVE?
We motivate artistic entrepreneurs and help them make more sales.
HOW DO YOU SOLVE IT?
By interviewing everyday people on our podcast who have learned extraordinary attitudes through their trials and triumphs. With our extensive sales experience we then teach artists practical successful attitudes & business actions that lead to more sales.
WHY DO WE SOLVE THAT PROBLEM?
We are committed to helping artists through the struggles of entrepreneurship so they will make more money, build a successful business and live their dream life. “Successful Attitudes. More Sales.”
So, practice and role play these two key pillars about your exciting art business until you can say it smooth as butter. Relaying this information to key decision makers and customers is vital to the success of your business. Establishing a butter like comfort level when talking about your business will help you be less fearful and more confident. This of course will lead to more sales!
5. Get The Customer Talking
This tactic will decrease your fear of selling, especially when you feel yourself getting anxious as the conversation begins. Think of your meeting as a conversation with somebody you would like to relationship build with, rather than a high pressured sales meeting.
Here is what’s important about relationship building and another secret about sales; most people love to talk about themselves and hear themselves talk but lack the skills or ability to ask questions and be an attentive studious listener. The most unsuccessful sales people talk too much and listen too little. We can learn from this as we try to sell more art.
In the infamous book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie says this; “If you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting be interested. Ask questions that other people will enjoy answering. Encourage people to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.”
There you have it. When you are speaking with people about your artwork, be careful not to talk more than you ask questions and listen. Make sure you don’t talk aimlessly without end about yourself or your process unless they specifically are asking you to.
Even if they do ask, make sure to educate,and influence a little bit, but then turn the conversation over to them and interject an open ended question such as; “What part of my process interests you the most”, or what are your thoughts on __.?” or if you sense they are about to buy just quit talking all together before you talk yourself out of a sale and ask “How would this look in your guest house living room above the fireplace?..”Would you like to take it with you now or shall I ship it to you?”
People love to talk about themselves and it can put you at ease and take the selling pressure off yourself a bit by letting them speak. You have likely used this tactic if you have ever given a big speech and asked a question in the first couple minutes to break the ice and engage the audience so that you feel less nervous. Same thing in a sales conversation. And as I said, this tactic is perfect for taking the pressure and spotlight off you and putting it on your customer. The back and forth conversation will seem more natural and put you at ease.
More importantly, listening and asking questions will allow you to know them better and understand their buying motives, desires and dislikes. Once you are armed with this information, you can serve them and sell to them more effectively. The more you talk, the less you will know about your customer and less effective you will be at building a long term relationship. And the less you will sell.
This strategy has the additional benefit of getting them to like you as well. That’s right , the less you talk, the more they will like you. Remember, people prefer to talk about themselves and listen to themselves. When you make the conversation about them it leaves them with positive feelings and a connection toward you and your product. That is called relationship building and it opens the door to influencing. When you can influence you will make sales.
People buy from those that they like like, trust and respect. See how it all ties together?
Remember, self discipline and focus are crucial to the success of your business. One definition of self discipline is “the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite the temptation to abandon it.”
There are no fancy words or long explanations for persistence, grit, determination, and resolve. There is no way around it, you have to go through it, and you will be able to successfully “put yourself out there” to sell and influence.
And remember this money making question that many people do not know about. Ask it every time you speak with somebody that you are trying to influence toward your artwork;
“Who else should I be talking to about this product?” and as a follow up, “Would you be willing to make an introduction or connection for me?”