I recommend doing some undercover surveillance work before going in for the first time to make an introduction. Now to explain what I meant by that. In order to have your best shot at getting your work into a gallery or store you need to know what the store/gallery owner or manager is looking for. This being said, do some research into what sells in that particular gallery or store.
Most artists make the mistake of walking in "cold" and introducing themselves with their portfolios under their arm. This usually catches the store manager off guard and their natural tendency is to say they are busy (even if they are not) and that you will need to schedule an appointment. What you just did subconsciously is plant a negative feeling in that store manager's mind on who you are.
I would tell you to visit the store or gallery as a "customer" when the manager is not there. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, send in a friend or spouse to do this research. Look around to see what is displayed in the store or gallery. Here are some points to keep in mind when doing this:
1. What price point is the art being sold at?
2. Does your type of art and its quality fit into the feel of the gallery?
3. Who are the other artists represented there and do you know any personally? (if you do know the artists represented on a personal level this could serve as an introduction to the manager)
4. Will your work sell well in this environment based on the other types of art being shown or is it not related to what is already working there?
5. Ask the salesperson if the work shown in the gallery is exclusive to that gallery.
6. Ask what days are busiest in the gallery or store (then visit on those days to see if it commands the traffic you want to sell your art-remember this is your interview of the gallery not the other way around!)
7. Make a phone call to the gallery to find out who the buyer is and when is the best time to reach him/her (if they happen to be the one answering the phone, ask about their procedure in procuring new artist's works)
8. Don't assume they will automatically grant you an appointment. They get approached by artists all the time. Ask how they go about showing or consigning new work and play by their rules initially.
These are some guidelines to get started. By doing some legwork first, you will find out a huge amount of information about a particular store or gallery. You will increase your chances of making a professional introduction rather than just being another artist off the street trying to peddle their art. Please don't take this to mean that your art is not worthy of being displayed in the Smithsonian but store and gallery owners are there for one reason and one reason only...to make money. That's the cold hard truth of it.
Find out how you can prove to them that your art will sell well in their business and they will gladly want their walls or shelves stocked with your work. By doing your "homework" first you will be armed with the knowledge on how to accomplish that!
The easiest method to get your art or craftwork into galleries is to have them call you because they see the value of your work. When I refer to value here I am basically saying that they understand how easily your work is going to sell and create profits. The best way to do this is build your reputation in the art community through art shows and exhibitions that draw well known people in your area.
If you can step out of your comfort zone I will share with you a little technique to help build your reputation a little faster, please keep this one for yourself :) Have friends and family visit the gallery or store over a period of several weeks before you ever plan to schedule an appointment. Have them ask the store/gallery staff if they carry your work. Tell them to mention that they saw your work in some local art shows or exhibitions and they have been trying to track you down and they thought they would try the store or gallery. Tell your friends not to overdue it on the flattery of your work or else this will backfire on you. Just a gentle question if they carry the work of so and so artist and that will do the trick. By the time you enter the gallery several weeks later they will be eager to work out a deal because now your reputation precedes you.
Art Marketing Resources: Advice for Marketing Art
Tips & Tutorials for Artists