Becoming a Better Art Salesperson | Restating Questions and Objections

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been writing about the sales process and sharing sales tips that I’ve found useful in my art sales experience. Today I’d like to discuss another powerful 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.

Leave a Comment

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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12 Comments

  1. Nice suggestion. Thanks. I am recalling at a recent exhibition where one of my larger paintings took an award and a client stated how much he preferred one that did not. I have wished since that evening I had allowed him to talk longer before offering any information. A question back would have been a better reply and would have made for a much longer conversation.

  2. Good basic sales technique. In treating dysfunctional families we also “reframe” the question/objection with a positive bent – which here might go something like this: “Your home/this piece of art/artwork in general/the feeling of that space (etc.) is naturally very important to you, so you want to be sure the piece is good for the space – is that right?” So the client doesn’t feel like s/he is objecting so much as voicing a feeling. If the feeling is framed as a positive one, the reaction to the piece (or if you are doing therapy, the person) is more likely to be positive as well!

  3. Wow! What a fresh approach … restating a prospects question. I can imagine that working out well and can’t wait to try it.
    Something else comes to mind. It seems that paraphrasing the buyer’s question or concern would help slow down the pace (to a more comfortable level for a personable transaction) while maintaining focus on the sale.
    Yep, gotta try that one. Thank you!

  4. Lovely idea – and keeps the buyer engaged with you in the process, makes it a ‘we’ situation, instead of an I/you situation – unity instead of separation. We are working together to solve this problem. It seems it would lessen the fear factor. Brilliant.

  5. Casey, I agree with you.
    Restating a response like the above example sounds like that’s exactly what one thinks (or worse, a soap opera dialog!). I’d suggest “Perhaps you can try it in more than one place before you decide.” as a less condescending phrasing.

  6. A really good piece of knowledge here. I always had this problem. Small talks are hard and I always fell short on what to say anymore.

  7. This technique is something we call in nursing “therapeutic communication”. Restating really does work if done properly.

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