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...."
I continue to eavesdrop at the physical therapy practice where I recuperated from surgery. I use their gym facilities several times a week, to get stronger in a safe, low-stress environment. And I continue to learn from my fellow patients every day.
Most of us who need physical therapy are at a scary point in our life. We’ve been injured, often during a favorite sport or physical activity. Or we’ve just had surgery. Or we’re recovering from a stroke, or a fall.
In every case, we are in pain. And we are afraid.
Afraid we’ll never be able to run/ride/bike/play soccer again. Afraid the pain will never go away. Afraid this is the beginning of the long decline that foreshadows a life ending in frailty, isolation and confinement.
The first few visits can actually be difficult not only for the client, but for the therapist! I hadn’t realized this before, nor had I recognized it in myself—until I saw many other clients acting the same way—crabby, resentful, defensive.
There is resentment when we are asked to do things that are too hard. (“I can’t do that yet!”) Conversely, there’s also resentment when we’re asked to do things that appear too easy. (“I know how to do this already! Why do I have to do it here?!”)
There is defensiveness when we realize our exercise routines are not serving our needs any longer. (“But I walk every day when I golf!”) There’s defensiveness when we have to admit we didn’t do our ‘homework’, the exercises we were supposed to do at home. One gentleman (who looked to be in his 90’s) swore he was just ‘too busy’ to spend 20 minutes a day to do his balance work. I winced when he used almost exactly the same excuse I’d used months earlier!
The conversations are terse and awkward. I feel sorry for the therapists, especially the one who had three back-to-back crabby clients one morning, all ‘dug in’ with their protests and barely cooperative.
But today, a few weeks later, I realize something has changed.
Those same crabby clients are now more relaxed, more open. They’re cooperative and good-humored, joking and laughing.
I wondered--What changed?
Their level of trust.
Over the weeks, the therapists responded calmly to each defensive, snippy remark. Each question was answered fully and appropriately. (More on this one next time!)
Information was given out freely to each client—but only as much as they could ‘handle’ at each visit. And as they made progress, as the pain began to abate, and as their balance/strength/flexibility improved, their milestones were acknowledged and celebrated.
The clients all recognized they were in good hands, with competent people, who had their well-being at heart. They could trust these people.
By consistently responding with respect, with compassion, but also with the confidence of competency and experience, each therapist won over every single crabby client in their care.
How does this apply to marketing and selling our art?
As artists, we show competency to our audience by the quality of our work and our reputation.
We gain their trust by treating them as more than just a bag o’ money.
We recognize them as individuals with unique tastes, preferences and desires.
We respond to ALL their questions—even the snippy ones, the rude ones, the ‘stupid’ ones—with patience and respect. Never taking someone else’s doubts or fears or ignorance, personally.
If they are worried your work won’t ‘go’ in their living room, we reassure them they can exchange the piece in 10 days for a different piece. If they worry about it breaking or tarnishing, we back up our product with a guarantee.
If they don’t understand what makes it unique or desirable, we share that information, too.
Once we can look into the eyes of another person and see another human being who’s every bit as complex, lovable, contradictory, and confusing as we are, even those who are as yet undecided about our work, then we can make better decisions on how to handle their complaints, their doubts, their questions.
We learn how to stay open and balanced, competent and confident.
By trusting them, they learn to trust us.
I see this firsthand in my booth and studio. When I tell people they can pick something up and hold it, or open a drawer and look inside, or even simply give them a postcard, their astonishment is palpable. I’m treating them like I would a guest in my home. It’s sad how many folks just aren’t used to that!
Think about how you establish trust with first-time customers in your studio, at art shows, in your booth, at receptions. See it for the gift others will see it as.
Turn those former strangers into passionate collectors!