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

34 Comments

  1. I think this is a very good advice. I must say I feel completely confortable in congratulating a customer for buying a piece from another artist (as does a gallery owner) , however not so much for buying one of my own pieces… I would probably rather say something like: “You’ve made a great choice. This piece is one of my favorite… I’m going to miss it…”

  2. This was something I learned when helping at the gallery I used to be in. People get very excited when you congratulate them, and it makes them feel even better about purchasing your art. That in turn makes me feel good when they are excited about their purchase.

  3. I do understand that the buyer may need validation after spending their money for something they did not have to buy. If you are the gallery owner it is right to congratulate the buyer. As an artist, I have tried it a few times and gotten the look of “WTF.” I believe it is still easier in our society for a male artist to say congratulations than for a female. Most people who buy my work have connected with it personally or emotionally and are not “Collectors.” Although I do congratulate them on buying art, I have been saying things along the line of “I’m glad my art is going to a good place/home.” To me, that is showing faith in them and their taste. My vote of confidence is validation. If/when I have a larger following, I may feel more comfortable congratulating them on buying MY art.

    1. Thanks for this comment, Rebecca. I haven’t seen many articles addressing the difference in male/female challenges for professional artists and it’s super relevant for me. In this culture, most women are socialized very differently than men when it comes to confidence, negotiating, language, exchange of money for work and social and business power dynamics, which can make for significantly different needs as far as career skills.

      Jason, have you written anything on this topic? I learn so much from you and have gained great respect for your experience and integrity that I’d reeeally love some articles from you about your experiences with gender specific challenges and advice.

    2. As a non professional, I would consider it the height of arrogance for an artist to congratulate me for buying their art. If a second or third party seller of art congratulated me, that would be an entirely different matter.

  4. This is great advice, and as co-owner of a cooperative art and craft gallery, I’ve too often seen (and cringed), when I witness an artist “over-thanking” a buyer for purchasing their art” if they happen to be one of the artists on duty when the sale happens.
    In light of Jason’s article regarding this issue, I do think that this may be a slightly different issue when it is a gallery owner representing others’ works versus a “direct” sale of an artist to his/her client. There is a very fine line between healthy confidence and arrogance or egoism.

    When I’m selling others’ artwork at my gallery, I do often say things suggested by Jason, more in the vein of a compliment rather than a congratulations. However, if a customer buys my work, I would feel very unnatural saying “congratulations” to the buyer. And it wouldn’t be because I don’t have a valid or healthy sense of confidence in my work. I believe that one can convey gratitude with confidence AND (sorry for caps, no italics avail.) humility. I don’t believe one precludes the other.
    In any case, I feel it’s important to be authentic when representing oneself. And yes we can all learn and develop ourselves in this way, just as we develop as artists.

  5. I wholeheartedly agree. Good taste and commitment. I say “commitment” because for many people the purchase of a particular artwork can be a lifelong commitment in that it may hang on a wall for many, many years. This was my experience growing up….my parents had “the painting” in our living room for over thirty years. I believe that this is typical for people who “fall in love” with a painting. With this in mind, I urge my collectors to interact with my art and establish a personal relationship with it. I know this might sound strange, but it also reflects how I view my own creations. Jason, a good piece! Paul

  6. I remembered this advice from a previous post and congratulated my client at the installation last month. I
    think she was so pleased with herself/ decisions it may have been part of ordering 7 more panels!

  7. I wish I had found you when I was selling at art festivals…so much great advise. But now my originals are in galleries (not co-ops) so I do not meet the buyers. However I have just started selling prints on line and will try to adapt your suggestions here into my hand painted thank you notes that I send at the final end of the transaction.
    Thank you for all you teach us!!!

  8. Jason, thank you for this very smart post and encouragement. I do not so far have a great deal of experience in selling my artwork (I’m not ready to sell most of it), but I do have a great deal of experience in sales. One characteristic that I chronically see in my fellow artists is undervaluing their work dollar-wise, and just plain undervaluing their contribution, even if they feel satisfaction with what they’ve made. The verbiage I would adopt is, “Thank you so much, and congratulations on purchasing a piece of fine art. Not everyone gets to do that! I hope you enjoy it forever.” Depending on the relationship and my involvement, I might also say, “Not everyone gets my work, but *you* have an eye for it.” If someone is considering purchasing your work, that is always a true statement. Emphasize the specialness of the buying experience for them, their good judgement in selecting quality work, *and* give them a warm fuzzy memory and a story to tell. Don’t underestimate the after-sell. Humility is overrated and is definitely not your friend in the sales process.

  9. Congratulations to Jason for thinking continually about artists and the best way to properly respond to a sale. I appreciate Rebecca S’s overview and like Eric’s thoughts as well. Andrea H., I don’t think I’d say: “Not everyone gets my work”, but I’d definitely say to the customer, “You have a good eye.”
    I’m enjoying this site and the shared information. Thanks to you all.

  10. I love to be congratulated when I buy an artwork! It heightens my excitement about my new acquisition. I also enjoy my framer complimenting my new print, drawing, or painting. The sculptural pieces and pottery also get congratulations from family and friends. I give recognition to fellow collectors, artists, and clay artists too! Sharing our successes brings so much more meaning to our pieces.
    Thank you for the excellent advice! Just enough, not too much.

  11. I read this, or a similar, suggestion from you a while back and have been using it ever since. I usually say “Congratulations, you made a great choice”. I’ve never had anyone respond poorly; they usually get a big smile on their face and (as you stated) have thanked me.

  12. I totally agree I also say Congratulations on your purchase I’m honored to have my work in your home. Then I give the collector a certificate of authenticity with a photo of the art their name and purchase date and price for Insurence purposes.

  13. You just reaffirmed what I have been doing naturally. By the way, you have some great information on here that I look at every day.

  14. In addition to your advice on congratulating and thanking them in person, do you follow up by mailing a thank you note later, or insert your business card in the thank you note, or perhaps even a brochure of your work? What about email newsletters sent occasionally?

  15. The gallery where I have my work asks the artists to send a thank you note to the collector after a purchase. While I haven’t congratulated them in so many words, I was uncomfortable writing “thank you for buying my painting” because it felt like groveling, so I phrased it as “thank you for making the decision to own my painting _____” and provide some info about the painting and what it means to me. It may not be specifically a congratulation, it does feel a bit more like what you discuss in this article, the focus being more on what they’ve done rather than what I’ve received from it. I will try using congratulations in the future.

  16. I found your article very valuable. I have found that when my art sells, it’s important to me to know what touched them about the work. My work is mostly landscapes, and often evoke memories of places or experiences in buyers. When I have a sale, I like to listen to the buyers comments on the piece. The joy I feel in their comments helps me let go of the art.

  17. Having thought about this and read all of the previous comments, I believe that offering congratulations is a good technique to indicate to the purchaser that he/she has made a good decision with the purchase.
    However, exactly how this “congratulations” is verbalized by the artist is important and remains a fine line between confidence and arrogance. It is much easier for a third party, such as a gallery owner, to accomplish this and probably also carries more conviction.

  18. I think this is great! I’m going to add that to my repertoire. I do thank clients, but it is in the light of supporting the arts in general. If it’s true, I will tell them they have one of my favorite paintings and tell them how important it is for them to keep art alive by patronizing artists they like.

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