Becoming a Better Art Salesperson | Restating Questions and Objections

Today I’d like to discuss another powerful art sales tool: feedback. I’m not talking about getting feedback from your customers after a sale (although that’s valuable too), instead I’m talking about using feedback when a client asks you a question or raises an objection to making a purchase.

The typical reaction to a question or objection raised by a potential customer is to try and provide an immediate answer. After gaining some sales experience, you will have heard all the questions and objections, and will have a ready answer for each. I would encourage you to resist the temptation to blurt out an immediate answer, and instead restate your client’s question or objection in your own words. This is a simple thing to do once you get the hang of it, but you will be amazed at how much it impacts your ability to help your customer solve her own questions or perceived problems. That’s a real key – helping your client solve her own problems, instead of trying to solve them for her.

A client might ask, “What happens if I get the piece home and it doesn’t work?” You will be tempted to immediately say something like, “I can let you take the piece home and try it before you make a purchase” or “You can return it and I will give you your money back.”

There’s nothing wrong with either of these responses per se, but you will more naturally move toward the close if you instead reformulate the question and give it back to the customer.

Try saying something like, “This is an important piece and you’re concerned what would happen if you got it home and found it not to be right for the space – is that right?”

Be restating the question, you are letting the client know that you are listening, and you’re making sure that you understand the question exactly. You are also engaging the client’s mind in the problem solving process. By stating the question out loud you are engaging their mind in the problem solving process. Just like you feel the urge to answer a question and solve the problem, they will have the same reaction, if only on a subconscious level. Sometimes you will be surprised to find that you actually misunderstood the question, or that the client didn’t ask the question she meant to ask. This gives the client to work through details of the question and allows you both to get to the same page.

When the you and the client understand one another, you should then ask, “is there anything else?”

This is very powerful. In essence, you are helping move the client to the buying point. In essence, you are saying, “if I can answer this question for you, or solve this problem, will we  have removed every obstacle from our path to making this art yours?”

Once the client responds, you will have your opportunity to help her find a solution. We’ll talk about how to present the solution, along with great solutions to common objections in a future post, but for now, I would encourage you to try to get in the habit of restating questions.

Not Every Question Needs to Be Restated

Obviously, there are limits to this technique – you wouldn’t want to restate a string of five questions (here silence might come in handy again).

Nor would you want to restate simple, informational questions:

“What’s the size of this painting?”

“Let me make sure I understand what you’re asking. You want to know the exact dimensions of this piece? Is that right?”

Client stares at you blankly, “uh, yes, I think that’s what I asked . . .”

Restating Questions Moves you Toward the Close

Over the years, I’ve restated thousands of questions. I don’t always remember to do it, but when I do, I always find the encounter with the client proceeds more smoothly. I remember having a client ask a question very similar to the one above, “what if I get it home and it doesn’t work?” I restated the question, and the client said, “Oh, I know I’m going to love it – if it doesn’t work where I’m thinking, I’ll place it somewhere else.”

By getting in the habit of restating questions, you will also begin getting in the habit of moving your clients toward the close.

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Have you used this technique in the past? What questions have clients asked you in the past, and how would you restate them? Leave your comments and questions in the comments below.

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16 Comments

  1. While recently entertaining a group of visitors in my studio, one chap told me he had a painting that he hated, hanging over his couch, and had several others by the same artist, which he also hated. When I asked- Do you mean that the painting that takes up the most prominent location in your home is one you hate? He paused and then said yes, in a startled fashion. Perhaps he had never stated it out loud. I asked him if he had ever thought of getting rid of it and replacing it with something he liked? It seemed it had never occurred to him. I hope this conversation planted the seed for future acquisitions.

  2. Good strategy. Can’t get over Cathy G’s comment. Yeah, re-stating is a good way to, as above, give a slightly different outlook to clarify things.

    1. I also get this comment a lot.
      Some things to suggest is that the client move their art around the home to create a fresh look. A lot of people do not do this, and think that art is static – once they have hung on certain wall it is to stay there forever ! By moving existing art around, they often find that a new “space” becomes available. They may even decide to retire some old art, or gift it to family and friends, to make way for new pieces.
      Another thing to suggest is that they make an “art wall” of some of their current art pieces – grouping a number of pieces as a block on one wall. There are many beautiful examples of this in design magazines etc. This then creates room for a new pieces on feature walls.

  3. I’m looking toward my art
    being part of a new show. I was thinking I’d stay home and just not go. Now, I thinking that I should go and pratice the tech that you’ve been sharing. Thank you. I’ll let you know how I do.

    1. “We’ve found that when you love a piece like you clearly love this one, it finds a space for itself!”

      This line has been very effective when the buyer isn’t just using the “no more space” argument as an excuse.

      I was in Xanadu collectors’ home this week where they have hundreds and hundreds of works on display. If you love art, the space will present itself!

      1. Jason,
        Great response to an often heard question. I think suggesting they rehang or move some art around makes it sound like a lot of work.
        Always enjoy your columns.

  4. It has been suggested not to ask a question that would bring a “no” answer. But I usually ask “have you seen our metal before?” which brings a no answer. How else can I introduce our metal to them?

    I want to tell them all about the stainless steel not rusting, and how we powdercoat in our shop in Iowa. But I do not want to repeat myself if they are a returning customer.

    1. you could ask ” have you seen our powdercoated stainless steel? it will stay beautiful because it will never rust! let me show you a sample?” once the customer is engaged give more info and when they say yes, stop talking and write up the order, and say thank you so much!!
      a returning customer could be asked “have i ever shown you our powdercoated stainless steel? etc, etc.
      good luck

  5. Very good point and advice, Jason.

    I’m very service oriented and always add value added services to any sale of art. I always offer to bring out a piece to a client’s abode. Of course I bring out three or four more pieces and often sell the focused piece and additional work.

    Once had a client who obviously needed at least 3-5 pieces … took out eighteen paintings… came back with four. Two weeks later went out with the second wave. Took out twelve pieces and loaded five back in the van.

    I always install any piece of art I sell if the client desires it.

    I always soft sell… let the art sell itself and the client know there is zero pressure.

    I never sell anything with a promise or even mention that it will go up in value. You buy the art because you love the art and want to live with it.

  6. Yes yes! The only times we restate a clients question is when it expresses their anxiety, and by acknowledging it and giving it more air help relax them back to their first reaction if loving the piece.

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