Ask a Gallery Owner | How Do I Thank a Customer when a Gallery Made the Sale?

thank a customer

I encourage artists to create positive relationships with buyers by sending thank you notes and keeping in touch. But how can you do that if you’re selling through galleries that are reluctant to give you clients’ contact information? Here’s how I answered a specific question about this challenge from an artist:

Jason,

I am so appreciative of how you are willing to share your knowledge with artists. Several years ago I took that leap of faith to follow my dream of being a full-time artist. Since then, I have struggled with trying to figure most of it out on my own. Although, making the mistakes is a learning experience in itself, it is definitely welcomed to hear information on how to fine tune what I am already doing and take my art and the sale of my paintings to the next level.

A question I did have but was unable to ask it that night involves the gallery/artist relationship.

I found the information regarding using the 1% of sales as a thank-you budget idea very helpful. I work very hard to maintain a list of all of my collectors and develop a relationship with them when I can. There are times when my work is placed b[y] designers and I never meet the people who now own my work, and I have had a hard time even getting the names of buyers from galleries I have worked with in the past and who have sold my work.

I know how important it is not only to be able to point to the prominent people of note who own my work, but also to begin building a relationship with them.

In the past, when an interior design company that places work for me has made a sale, I have asked for the contact information for the client for the purpose of sending a thank you card and the invitation to know more about the art that is now in their homes if they choose to. I provided the designer with the letter so that they can see I am not trying to solicit sales on the side and they mailed it out for me. My relationship now with that company is such that they trust me to honor that and they allow me to mail the cards directly.

My question is around how best to approach the galleries that I work with now and will work with in the future. I am my best promoter, and work very hard to constantly develop new outreach materials, regular e-mail campaigns to my fast growing contact list, and actively promote using social media. I want to be able to recognize and thank those who choose to collect my art.

If I am working with a gallery that does not already have a program in place to thank their clients, what is the best way to approach them on this subject without stepping on toes? Is it inappropriate to ask for the names of the collectors in order to personalize a thank-you?

Again, thank you for your time and all that you have done to share your knowledge.

Regards,

Elizabeth W.

My Response:

Elizabeth,

Thank you for attending and for the great questions. I am sure it is no surprise that this is one of the more common questions I receive from artists who are beginning to work with galleries. In an ideal world, galleries would share the information with their artists and artists would treat that information with respect and not over-step the trust they have been given by trying to sell to the clients. Unfortunately we don’t live in that ideal world and most galleries are unwilling to share information because of bad experiences in the past.

Since that is the case it would also be nice if the galleries were doing a good job of thanking their customers and following up with them. This is also not always the case.

Consider talking to your galleries and telling them you would like to personally thank people who have bought your work, but that you understand their concerns with sharing contact information. Suggest that you will write thank you cards and even potentially a small thank you gift if they will agree to forward the card or gift on to the buyer. As you build a successful relationship with the gallery and they trust you it is likely they will be more and more willing to simply give the information to you as the interior design business has. Until that happens, however, sending the thank you gift through the gallery is your best option if the gallery will agree.

*Good idea not to include any contact information on the card or gift as the gallery will look upon the contact information with suspicion.

Jason

Do You Agree?

Have you ever been in this situation before? How did you handle it?

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

7 Comments

  1. Thank you for the webinar , July 19 . As a graphic artist I am from the paste up age , moved on to computer illustration stuff , I have a good background in composition, etc, but you have introduced me to the newer tech stuff and I really appreciated that, Thank you again,

  2. I am quite happy to send my thank you note (and often a packet of cards printed with one of my images) to the gallery for them to forward to a client. It is still a personal note of appreciation from me, and I acknowledge that the gallery has done a lot of work developing that client. I am thrilled to have my galleries work hard for me.

  3. It is lovely of the gallery to forward a thank you note for an artist and a great practice for all collectors to be thanked for their acquisition. If the buyer wants to find the artist and have direct contact though it is so simple to do over the internet that leaving out contact info seems kind of unnecessary – especially as it’s printed on the back of many greeting cards that would be a thank you gift.

    This creates a one way street which can lead to an uncomfortable situation- the collector can easily find the artist if they want to and the artist has no way of knowing who the collector is. Better in the long run for everyone to build a trusting relationship with the gallery knowing they will be respected and not cut out.

    I’ve become such good friends with many of my collectors that it makes me sad to know there are some that I will never have the opportunity to meet due to secrecy of their identity. I think those I’ve gotten to know love their pieces all the more for knowing me.

  4. I am in two galleries with totally opposite points of view. One gallery owner is delighted to give me contact information of purchasers and trusts me to never usurp business. That owner knows if business should come my way through such a contact I would share the profit with her. I’ve told the same to the other gallery owner who will not give out information or even names of purchasers. It is not so much that she doesn’t trust me, but in the past she had a nasty experience with an artist she feels stole her whole client list and in the process profoundly damaged her business. I understand her reluctance. She is willing to send clients a thank you card from me, however, and that simply has to be good enough.

  5. I thought galleries and artists sign contracts that spell this stuff out. “If the artist is caught promoting and selling to clients of said gallery while the artist is under contract to said gallery, a lawsuit will be created against the artist.” Seems real simple on the surface of it; If the artist signs the contract, and then goes behind the gallery’s back, the gallery can and probably will sue for their rightful commission, and maybe damages as well.

    Trust ? Trust in God. All others put it in writing. Read the fine print and gain an understanding of what is expected and required. Then abide by decorum and the guidelines as set forth in the contract. BTW, the contract thing is a two way street. Galleries can be sued as well.

    Obviously Jason’s suggestion to request that the gallery send an approved Thank You note on behalf of the artist to the client is helpful. But maybe the artist should have asked if the gallery even sends thank you notes on their own behalf, because if they don’t, that is just plain negligence on top of poor manners.

    Artists may think gallery representation is the pinnacle of the artist world’s achievement. But when an artist goes in search of that representation the gallery should be scrutinized as to their practices and procedures just as closely as the gallery should investigate the artist. Just like the contract thing, it’s a two way street … If the gallery won’t or can’t live up to what I expect, and sign a contract we both can agree upon, I’m going some where else and give some other gallery the chance to make money off me.

    1. Unfortunately, contracts in the gallery world are few and far between- at least in my experience. I hope this is something that is starting to change, especially if more artists are willing to stand against the hand-shake-agreement culture that continues to be the norm.

  6. As a gallery owner, at the point of sale, and on our sales invoice we have 2 boxes that the client has an option to tick/check if they wish to do so. Both or either or none.
    One is if they wish to receive updates from the gallery, and the other is if they wish to receive updates from the artist.
    We then give client details to the artist only if the client has indicated that is what they wish. If not, then the customer information is confidential.
    We always send a thankyou letter/email to the client from the gallery and on behalf of the artist after the sale.
    I think that this is a very clear and open process, and in our contract this is always set out and brought to an artist’s attention. As a purchaser of art from other galleries, I personally do not wish to receive communication from the artist whose works I have purchased.

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