Salesmanship has a bit of a bad name in the art world. As a gallery owner, I know that many artists look at what I do with suspicion. They suspect that I use underhanded methods and pressure to compel the unwilling to buy art.

They think that the selling process somehow taints the purity of art.

I’m convinced that this disdain artists feel toward salesmanship stems from a fundamental misunderstanding about what the sales process is, and what’s really happening when I sell a piece of art.

I’m Jason Horejs, Owner of Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ, and this is the Art Marketing Minute.

The misunderstanding about salesmanship arises among artists because of a fundamental difference in the way you look at the value of your work compared to how your buyers look at it.

Even if you have been selling your art for some time, I suspect that deep down you feel like you are getting away with something each time an artwork sells. If a client pays you thousands of dollars for a piece of art, you feel like you are fleecing them. Knowing what went into creating the artwork, you are a little bit surprised that someone would part with that much money to own it.

You can’t imagine trading so much money for a piece of art. You then project this feeling, the feeling that the money is worth more than the art, onto your clients, and you feel that the clients have to somehow be tricked into buying.

In your mind, you feel that a sale benefits you, way more than it benefits your client. They’re getting a piece of art, and you’re getting a bunch of money!

This view of salesmanship can lead to a sense of remorse each time a sale is made; it’s as though the client were swindled out of his hard-earned money. Looking at salesmanship this way is negative and unfulfilling. I can see how this would be the case if you are only thinking about the benefit you derive from the transaction. I would encourage you, however, to step into your client’s shoes for a moment and look at the sale from their perspective.

When a sale is made, the client walks away from the transaction with a wonderful piece of artwork she will enjoy for a lifetime – all I walk away with is money; money that will be spent and forgotten before the month is out. It’s clear that if anyone is coming out ahead, it’s my client. The client is going to enjoy experiencing the art on a daily basis. The art is going to transform their ordinary house into a place of beauty. Art has a tremendous impact on people’s lives.

By looking at a sale in this light, I don’t see what I’m doing as a scam, quite the opposite: I see it as my duty to do everything I can to help my client achieve a happy outcome. If I fail, the customer walks away with her money, but misses out on the enjoyment she would have derived from owning the artwork, and that’s a lifetime of missed enjoyment.

With all of this in mind, it’s time to think of every encounter as an opportunity to build a lifelong relationship with your customer where what we are doing brings them satisfaction and ejoyment. A relationship is about communication, service, and trust. If you are able to establish a rapport such that your client feels she can rely upon and trust you without hesitation, she will come back again and again, and will gladly trade their boring money for your beautiful art!

How do you feel about art salesmanship? What have you done to help make salesmanship easier and more natural for yourself? Do you enjoy the selling process? Share your thoughts and experience about selling and building relationships with your clients in the comments below.

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