Don’t Overdo the Gratitude When you Make an Art Sale

There is nothing more exciting than selling a piece of art. If you are directly involved in the sale process you will feel a rush of excitement and accomplishment, as well as gratitude to the client who has just purchased your art. It’s the gratitude I wish to briefly discuss today. I want to discourage you from overdoing your expressions of gratitude to your customer upon making a sale.

Let me begin by saying that I am a big believer in gratitude. I believe that feeling grateful when something good happens is powerful, and I’ve recently read a number of articles that tout the scientifically proven benefits of expressing gratitude in daily life (including this article in Forbes). I’m not saying you shouldn’t feel grateful for a sale, and I’m not even suggesting that you can’t say “thank you” to a client who buys a piece of art from you.

Over the years, however, I’ve learned that it’s important to learn how to properly thank a client. There are several risks involved in the thanking process and today, I want to help you avoid those risks when thanking a client.

iStock_000015273104XSmallFirst, if you overdo it with too many thank yous, you risk making it seem like you are in dire straits and this sale just saved you. This may very well be the case – you may be a starving artist, and this sale may have made it possible for you to keep a roof over your head for a few more weeks, but this is not the message we want to send to buyers.

Thinking this through from the buyer’s side will help us understand why it is important to project an air of success. While many buyers enjoy supporting struggling artists, they also want to buy good art. If a buyer hasn’t developed a strong sense of his taste, or doesn’t have a good sense of the elements of great art, that buyer may look for some other way to validate his interest in your work. Often, the most direct proxy for good taste is the popularity of the artist and her work. If the artist is selling well and has a following among collectors, then the work must be good. We all know that this is actually a pretty poor way to judge the quality of artwork, but that’s a subject for another post.  Right or wrong, I’ve learned that sending a message of the artist’s success is an important part of the selling process.

The second problem with over-thanking is that it focuses attention on you rather than the buyer. The thanking process is the process of expressing gratitude for a benefit you received from someone. If you are overly-thankful, you are, in essence saying “Thank you so much for your money. I need your money so much. I can’t believe you gave me so much money for my art!”

You are shining too much light on the benefit you received from the transaction.

I would like to suggest a simple alternative to this approach, one that I have found to be very effective.

Congratulate in Addition to Thanking

Instead of over-thanking, congratulate your client for their purchase. You will be amazed at how much better your post-sale experience will be when you focus on congratulating in addition to thanking.

When you congratulate, you are complimenting the client on her good decision. You are reaffirming the positive feelings the client felt for the art.

I know what some of you are thinking. “Wait a minute,” you are saying to yourself, “isn’t it the height of arrogance to congratulate someone for purchasing my art?”

You’ll be amazed, however, when you follow my advice and see the effect it has on your customers. Congratulating helps end your encounter on high.

Let me share the exact procedure I use to congratulate a client at the close of a sale. As the paperwork is finished, I fold the receipt, put it in an envelope and reach out to shake the client’s hand while smiling and saying “Congratulations, you got a great piece!”

Invariably, the client will say something like, “Thank you, I’m excited to have the piece. It’s going to look great in my home. Thank you so much!”

That’s right, the client is going to thank you.

At this point it is perfectly appropriate for you to say “Thank you – enjoy!” Keep a smile on your face during the whole exchange. Now you will have successfully congratulated and thanked.

Try it!

The next time you conclude a sale, I encourage you to give my advice a try. Focus on congratulating the client and see what happens – both you and your client will leave the sale happier than if you over-thanked.

Congratulations for reading this article!

What do you Think?

Have you tried congratulating your clients on their purchase? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of Dad was an Artist | A Survivor's Story and best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. 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. Connect with Jason on Facebook

20 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this advice! I believe that all artists go through the beginning, the middle, and the end- customers buying our art.. I agree, too much thanking could create a very weak impression on the Artists work. There’s a fine line between arrogance and gratefulness and your advice really nails the middle of it perfectly.

  2. I absolutely agree. Living with my husband’s art on a daily basis brings me much joy and a sense of peace. This is what I believe others will get as well when they purchase it. When we sell a piece, I feel a sense of win-win, and I say so. That is the kind of relationship I wish to cultivate with everyone I do business with in this life. And in my personal life as well. It’s the healthiest kind of relationship.

  3. Excellent advice, as always, Jason. Congratulations on giving such good advice! 😉 I agree that over-thanking (for anything) conveys a sort of “I’m not worthy” posture. So here’s my dilemma: Artists are often, and rightly, reminded to always be grateful for our collectors (whether of one piece of our work or more). So how often after their purchase should we express that without sounding “I’m not worthy”? Should we mention our gratitude/appreciation with every card, email, or in-person contact well after their purchase? I often feel compelled to do that, but at the same time haven’t always felt confident or comfortable doing so.

  4. I suspect the tone should be a little different if coming directly from the artist rather than a gallery owner? The gallery has obviously made the call that they consider the artwork worthy of carrying.

    1. I agree it has to be done slightly differently. If someone buys my work directly,say at an open studio I usually say something like”good choice” this usually has a similar response as described.

  5. Your point on writing a congratulatory note is exactly on point but difficult sometimes.
    Yes, I’m grateful for the money- it’s a “shiny object”. But it’s also a very strong piece (in my own estimation) and has artistic merit. For the buyer, the purchase was one of choice. How difficult that choice was is anyone’s guess. So, congratulations is the operable word.
    Thanks for pointing this out, Jason.

  6. Excellent point. As a gallery director and salesperson I always take this point. As a framer it applies too.

    People want to feel good about their purchase. Congratualting them funnels that process.

  7. I have been a member of Washington DC’s oldest artist cooperative for many years. One of the two co-presidents there is a very successful photographic artist. He has been giving me marketing advice for quite some time. He has urged me to say thank you to my buyers in a very specific way that, until recently, I had resisted. I finally gave in and took his advice. I made five 8.5″ x 11″ lay flat coffee table books as gifts ( I used SnapFish) . An image on the front, a self portrait on the back and twenty high quality prints of my work in between with a short thank you note on the blank back page and contact information on the penultimate blank page. My purchasers are thrilled. They will put it in their living room for all their guests to see and pay even more attention to your subsequent shows. Works for me!

  8. I have used this technic for years for all the reasons you mentioned. On addition, it is not arrogant to have faith in the quality of your art, as long as you are warm , friendly and genuine you do not come across as arrogant.

  9. This is very true. I had been experiencing a lull in sales for longer than I would like to admit, but a tourist came in when I was working and expressed a interest in a piece of mine. Turns out she’s an artist as well. So I went into detail about techniques and she bought it on the spot. I expressed gratitude , but told her it was a favorite of mine, and that she had discerning taste.

  10. You are so right on this point Jason. You need to give the client the impression that they were fortunate to be able to acquire a particular work and not that you are desperate to sell it. I close a sale very similar as you do. I keep my tone very level, and unemotional, no matter how excited I may be inside. I always congratulate them on their purchase, and usually ad something like: “You have a keen eye”. Or…”I know you are going to enjoy this for many years” , in order to validate their decision. My advice as well would be to pay attention to your own body language as well. Don’t physically appear anxious as well. The customer will pick up on that.

  11. I was guilty of this. Finally my partner put her foot down and said at a show, ‘”enough with all the thank yous!” I realized it was compromising me. When I switched to telling them they were taking home some of my best work, or one my personal favorites, they all immediately looked at the painting and smiled , and said….” thank you, John!”

  12. I agree with much of the suggestion, but it would be a million times easier to congratulate a customer for buying another artist’s work in the gallery, but congratulation them for buying your own work really can come across as ‘smarmy’ unless extremely careful. I will often say ‘good choice’ especially when customers have spent some time choosing and have intelligently deliberated, but I’d never say congratulations, especially for prints / edition prints where more identical images are available. I ‘might’ be able to say congrats for securing a one-off artwork.

    1. Thanks Glyn – I completely understand what you’re saying, but I want to encourage you to try it as an experiment on your next few sales. I’ve seen artists congratulate on purchases of their own work, and I can tell you that, if said with enthusiasm and in a friendly, warm way, it won’t come across as smarmy. Give it a try – you’ll love the results!

  13. Thank you, Jason! I appreciate your thoughtful essays on areas of creating and marketing that I have never thought about. I really enjoy your blog.

  14. When I part with one of my paintings, I often feel like I’m losing a child. So I often say to someone who buys a painting that it has been hanging on my own wall and I am going to miss it. Also that I am so happy that someone who likes it has bought it and will enjoy it for years to come. It will help me feel a little better about losing the opportunity to enjoy it myself.

  15. Thanks. Great advice. The conversation I love to have with a purchaser of my art is where they are excited about the art and want share something about about how the art speaks to them personally.

    The art becomes something even greater when they take it home and make it part of their world. It makes me more aware as an artist and it builds a bond between mr and my audience as they become my collaborators in defining the final context and art experience.

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