Questions You Don't Have to Answer: Can You Do Better On The Price?
by Luann Udell on 3/1/2012 7:32:01 AM
This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. Luann also writes a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explores the funnier side of her life in craft. She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer. She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art. She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...."You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
Someone once said there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who think there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t.
So forgive me when I say there are two groups of artists in the world: Those who are willing to discount their artwork and those who aren’t.
If you are in the first group, please, read no further. I get that many artists are totally comfortable with offering discounts. It’s a growing trend. After all, when even designer stores and luxury goods are open to bargaining, it seems short-sighted not to go along. (Although, come to think of it, you might learn a better way to bargain in this article. So do read on!)
I won’t put myself firmly in the second group, but almost every time I’ve discounted my work, I’ve been sorry later. People have a tendency to brag when they get a deal and that could get back to your full-price paying customers—or galleries. Also, people tend to think of discounts as a lifetime offer. I offered a small, limited-time discount at a show years ago. Some customers continue to ask for it years later. As far as a discount creating a repeat customer, I personally have not had that happen. The one time I gave in to a requested discount for “a good cause” and a deserving venue, I found out the person had approached every artist at the show with that argument and none of us have seen her since.
But whether you discount or not, you WILL get asked this question. And even if you never discount your work, there are ways to keep the conversation going:
- If you DO offer discounts, ask THEM what kind of discount they’re looking for. DON’T OFFER FIRST. If someone is hoping to nudge a $450 piece down $50, and you offer them a 25%, you’ve just told them they’re paying way too much if they’d paid full price. If you let them offer first, and they suggest $400, then you can say, “Mmmmm….I could do $425.” They’ll feel like they got a deal, you don’t feel like you caved.
- DON’T fall for, “Well, I’ll pay you what a gallery would pay you.” Unless you never want to work with a gallery again. Granted, gallery representation is not what it used to be, and you may prefer retail anyway. But sometimes it’s good to be associated with a gallery or two. And this kind of arrangement will shut that door fast and hard. (Yes, it will get back to them.) And again, every other customer will feel like an idiot for paying your full price.
- If you’re going to offer a discount, think about WHO you’re offering a discount to—a new prospect who hasn’t even stepped up to the plate yet? Or a valued, loyal customer? Personally, I’d rather do a deal with someone who’s stepped up to my plate over and over again, someone who’s already invested their hard-earned money in my work in the past. Not a tire-kicker. The worst feeling in the world is when you offer a great deal to a prospect, and they turn it down. You’ve just told them your work isn’t worth the sticker price, and they’ve told you it isn’t even worth your discounted price!
- I found this discount rebuttal in a series of sales tips by a Coca Cola distributer. I love it! It’s called “NO, but if…..” Understand that some customers will ask for the moon. Stand firm, but open a new door. “No, I can’t discount this piece, but if you personally introduce me to XYZ Fancy Schmancy Gallery in your city, I’ll create a custom piece just for you for the same price, with no design fee.” “No, I can’t do that. But if you buy this painting, I can offer you 10% off your next purchase.” Or feature their purchase on your website. Or offer a copy of that posh show catalog from the exhibit it appeared in. Or offer to deliver and hang the piece. Or ask THEM for something. “No, I can’t discount this piece for you in return for displaying it in your office for your well-heeled customers to see. But if you purchase it at full-price and display it in your office, I’ll give you 10% off your next piece for every one of your customers who buys a piece from me.”
- Offer something besides a discount. What ELSE can you offer? What can you cover (cost-wise) more easily? Hanging? Free shipping? An artist appearance? Offer something else, an add-on, in place of a discount. It’s easy for me to add on a pair of earrings to an expensive necklace or sculpture, or a pin with a wall hanging. (I want the full price, even if I have to throw in something else.) In fact, the best thing to offer can be….
- LAYAWAY! I’ve described my layaway plan in previous columns. When someone says they can’t afford my price, I ask them how they can afford. Then I offer to set them up with a layaway plan for that amount each month, until they reach their purchase goal. They can make out checks or credit slips and predate and sign them. The beauty of this is, they often realize they can charge it, take the work home today, and make their own monthly payments.
- Let them know the value of what you give them. Put it in the invoice! List the full price of the piece, describe the discount (‘one-time 25% discount for being a long-standing patron of my work!”) or the extra bennie (“FREE framing—retail value $250” or “FREE delivery—retail value $125”) People will forget! Sometimes they’ll come back and say, “Well, I bought one just like this for $500 last year, and now it’s $650!” You’ll be able to say, “You actually bought a similar piece that was unframed for that price. I did that for you because you loved the piece so much, but didn’t want the added expense of the frame.”
- Finally, It’s okay to say no. Many artists refuse to offer discounts. Just stay polite and centered, and take no offense if asked for one. It’s okay to say, “I’m honored that you like my work so much. I know my prices are fair—in fact, I tend to underprice my work already! If you’d like to see a less expensive piece, I have a few over here you might enjoy as much as this piece.”
Whatever you decide, be ready for the question. Think of how you want to play it. Practice your response until you’re comfortable with it. It should flow naturally.
And be glad there’s a customer in your booth who really wants your work!
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