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Lessons From the Gym: Trust Me

by Luann Udell on 3/26/2015 7:37:41 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...."



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!







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Related Posts:

Lessons From the Gym: Starting Over

Topics: art collectors | FineArtViews | inspiration | Luann Udell 

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Thank you for authentic and courageous words. To trust is terrifying, Life delivers so many reasons to cower- to hold back our trust. Art, life, love and work offer unlimited opportunities for us to become a person worthy of trust by our words and actions. The treasured solace of trust rewarded remains and rewards our courage, our empathy, and our hope.

Nice observations and great analogy to art sales. There's no question that potential buyers appreciate patient, friendly and trustworthy artists who they can have a rapport with.

Karen Burnette Garner
Great analogy on the issue of trust. Trust is universal in all areas of life. And amazingly difficult to grow!

Janet Szulga
When doing business it is so important to maintain integrity, and from there trust can be built. Since most of my work is portraiture, I really need to get on a personal level with my client in order to portray their personality. I used to be a very private and isolated person but I have had to learn to be more open and to listen carefully to what the customer is telling me. If you act in a professional manner while being open, friendly and interested the trust will come and you will see the true nature of the sitter. It's still a work in progress for me but I am enjoying these dealings with each character I meet.

Brian Sherwin
Open communication is key if you wish to establish trust with a potential customer. This applies to the offline AND online business of art. I contact artists often by email -- and it is not uncommon for some of them to take more than a week to respond. It isn't because they are busy with an exhibit or life... they have simply failed to be timely about checking email.

What if I was asking about a potential purchase? I would likely get frustrated and move on. I certainly would not trust in receiving a timely response from that point on. I might have doubts about shipping as well.

Here's the thing: An artist should treat every person as a potential buyer... be prompt offline and online -- don't make communication difficult.

Lisa Manners
Lu Ann,

Excellent article. I've also just completed physical therapy from a fall, but had never thought about that analogy. I think many people are uncomfortable talking with artists, and being friendly an establishing trust are good ways to overcome that.

Sandy Askey-Adams
Hello Lu Ann ..

So glad I read this the whole way through. At first, I wondered where it was going and how it tied in with art.
Great analogy.
And I agree with Brian...every person should be treated as a potential buyer.

A true story.........I recall some years ago while doing a major outdoor art show, a man came walking toward my display.
I looked at what he was wearing which was not so well put together, but we were both friendly and smiling toward each other as I said hello.
He was walking with another man who was well-dressed....he was not.
Artists around me kinda snubbed him because of how he was he looked. He certainly did not look successful or like he had money.
He came to my display and BOUGHT 5(five)medium to large size paintings right then and there! Artists sround me were stunned...and so was I. It turned out that he was a multi-millionaire. He lived in a building nearby and had the complete top floor overlooking the city. I was able to see his amazing place. He collected art work and other things from all over the world. Had the most gorgeous grand piano with a huge wall size museum-looking oil painting above it. I suspected that it was worth a whole heck of a lot.
Beautiful and fascinating place.

So true, we never know who the next buyer will be.

Walter Paul Bebirian
well a good training for building trust with a person who is about to purchase something from me is what happens when I photograph a portrait of someone -

most or almost all people who come for a portrait and are getting this for business purposes tell me that they do not take good pictures or photographs and by the time they leave (whether it is 15 minutes later or an hour after they first entered my studio) they are ecstatic - happy - elated - relieved or any other number of emotions that all are a result of them seeing me create an image from the photographs that I have taken - which they themselves will be proud - happy - willing to share with as many other people as possible because that is the function of an image that a person gets for their business card - to make their customers - potential customers and business associates happy - willing to and want to do business with them - and they must accomplish this achievement of making the people they are going to deal with comfortable in dealing with them - confident that they will do the right job for them and happy and willing to share this experience with their tribe and members of their clan in the future - and all of this must happen within a few minutes or an hour or so - and this is if life changing importance to someone whose business success depends on to a great degree how people react to this image even before they meet them -

with art however - there is a much longer period for the people who are looking at art to take their time - think about - get to know a piece and then even imagine it in their home or office or wherever they which to exhibit it *(since there are galleries that do purchase images form my collection for resale to their gallery clients - and then for my art collection I must remember that although what I am presenting and offering for sale in the way of art online is much different and will take a little longer than I have so far put into it time wise and been presenting it since my photography business - reputation and client base as well as the word of mouth referral system that has been building and growing for some 39 years now -

so I would suggest that putting the least amount of pressure and doing your best to satisfy all the needs - wants - desires and questions of those who you are first working with and allowing to make the best choices for themselves *(and definitely not for you at all) will in the long run help you build a substantial ongoing business with selling your art -

Donald Fox
many have said that people do business with you because they "know you, like you, and trust you." Each of those has to be established. I suspect that every successful relationship is built on trust no matter what the purpose of that relationship appears to be from the outset business, personal, or whatever else.

peppi reed
People are so versatile in their beliefs and opinions that a lot of them are not trusting right from the start. But I have found that having an optimistic outlook can bring them closer, faster and easier. Also, having knowledge of the world in general and your work specifically, people find it easier to trust you and want to purchase your art.

Brian Sherwin
Walter -- You def' hit on something. In some cases it may take years for someone to finally 'bite the bullet' and purchase a piece -- long after they first started following the artist online. BUT that is why it is important to treat every person as a potential buyer.

If someone has a question... be as prompt as you can be in answering their question. If someone comments on a specific work -- try to keep the conversation going without coming off too pushy. You can run yourself out of business by ignoring people.

I think one problem is that many artists don't 'see' a buyer until the money is in hand, so to speak. Even at that point most don't do enough to maintain a connection with the buyer after the transaction.

Brian Sherwin
Peppi -- You said, "Also, having knowledge of the world in general and your work specifically, people find it easier to trust you and want to purchase your art."

Agreed. I see a lot of artists second-guessing themselves -- second-guessing their knowledge. They reveal insecurity in their bio or statement. For example, I see a lot of 'I'm painting again after a 20 year career in..." STOP! There is no reason to explain yourself!

Others will trust in your work IF you trust in your ability as an artist. Don't make up excuses for where you are at as an artist today. Embrace where you are at today! I'm actually helping an artist with this problem right now -- she needs to take the negativity out of her image -- all the second-guessing, if you will. It can distract a potential buyer.

Would you trust in the work of a mechanic if he or she said, "I kinda know what I'm doing. But it has been awhile"? Doubtful.


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