Love for Your Collectors Starts with Empathy

Guest blogger: Mckenna Hallett
In my seminar titled The E’s of Selling™, I ask: “What’s Love got to do with it?” As you will learn here, love is all there is in the sales process.
Perhaps the most important “E” on the road to love for your collectors addresses a critical part of everyone’s buying and selling experience:  Empathy. Those first moments of contact are fragile and involve complex emotions.

McKenna Hallett, Integrated Hearts
McKenna Hallett, Integrated Hearts. Brass screen, aluminum lithographic plate, copper sheet metal, and brass accent wire, approximately 2 1/4 x 1 3/4 inches.

Why are we all equally affected when confronted with a salesperson?
What is the tension we feel as salespeople (or buyers)?
Why do so many so quickly burst out with “Just looking!” at the hint of a hello or any attempt to engage?

Them vs. Us (and $$)

As sellers, we use silly tricks, like acting busy with dusting. Or we keep people talking with us so others will then feel comfortable to browse. After all, it is safe to enter the area if the salesperson is already engaged in another activity, right?
As buyers, we don’t want to seem too easy a target. But we also don’t want to engage in any relationship that might require us to say No. Think about this. We equate rejection as a very bad thing. We want to avoid getting rejected. (As salespeople, we often do not ask for the sale for that very reason.)
We don’t want to reject another person because we know it sucks to feel rejection.
This is empathy deep at work keeping both sides from easily engaging when a money transaction is involved. The same two people would have no problem being themselves with each other at a bus stop or in line at the grocers.
This awkwardness is all because of money. Both buyer and seller understand this and are affected by this factor.
If you are at an art fair selling your own accomplishments, it gets even more delicate. Now your booth visitor is not only saying No to spending money with you, they are also “voting you off the island.” What a scary situation this can be for many of us!
But No is not always No. The old directive “Don’t take no for an answer” must be honored here. Sometimes a No is really a Maybe. IF the shopper feels connected, safe, inspired, and cared for, a No can easily become a Yes.

Pushy-Free Selling

Don’t let it be about the money. Find the love – the love for your art, for sharing your art, and for people.
I hear it all the time: “I don’t want to be a pushy salesperson.” I would argue that pushy has left the building over the years, but to be absolutely pushy-free I have just the cure:

  • Be empathetic and you can never be considered pushy.
  • Treat others as friends and show them you care about their needs.
  • Take the words I, ME, and MINE out of your vocabulary as much as possible and replace your statements with YOU and YOURS.

These exercises alone will increase your sales.
Remember that people deserve the opportunity to experience the joy of ownership that comes with purchasing your art.
You have brought great happiness to many. And like the great food you ate, movie you saw, or book you read, sharing and (hint: this is another of the “E’s of Selling”) encouraging people to experience good things in life come naturally for the vast majority of us.
Go out there and show you care (empathize) and help (encourage) people to say Yes – a  decision you know will make them happier and thankful for years to come. Share your art with the same (here’s another “E”!) enthusiasm you have for that restaurant you love – because LOVE is what we all want to feel.
Love is all there is.
And don’t forget to smile, laugh, and have some fun. Fun people make more money!
Happy Valentine’s Day!

McKenna HallettAbout the Guest Blogger
Mckenna Hallett started her first business at age 8. In 1992 she launched her own jewelry business, “Currents – low impact jewelry,” which is available across the globe. McKenna has long been teaching The E’s of Selling to share her insights with fellow artists.

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25 thoughts on “Love for Your Collectors Starts with Empathy”

  1. This is great advice. Thinking of sharing instead of selling is much less intimidating. I’ve never really thought about how neither parties want to be rejected etc…but that makes a lot of sense. What are some “sharing” comments to say, when someone starts to look at your art? Thanks!

    1. Thanks to all who are commenting. (Fun use of the E’s Kelly!) I am so pleased to be able to “share”! (Big Thanks to Alyson of course!)
      Remember that what people want to do is share who they are. We all love love love to talk about ourselves. SO – rather than thinking about what YOU will share, find ways to help them feel comfortable to share with you.
      How about getting them to discuss the room and the area in the room that they are considering? “Collectors for my work love that the colors change with each different lighting in a room. Is there a special spot that you are searching to enrich with some original art? What is the lighting like?”
      Questions that ask them to “share” will help them in so many obvious and non-obvious ways. I would challenge (as I do in my post-seminar hand-outs) that you come up with as many questions as possible that help focus and center viewers into deeper consideration of your work. The more questions the better. So if they start describing the room, don’t be afraid to ask about more details: “What is the flooring like? Are the walls muted tones or deep colors? Just asking shows empathy and – the best part? – they are really starting to see that room and see YOUR art in that room. And again…they love that you are caring about the details of the room and about their world in general and them in particular.
      And yes, Sara, it does totally change the dynamics when we feel loved and share our love. I tell a story all the time that brings this home:
      If you are walking down the street and you look up and see a fully formed bright and sparkling rainbow – would you keep that to yourself? Or would tell the person walking towards you to turn around and see this amazing moment? Sharing our art is like sharing a rainbow.
      And that brings up another E: Emergency. Rainbows fade quickly – so does the desire to purchase. Help them find the courage (encourage) to become an owner while your wonderful work is front and center in their world. YOU owe it to yourself and to your art and to their future enjoyment. Help them feel the wonderment of ownership. Paint Pictures in their Minds.

  2. i love this—>We don’t want to reject another person because we know it sucks to feel rejection.
    I’ve heard Abraham-Hick says many times…just share your art…don’t think about sales…i got it…yet not really. but now…i do really get it! thanks so much for really showing me this from a different angle!!

    1. That is where empathy works best! Pay as much attention as you can to the person’s “attitude”. If possible even know where they just were looking and if they lingered and really looked over the work of a nearby artist, you can even start with – “I just saw you over at Sue’s booth – isn’t she a grand artist?” And if they loved that work and start talking about art they own, you have avoided the dreaded “canned” conversation. Nine times out of ten, they will look at your work with a serious eye at that point and often say something positive – run with that.
      Another great opening statement: “Have you seen my work before?” I love this as it implies that you are noteworthy and have been “seen” by many people in the past.
      If you do anything out of the norm – like actual print-making, or encaustic layers, or build your own frames, or anything that is really distinctive, just blurt that out with a big smile: “I actually work in a rather archaic form of __________ using _______. Have you ever seen or explored anything from this art form in the past?” If yes…ask more questions. If no, give them a thumbnail (quick!) version of what you do. “Elevator pitch” is it is sometimes called.
      Very important – empathy also means that you can over-reach and intimidate if you are not very careful of the audience. If you do intaglio – try to avoid that word until you know they won’t feel “stupid”. If you say, this is a print that I made from a copper etched plate, and they say they have a few original prints from artist so and so – you are off and running. Start asking more questions! Sincerely compliment them on their patronage of fine arts and then (always have one in each show) share your newest work. “This is the newest piece in my collection and it is limited to x impressions. Some of the best impressions are the earliest and there are a few of the lower numbers still available today.”
      So again: your assignment is to pay close attention to the body language and mood and “dance” gently into their arms. If they have kids in tow that are impatient or a spouse who just stands in the distance, you may have to throw a biz card at them as they hurriedly dart about the booth. But if you can make the kids/spouse become interested enough that everyone is “invested” in sticking around – well…never hurts to huddle up the whole family, so have a small show and tell story at the ready, too.
      The number one goal: make them want to own a piece of YOUR story. YOUR art. YOUR passion. And when you are authentically wanting to share, you will feel the walls begin to fade and the eye contact – and the big smile – will take care of the rest.
      As long as they are smiling and talking, they are happy to hang out. And the longer they hang out, the more likely it is that they will hone in on a piece they just MUST own.

  3. Funny, I just realized that me or Joseph are usually pouring wine or Prosecco when we meet people at shows…Or showing them how fresh the veggies are on the veggie plate…
    Or telling them that the water is filtered special…It helps the conversation…

  4. I don’t do booth shows at the moment and it is mostly because it is not presently logistically feasible. On the other hand, when the time comes that I am able to do them (and let’s assume I find some where my work fits) I wonder if my terminal shyness at telling people about my work will derail me. My brain freezes when I should be able to easily reference those applicable statements just like the ones McKenna offers as examples. I have lots of empathy in general but when I’m working in a booth I mainly have panic.

    1. Patrica, you’d be surprised!
      I’m also painfully shy, even after having been in “The Biz” for a few years. I am very passionate about the things I make. I do it because I love it, and I find that when people take a genuine interest in my work, it energizes me, and I forget that I am shy!
      Good uck!

  5. Patricia, & anyone else who this applies to: Remember that when you are feeling fear & panic, or just falling apart, terror, or insecurity- that that is ok, & that people will take care of YOU…It is completely fine to be imperfect, or even a total screw-up-in fact, many people like this about artists- because we allow others to feel not alone that way…Just being honest to people is a terrific way to bond- especially since most people you are going to meet want to tell you that they are scared too…

    1. Perfect Sari. Essentially: Let them love you! We love to take care of others and make them feel good, so if we are ourselves, we naturally want to take care of others and we love to feel like people are taking care of us, too. THAT’s the pure emotion. That’s the real deal and that is irresistible. (Also the opposite of rejection! Whew.)
      SO @Patricia. Just greet people with a big sincere smile and most of the “early” jitters will melt when they smile back at you. Smiling is contagious and when those muscles are stimulated they actually start a chemical storm in the brain that stimulates pleasure centers. Google it! With a big smile, doors open! You can even say things like: “I rarely leave my studio and always feel like a fish out of water at events like this, but let me know if you have any questions about my work. I love to share, I just need some prodding so feel free to ask as many questions as you like.” THEN smile and even giggle if it feels comfortable, and go from there.
      And I will emphasize again: You and your art and your client all deserve to see this purchase happen. You are going to help them experience a life time of enjoyment and this is a potent moment that deserves your full commitment and unconditional love.

  6. McKenna, as always, you are “right” on! I agree with you 100%. It is fun to read all of the comments and very interesting to see how others feel about “selling.”
    Thanks for just being “very wise” you!

  7. Very insightful article – I can tell immediately that McKenna has done many shows. Also sounds like you (McKenna) have read Jack White’s material. He always says to get people talking about their favorite subject – themselves.
    My most difficult part is that I feel too much empathy when the looker says “I just don’t have enough money”.

  8. I have recently learned of Jack White, but I have not read his materials. My “secret” is more about Dale Carnegie. I am old school I guess. As for having too much empathy? I think you might want to rethink…Perhaps you do not have enough and the story I will share should help sort this out.
    If someone really doesn’t have enough money, you cannot change their income, but you still can influence their thinking about what money is and does for one’s life. Many years ago – in the mid-80’s, I was an art consultant in San Francisco and represented some very expensive art work. A secretary from a nearby building was doing her “once or twice a week” peek at our collection and walked in and stood motionless in front of a diptych of a newly acquired Miro aquatint – large -they took up just over 6 feet by 4 feet in the simple thin black frames. Sparse – almost no color – rare but unmistakable. Glorious. I was considering them myself.
    I walked towards her (knowing that Miro was her favorite artist) and said, “Did we finally find your perfect piece?” She turned to me with tears in her eyes – wanting to know – and I told her, “$16,000 and we cannot sell them separately.” She looked back and spoke to the pieces, “You are what I see in my dreams. But I barely make that in a year.” She couldn’t take her eyes away. We stood for an eternity together drinking in these stunning pieces. She kept taking big breaths.
    I began to “feel sorry” for her. BUT! She really really loved this work. She really really wanted this work. She – not some lawyer or banker who would stick these in some hallway – SHE! deserved this work. And so I asked a question that in some situations might seem crude, but it was the only thing I could do as a person who wanted to share the rainbow and fulfill the loving desires of another human being: “Do you have anything of value that you can sell?” She turned her head very slowly – with a new set of tears – and burst out into a huge smile and even bigger hug and said, “You are a genius. I have an old vintage car that was left to me by my Mother when she passed 6 months ago and all I do it move it from street to street to avoid getting tickets in my neighborhood. I know my Mother would love for me to sell it and own something I love.” The 10% deposit took two credit cards, but the car was sold in 2 weeks (She made more than she needed from that car!) and I delivered the Miro with a bottle of champagne. She had a small but lovely little flat and the work was stunning over her fireplace mantle.
    She continued to come in every week. And she would blow me a kiss if I was with a client and hug me when I wasn’t. I still feel her love today.
    Most importantly, she still feels my loving desire to help fulfill her dream every time she looks at those Miro aquatints.
    Jana, you have lots of price ranges, so you really must let people own and not worry about the money they think they don’t have. No one goes broke because they buy a piece of art they cannot afford. They go broke in stages that you cannot control. If they really can’t afford it, they can’t own it, but we all buy things we love and then we “budget” and don’t buy or put off the purchase of the new TV or pair of shoes we know we don’t really need. We NEED art. We can be changed by art. We can have a better quality of life because of art. And we will have that art for the rest of our lives. It is not a necessity – but it is not a frivolous money drain.
    WE need to be a part of that change for people. Find a price that works or offer payments. We owe it to the art, ourselves, and the collectors to be creative and unabashedly candid about money.
    They will be grateful, I assure you.

    1. Great story and lesson, McKenna. Thank you for telling us that! And I suspect that Jack White learned much of his info from Dale Carnegie too. Their methods and yours are classic and timeless.

  9. What a fabulous post McKenna. It came at the best possibly time for me. I am in the middle of a three month art show and I printed out this post (with comments) and read it first thing everyday before the show starts. It has helped me enormously and has resulted in sales for me. I cannot thank you enough! Do you still offer your workshop The E’s of Selling?

    1. Fiona! You made me blush and smile and get teary-eyed. Thank-you for reporting this to me. It is really the goal for me. I want to share anything that will help you and others share your art with the world.
      I do my workshop on occasion here on Maui. Come on over! LOL. But I am really considering doing something on-line and live. I just keep racing to my studio to fill orders and really have some timing issues. But email me directly mckenna AT lowerimpact dot com and I will add you to my current list of interested artists. It’s only 2 hrs long, but finding those 2 hrs and the time to coordinate everything is a daunting task with all the business coming in right now.
      And I really want you to feel free to call me, too. You are in a very serious moment with your art. Just email me and we can set aside a time to chat for 20 or 30 mins and nail down more of the E’s. That’s the closest thing to my seminar that I can manage at the moment. As you are in such a hands-on moment with your art show, I can’t help but reach out like this. I am so glad that my words on this screen have already helped you with your sales. Take some notes – do some de-briefing of some scenarios and we can use your real examples and walk through some ideas and language to put in your future “sales brainstorms”.
      And btw: I love your brainy and zany, quirky, and remarkable oeuvre. Your work is fun and unique. Hope you have the best show ever!
      PS: the very last last line of my seminar is something you did instinctively and it is working well for you: “Whatever you focus on E X P A N D S!” Just keep focusing on love.

  10. McKenna – now you’re making me blush. I’ll be arriving at your house in Maui sometime tomorrow – wow if only that could be true, lol. You are so right I am in a very serious moment with my art, I feel I am on the verge of everything falling into place at last, after so many years of hard work. Your post resonated so deeply in me, it feels like the last piece of the puzzle that I’ve been searching for. THANK YOU so much for your offer, what a blessing, you are so very, very kind, and I will take you up on it. I will email you tomorrow.
    ps – thanks for your kind comments about my work!

  11. Great post, you are so right!! the best sales’ experiences I’ve had were natural, exciting but more importantly I felt what the buyer wanted and then just made it easy for them to make the decision. It involved offering to cover the shipping, which was more than worth it!

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