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

50 Comments

  1. In a recent sale I was able to focus on the subject of the painting (dogs) and while thanking the buyer for the purchase was able to learn more about the buyers and their love of dogs It was a great opportunity to let them tell me more about themselves and how they connected to that particular piece…

  2. Yes, everyone wants to believe they have excellent taste. Who better than the artist to confirm that opinion? I like the way you presented the idea and totally agree. I have been doing this for a very long time and have seen it work.

  3. I absolutely agree. I get nervous when I see artists somewhat fawning on collectors and saying “THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT” over and over and being blown away by the purchase. It can bring a creepy vibe into the conversation. That’s the response appropriately following the rescue of a disabled dog from the humane society…not collecting a piece of art.

    1. Wow, great point! If we all could hear our conversations from the point of view of a third party, we would see this. In my case I would have to censor half of what I say! The point is its a transaction, not a rescue.

  4. Jason, thank you for your perceptive blog (There I go again!). I am guilty as charged, being obsequious in my appreciation for the purchase. Like many of artists in this boom-bust feast-or-famine profession, I suffered from self-esteem issues. As time passed I was more confident in the quality of my art and often told buyers, ” you are taking a great piece, or ” this piece is a personal favorite, and I will miss it”. That always brings broad smile from the customer!

  5. Jason, thank you for your perceptive blog (There I go again!). I am guilty as charged, being obsequious in my appreciation for the purchase. Like many artists in this boom-bust, feast-or-famine profession, I suffered from self-esteem issues. As time passed I was more confident in the quality of my art and often told buyers, “This piece seems to be a show favorite”, ” you are taking a great piece”, or ” this piece is a personal favorite, and I will miss it”. That always brings broad smile from the customer!

  6. Wow, this is good information. I do thank buyers for “helping make it possible for me to follow my dreams.” This article definitely makes me rethink the sentiment, as I was following my dreams long before I started making a good living on art. I do feel better when the customer understands what their particular painting means to me personally, rather than their purchase of said painting. While I’ll still say a hearty thank you to buyers, I’ll dial it back a bit and share more about what I love about their painting or how it came about. Thank you for your valuable information!

  7. I think you are absolutely right in recommending this approach. However, it brought up at first some uncomfortable feelings in myself that I realize I need to address ,such as why I would feel uncomfortable saying something like “Congratulations–you chose a great piece. I am happy it has found a home with someone who appreciates it.” It’s saying about my own work “you got a great piece” that brings up my self doubt. I have a studio full of art that has not sold yet and sometimes the “weight” of that translates into “maybe my work is not that good.”

    I just last weekend sold a piece and was planning to send a note of thanks. Now I plan to send a note of congratulations. The more I say this to myself, the better it begins to sound. Mary Westheimer above is correct: it is a powerful shift. Congratulations, Jason, for your insight and thank you for sharing it.

    1. I send a note thanking the buyers for adding the piece to their collection, and expressing the wish that it may give them many years of happiness. I think “Congratulations, you’ve added a great piece to your collection” might best be conveyed verbally. But what do I know!

  8. Couldn’t agree more Jason. I too have been over thankful when first starting to make sales..it does bring a creepy vibe to the conversation as one of your readers said and then you just end up feeling weird as well. Love your solution and will use it in the future.

  9. Good timing Jason, I want to write a note to a client who is also a friend and thank him for his recent purchase of a painting and I am stuck on what wording to use. I also want to ask for picture of it in his home. Every time I start to write it, I feel too formal or contrived. Help!

  10. Wow, a real eye-opener! I NEVER would have thought of it like this, having always taken an approach that I can now see has been humble to the point of being practically obsequious! (Sort of like the David Copperfield character Uriah Heep: eewww!) I’ll definitely keep this in mind next time.

  11. Sales wise, 2016 was a pretty good year for me so I’ve had multiple opportunities to employ this strategy and I feel that it works very well. I do this in letter form and send it with a certificate of authenticity for the work. The letter also provides a little background into the inception of the work as well as its personal significance to me. I also like to begin each year by sending out a small work on paper to anyone who made a purchase of $500 or greater. I feel that this gesture helps to keep me on the collector’s radar without being too pushy about reeling them to buy another painting. The angle here is that the collector will feel that they are receiving something of value free of charge and will be willing to acquire another painting in the near future in an effort to renew their support.

  12. Yes I agree and it works for me. I have also seen a great response when I say “I really love this piece and I am so happy you have it now for your home!” (when I know where it is going). The emphasis is gratitude that it is ‘them’ that have bought it. I mean it too.

  13. That makes good sense to me, next time I will try that, in the past I have sent a thank you note of my own design. Sometimes an artist isn’t present when the sale is made.

  14. Jason

    You are absolutely correct on this! I have a number of patrons who support my work and each time they make a purchase I take the time to congratulate them and mention how well the painting will look within their current collection. Every time I receive a ‘thank you’ from the patron – often a written note.

  15. I totally agree, Jason. I do not want the buyer to think a sale is a rare occasion, but rather something I assume is going to happen and take in stride. Not arrogant, but confident. Congratulating a buyer the way you described makes a powerful statement!

  16. Jason,
    Timely advice. I just sold a painting and was writing a thank you letter to include with the painting I am shipping out today. I did thank them once in the letter but also congratulated them as well. I really like how the letter turned out. Neither desperate nor pompous.

  17. Such an important point in completing the sale … appreciation should be expressed but don’t grovel. You will make the buyer uncomfortable.
    I’ve sent thank you notes when a piece or commission was sold by a gallery. In person; smile, say thank you, and congratulations … you’re done. The only thing you want thereafter is contact information to keep the party informed of new work or exhibits.
    Sales are part of your business, not an exception within your business. Treat it as such.

  18. When I made my last sale of 3 paintings it was after visiting thenyet unfinished house. I told the buyer that the paintings he chose would fit perfectly in the places he had chosen to hand them.
    But you have a knack for giving us valuable insight into selling art. Sometimes saying congratulations you picked a great piece sounds too pretentious but not to the buyer. It reinforces their choice.

  19. In the nick of time. I didn’t do too badly with over appreciating the purchase, but it was one of my more expensive and larger paintings. I have been asked to visit in their home to sign the painting. I will be able to temper my thanks and emphasize their excellent selection and compliment them also on their cool home(they sent a picture of the painting hanging). David Baker

  20. This is the best advice I’ve received so far in 2017. Congratulations, Jason!
    You taught us a very important lesson. I will start that immediately with a note to my first buyer of the year!

  21. Great advice Jason.
    I was told the same by my art coach a few years ago. He used to own an art Gallery in San Francisco. My first thought was “Will I be able to tell my collectors this?”, feeling it was arrogant to say and they will raise an eyebrow, but once you say it, it gets easier and they will thank You.
    Absolutely wright Jason.
    I always give my gratitude to the universe for everything, everyday.

  22. This is great advice and a good way of doing it. I instinctively did this when I sold one of my favorite paintings. It was hard to let it go so I think I naturally congratulated them as I thought of it as a “win” on their part. I didn’t realize until your post that this is how it should be done with all our work . So thank you for this post.

  23. Mr. Horejs,
    As usual, you’re right on the mark! Both, artist and patron should be congratulated when a piece of art is purchased. Without the artist, the client would not be able to avail himself of the pleasure of owning the work. And without the patron, the artist would not be in a position to continue making a living with his art.

  24. Wow, what a concept. I’ve never congratulated any of my buyers before, but I am looking forward to testing that out very soon. I love trying new ways to improve my sales process. Keep you posted on how it works for me.

  25. I remember reading this advice from you awhile ago, and I have incorporated it into my process with great success and it feels so good for both parties! Mahalo!

  26. This IS a New Year and I am Happy!
    The happiness comes from the experience of meeting many artists this year and getting a good feel for my work through their eyes. But one of the central experiences that has been he most valuable is RedDot, “Starving to Successful” and meeting albeit cyberly- Jason Horejs.
    It’s been said a lot before but it’s worth repeating, the view from the gallery and collector is, for the artist, indispensible in completing the art work. What has happened in this past year for me is that I have come to truly believe in my art and abilities. The result is that I am seen as that person and my images have a different sense about them.
    (I still worry about my production quantities but that has now become beside the point.)
    So it’s a big thank you and best wishes as you proceed on your mission and journey.

  27. EXCELLENT advice. I can see this in my head, and I KNOW what you’re suggesting is “right”. People like to be commended, regardless of the reason. It is, in my experience, part of the human condition. So, yes, it makes perfect sense to congratulate the buyer on their decision. And what’s better than BOTH of you feeling terrific? Thanks, Jason. AND…congratulations! Well done on yet another juicy bit of guidance! (grins all around)

  28. I had read this blog and its comments when it was just out. All very good info which i have adapted. I went back today to reread it though. I was wondering if I could take this discussion a step further, Jason, or maybe you could bring it in different chat. My query: does this change at all when you congratulate someone in social media? Does it sound too pretentious to say “Thank you and congratulations for the purchase of one of my favorites of this series” or something of the sort. You are saying it to them but also to all who read it.

  29. Love this recommendation Jason! I have three to write out and they are sitting there because….for exactly this reason….thank you just didn’t seem appropriate. I can’t wait to write my congratulatory notes. Thanks for always great advice and timing. Happy painting everyone.

  30. I used the info in this blog to thank a new collector who bought a piece of my art through a gallery at the MN State Fair. He posted a photo of the work on FaceBook and a friend saw it and said, “Hey, that’s my friend’s art.” I used the opportunity to Congratulate him and share the provenance of the work (shows and an award it had received) and to let him know it was a personal favorite of mine and had been hanging in my living room until August when I decided to part with it. He was thrilled to have all that background and will undoubtedly enjoy it even more now. Thanks to this article, I did not grovel (I’m such a gusher!), but instead said Thank you at the end and wished him many happy years with the painting. I could tell that it reinforced his good feelings about owning the art even though he initially bought it just because he loved the aesthetic.

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