Saturday, February 19, 2011

What will it take to get you in a new car today?

I am not a salesperson.  I'm not really sure how I managed to weasel my way into this gig.  I do remember coming upon the ad on Craigslist years ago for a sales consultant at a prestigious Napa Valley gallery.  Hmm, I thought, I like art, I myself create my own art, so what could be better than to spend my days surrounded by fine art in a beautiful up valley gallery.

I sent in my resume and to my surprise got an interview.  I met with the owner, Ira, who I instantly felt a connection with, his brilliant white and sincere smile, the light in his sky blue eyes, and the way that he listened.  He leaned forward, into my words, like he really wanted to hear me, to get to know me. We talked about Buddhism and Feng Shui, got into a philosophical discussion, both agreeing on everything, seeing both eyes to both eyes.  I left the interview after an hour and a half feeling pretty confident that I had got the job.  At the very least, I had just made a very good friend.

The call came days later, a message left on my cell phone, "Hi Kim, it's Ira.  Could you please call me at the gallery at your earliest convenience?"  All jittery, but trying to act like I was in complete control, I waited a couple of hours and then calmly made the call.  He didn't hire me.  He really really liked me, but there was someone else more qualified, she in fact had her MFA, as did everyone he had ever hired.  I tried not to let him hear the disappointment in my voice. 

The same ad reappeared on Craigslist a year later.  I immediately sent an email.  "Hello Ira, It's Kim, I interviewed with you last year for this position.  I believe you might have hired the wrong person. Interested in giving me another shot?"  He got back to me quickly, thrilled that I had seen the ad. Come in, come in, soon!  So, I ended up getting the job after all.  And I was always aware that this was an opportunity not afforded to many.  I got lucky, I was being groomed by one of the best gallerists on the West Coast.

Time went on as it has that habit of doing and it took me awhile to realize that just because I like art, and the idea of being involved in the art world, doesn't make me want to sell it.  I wasn't good at marketing and selling my own art, why would I be good at selling other artist's work, especially those artists where even if I had more money than Bill Gates, I still wouldn't buy their work?  Now, I can of course sell a simple cup of coffee, even up sell, add a scone to that order?  But a $15,000+ painting? Not so simple.  Plus, the people walking into a coffee shop are usually intent on buying something anyway.  They are not window shopping or pastry case shopping.  They want it now.  No need to go home and weigh themselves first, see if they can indulge today in a few more calories.  Measure their waistline to see if it fits, they aren't even that particular about the ingredients, who roasted the beans, who baked the apple fritter, can they see the baker's bio, their resume?  They really don't care.  Unless of course, they are from Portland.  You have seen Portlandia, haven't you?  The episode where they go in to a restaurant and order chicken, but then want to know if it is organic, where it was raised, what it was fed, was the chicken treated kindly and did the chicken have any friends?  But in general, most people aren't that concerned and that's what you call an easy sell.

Now art on the other hand, has conflicting issues for me. One part of me believes that you are providing this client with something that will truly enrich their life while at the same time knowing that this is truly a luxury item whose price tag could feed a small nation.  You act totally nonchalant, cool in that black dress/sweater gallerina kind of way, while inside your head you are jumping up and down, spending your enormous commission before even coming close to closing the deal. The bottom line is that you make your living on those commissions so every potential client becomes a major dollar sign. I don't have it in me.  I don't want you to buy a painting or work of art unless you love it, can afford it, can't live without it, and have already sold it to yourself.

Needless to say, I'll be looking for a new line of work here in the near future.  Maybe volunteer work in some third world country, like Oakland or Detroit, or perhaps selling coffee to those hard working early morning commuters in anywhere USA. A line of work that makes someone else's life a little bit easier  - not just helping  to "decorate" by placing a painting over the sofa in someones vacation home. Like my friend *Jerry Seinfeld says, "Not that there's anything wrong with that," it's just wrong for me.

*Jerry and I would be great friends if we ever met.  I just know it!

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