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.

Starving to Successful

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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 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

41 Comments

  1. Terrific advice Jason, as usual! I have read these letters of yours for a few years now and never fail to appreciate your professional yet very human perspective. I also frequently feel encouraged to realize that I have been conducting my business as you’ve suggested. I trust your judgment! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with all of us out here painting our hearts out.

    Sincerely,
    Kimberly Wurster

  2. Oh my goodness, I could never congratulate someone for buying a piece of art from me. That would seem like an arrogant thing for an artist to do. My position is to be friendly, say thank you, and perhaps say I hope you enjoy it. I can understand a gallery owner saying this, but not the artist. Sorry, but you asked for comments. I’ve always agreed with everything you’ve said but I can’t this time.

    1. Phyllis, you read my mind! I was pondering the very same thing. The gallery owner is the artists rep. Not the artist. So yes, I’d feel very comfortable telling someone they got a great piece of art from an artist in my gallery. But as the artist, I find it hard to say “congratulations, you’ve just bought a great piece.”

      1. I often say, and mean it, something like -oh I am so glad you love that painting, it was a struggle but I am really pleased with it, I think you have made a good choice -Let’s face it we should not sell anything that we, as the artist, don’t think is good. For someone to make the personal connection deserves a “well done ” all round I think.

    2. I understand your reticence Phyllis, but I would urge you to try congratulating your customers with a smile and see how it goes. I can promise you it will change the entire dynamic and will make your clients feel even better about their purchase. I’ve witnessed artists saying congratulations when selling their own work, and in fact had an artist congratulate me for a purchase. Keep in mind that I’m advocating saying “thank you,” and “congratulations”. It may feel awkward the first time you say it, but the results will be positive, I promise, and once you’ve seen the results you’ll want to say it every time. There’s nothing wrong with congratulating someone on a great decision, even if the purchase benefits you.

    3. Phyllis, I have never used the word “congratulations” regarding the sale of my own work. But my attitude reflects that sentiment. I am happy for my client that they have found something they like very much and I am happy for myself obviously, for the sale but also that the painting itself has found such a good home. I find that if I am just honest and share my own heartfelt joy regarding the entire situation, it has the same effect that Jason describes in his blog.

  3. That’s great & timely advice Jason. I have recently sold an oil painting to a collector whom then commissioned me to paint a picture of his Classic Mk2 Jaguar Motor Car. My collector is delighted with both Pieces. He is going to arrange an official handover at a local Motor Club with some press there one evening in March….

    I will be sure to congratulate him on his impeccable taste & congratulations on this article & thank you…

  4. I think it’s very appropriate for you, Jason, as the gallery owner, to congratulate someone on having gotten a great piece. It reinforces that the purchaser has good taste & discernment for having selected an individual piece from a gallery full of offerings. However, for the times I’m selling directly to a client, in my opinion it sounds warmer for me to say something like “I’m happy you bought that piece, it always makes me feel good when my work goes to someone who appreciates it so much.” Or “I’m glad you bought that piece, it’s one of my favorites.” It still reinforces that they have taste and discernment, but feels, at least to me, more like I’m making a lasting connection with the client.

    1. That still makes it more about you, the artist, not the buyer’s decision to purchase the art. That’s where the congratulations comes into play. My husband and I took some time to discuss and decide on our purchase, and we would have welcomed a congratulations!

  5. I HAVE said this – with a grin or a smile – something on the order of “Congratulations on your good taste! (pause for chuckle) Do you know where you’re going to place this in your home?” I don’t think it hurts a bit. Buyers have told me it’s going to hanging near such and so’s work – “Isn’t it wonderful to have original art in your home?” It doesn’t hurt that I truly believe people who do – who have original art hanging, and the taste, confidence, and money to purchase it – are lucky! I also let my enthusiasm for that particular piece show through “Oh, THIS is one of my favorites!” “I adore the light on those peaks, don’t you?” It probably doesn’t hurt that I come from a long background in selling.

  6. To alleviate any reticence in congratulating the buyer, might the artist preface it with a question? “Do you own any of my other paintings?” If they say no, then, add, “Well, congratulations, you’ve now joined my group of collectors. I truly enjoyed painting it, so It’s nice to know it’s going to a place where it will be loved and enjoyed. Thank you.”

  7. I usually tell it is a good choice but I think I speak to much of why it is. I cannot know why it is their choice so it is more talking about myself and my way to see my painting. I will try your suggestion next time. Congratulate and smile. I will accept their choice in doing that.

    1. Hey Gwen,
      Although I kind of lean toward the “Thank -you’s ” rather than the “Congrats”, I like your way of thinking! Great analogy!

  8. I have congratulated clients when we are finishing our business. Since I do commissioned work, they are generally involved in some of the decisions. I acknowledge that they made good choices and that they were a pleasure to work with. They do thank me back!

  9. Hi Jason, and thanks for re-posting this article. When I introduce your blog to people, this is the one I send. I cannot overstate how successful this is when making a sale. At first, it was a bit uncomfortable for me to say, but WOW. The response from the buyers is fantastic. They really feel good, and you can visually see them stand taller. Also, when you say congratulations in a crowd, people come forward and ask who is being congratulated and why. People love to celebrate! It gives you anouther chance to bring up a wonderful purchase of this great piece that will fit perfectly in the buyers’ collection. Brag about your buyer a bit. You may get anouther sale.

  10. A great piece. Thanks! I particularly like the part about over-thanking putting too much focus on me, the artist. At this stage, it should be on them. I also have the initial resistance to congratulating someone for my acquiring my art, but can feel the difference it’ll make inside. I don’t over-thank now (or do I?), but I surely used to. I usually offer some variation of, “I’m glad you found a piece that resonates; I hope it brings you peace/joy/whatever (depending on what I know of the client) for may years to come.” But in light of this article I’m thinking even that may be too much about me and my experience.

  11. I am finding myself on the fence with this one. I agree that we shouldn’t over thank because it sounds desperate … as though this is the first time someone actually liked a piece enough to purchase it. With regards to saying congratulations, I think that is a bit too much or certainly will seem arrogant to some clientele. But I do understand the principle behind the theory, it is all about perception. However, I think we should find a way to get the point across to the client, that they made a good choice, in a more subtle way

  12. I’m going to work on this! I have a big art show coming up in about a month – one that took me many years to be invited to as an artist. I’ll try to remember to put this advice into practice!

  13. I usually just say thank you this piece is one of my favorites so glad he has a good home. Then I usually follow up with a thank you card. I use to be overly thankful though and kicked myself afterwards but happily I’m way past that now…….

  14. I’m SO going to do this this weekend (first art festival)! One of the things that stand out foremost in my mind is something that (I think) you said which was… ‘this is a good trade: money for art. You get to look at this art forever whereas I’ll spend the money in probably the next month’ (paraphrased). I think a congratulations is totally in order and can’t wait to use this.

    Thank you, Jason!

  15. Very interesting article! I like to write a thank you note after a sale and it’s always been difficult not to sound exactly how you describe – as though I am desperate. I always add something along the lines of “I hope the piece brings you a lot of joy.” But I actually like this approach, possibly delivered with a touch of humor. And instead of saying “I hope….” I’m going to start saying “I know….”

  16. Why not an artist? You are congratulating them on making such a wise decision, a good choice, for being discriminating, even among the various pieces of your artwork, they picked the best one. I’ve often told people a painting was a favorite of mine and happy they chose well. They take it as a compliment and feel pretty smart about their decision. So, why not congratulations!

  17. HI Jason this is a great article! You’re right about sounding “too grateful”. As a long time follower of yours, I often heard you use the word “collector” when referring to art buyers, and I love that term because it is so complimentary, so I’ve used it. Whether I’ve closed a sale in person, or at a later date closed it thru an email, I’ll almost always say “thank you so n so, you bought a great piece. You’ve now become a collector”. I think people then feel elevated by their acquisition and confident about their taste level !

  18. What perfect timing! Yesterday before heading out the door to deliver a commission piece I read this article. I took it to heart and reread my letter for the client and it was dripping with thank you’s. I am truly grateful for the opportunity but then I focused on the paragraph in your article about being in the buyers shoes, which reminded me of when I have purchased artwork, and it is spot on. So I toned down my letter into three parts, a thank you, description of inspiration, and closing with “Congratulations on your purchase of fine art” followed by the title. When I arrived with the painting she was excited, and after mentioning a few details about the piece I told her the same thing. She was beaming and gave me the biggest hug. Later after she finally read the letter she posted it and the artwork on Facebook. I was happy to see how strongly she felt about the artwork.

  19. I tried it this weekend at a local/regional art show (my first ever show) and for every one of my sales I said “congratulations, you got a beautiful image” (I’m a photographer). As a response to EVERY SINGLE “congratulations” I got back a very hearty and happy “Thank you”!
    That advice WORKS!
    Jason, I can’t thank you enough for some of the great tid bits I’ve gotten from this blog – without it I wouldn’t have known to offer/make a soft sale by taking art to a client’s home after the show closed on Saturday so they could see it in their space. (That was my 4th sale of the day)
    Than you 10 times!
    Aeon

  20. I Say, “Thank you. It was a fun piece to create. I know you’ll enjoy it. “
    Then, I may say, “You made a good choice. So many people have liked this one!”
    …No big deal to let them know they chose a nice piece of art!
    Thanks, Jason….I know you’re always thinking from the artist’s point of view…not just the gallery owner’s POV. I get it.

  21. The essential part of this article is that you don’t devalue yourself or your art. I haven’t sold much work, but that’s because marble statues take forever to make and command a high price. I generally say ‘thank you’, not for the sale, but for some compliment I get at that time. If I congratulate, it’s not directly, more innuendo, but it’s there. Whatever you say should reflect confidence, and an awareness that what you’re selling is not something that can be done by just anyone. And it should always be said with a smile.

  22. Great article. I do tend to let my buyers know if they have made what I think is a good choice. I produce a lot of work and I have my favourites for sure. I always let someone know if they have chosen something I particularly like, with a compliment to their good taste. If it’s an artwork I’m not fond of, I just smile and say thanks. Everyone’s taste is different which is a good thing. I’ll say congratulations next time.

  23. Agree with Loni-we have our favorites though all work for sale should be our best. I am honest in saying it is a favorite and I will miss it (and I do!) Also, I follow up the sale with mailing a Certificate of Authenticity which includes a short blurb about the work or series, date of purchase and my best wishes for enjoyment as well as my thanks.

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