Putting It Into Practice | Negotiation

I’ve written several posts over the years about negotiation. I’ve discussed whether negotiation is appropriate in the fine art world (I feel it’s essential) and I’ve also provided some of the mechanics I use to negotiate.

Last week, I received this email about a recent negotiation experience from a reddotblog reader:

I wanted to let you know that earlier this week I received an email from a potential new client asking about my art. She’d recently seen my art at a local winery I’m exhibiting at in Boise. She told me the pieces she was interested in and then asked if I would give her a discount if she purchased multiple pieces.

Not sure how to respond I immediately went to your blog and found your blog titled ‘Negotiating and Discounting to Sell Your Art’. I followed your suggestions and in my reply email I asked the client what she had in mind. She replied back that she had a budget of $2,000, and just wanted as much of my art as her budget would allow. We scheduled an appointment (for today) to meet at my winery gallery space and determined her favorite two paintings, retailing at a total of about $3,200 (including taxes). Knowing that I had a already built in some wiggle room of about 20% (per your suggestion that I had read about previously), I had room to negotiate. So, I grabbed my notepad and followed your counter offer approach almost precisely. I had to bite my tongue not to apologize for my offer (as it was substantially over her $2,000 budget) and told the client that I think she’ll be excited with my offer. I showed and explained the complex and lengthy retail prices, and then simply told her my offer (with my 20% discount) of $2,600 for all. She immediately said ‘SOLD!”.

It was so exciting to see your suggestions come to life! Your advice has been invaluable to me (yet again), and I thought you might like to hear about my moment of success thanks to you. I attached my actual offer that I used today…thought you might get a kick out of seeing how closely I followed your counter offer approach. 🙂

Heidi H. | Artist

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First – congratulations on a great job negotiating Heidi! And good job being prepared and in a positive mindset about negotiation.

We use these negotiation techniques to close sales on a nearly daily basis. I know negotiation can be a delicate subject among artists, but I would argue that building in some room to negotiate (as Heidi did) and then negotiating in a professional way can provide you with a powerful toolset to close more sales.

The original article Heidi references is available at: Negotiating and Discounting to Sell Your Art

Have you Had Success Negotiating?

Share your thoughts about any success you’ve had negotiating or any challenges you’ve faced in the comments below.

 

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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

18 Comments

  1. I will almost always negoatiate I would rather see my working walking out the door than taking up space and have cash in my hand. I give collectors a discount always once in a while to strangers especially if it’s an old piece or something I just can’t stand for what ever reason.

    1. I agree Claudia, selling is better than not selling. But selling at full price is better than discounting too! I wouldn’t offer a discount to a stranger unless they asked. And I’d never discount a work more just because I didn’t like it. Remember buyers are not thinking the same as you. I believe buyers only buy art they really love and want to have in their homes, and only get into negotiation if they genuinely can’t afford it, or just feel that’s what they’d like to do. Jason makes this point in his books. I might allow a slightly higher discount if it is an older piece, but my start-point would be the same and I’d still work through Jason’s model. If you can get them to tell you what discount they want, it’s surprising how often it’s less than you would have offered!

  2. I agree that I would rather see a painting walk out the door after negotiating a lower price than refuse to negotiate. I have often given the director at the gallery I use, permission to give a 10% discount on a painting of it will close a sale. I have also given prior buyers a small discount if they ask. I had one bad experience with a decorator who came to my studio and picked out 7 large paintings and the told me she wanted the gallery percentage as a discount. We finally agreed to a 30% discount because of the number of pieces she was buying. I delivered them to a nearby credit union and she gave me a check. A week later she called and told me they only wanted two pieces and that I should come pick the others and also return the money she had paid me except for the two pieces at the 30% discount. I was new at selling my work so I did what she asked. By the time I got home with the returned work, I was furious about how she had manipulated me. I now realize that I should have charged her full price for the two she kept or taken them all back.

    1. An unfortunate situation for sure, and while the designer may have gotten the 30% discount on those two pieces, she’s burned over any opportunity she would have had to do more business with you in the future.

      Since she was reselling the pieces, it’s not uncommon to give a professional discount in this situation, but typically it would be more in the 20% range.

      Without knowing the particulars of what was said at the time she gave you the first check it’s hard to know how I would have handled this, but typically when I receive a check I consider the sale closed. If it became clear that the I was going to have to return the funds, I would have returned everything except the funds for the two pieces at a significantly reduced discount, letting her know that the 30% discount was contingent on the volume of the sale.

      I know how frustrating this kind of thing can be, but I try not to beat myself up over this kind of situation – instead I chalk it up as a learning experience that will help me be better prepared for the next sale.

      1. thanks Jason. It was a learning experience and also something I passed on to another artist she had contacted but not yet met with. I am definitely better prepared if it happens again.

  3. Jason, a bit off subject here but I cannot find any other place to comment – wanted to say how much I enjoyed your article on artist Terry Rafferty. Beautifully-written piece, and I say that as a former journalist. Great pace and very interesting.

  4. Yes please, how would you have handled Kathy’s situation? I had something similar happen but on a small scale. I won first prize at a local plein air event. The owner of the facility hosting the event wished to buy five pieces including the award winning pieces. Since a friend of mine was an organizer ( not a judge), I offered a low price on my painting. The facility owner wanted a further steep discount for buying a number of paintings. However we were individual artists not related to each other. I explained my prices, my experience and the discount already factored in as appreciation for the event. I lost the sale.

  5. For my comment, I should add that the facility owner keep five paintings from the different participating artists for three weeks before deciding to buy two which were discounted but which did not win any prizes. Neither I or the other two artists who won prizes sold any work.

  6. I followed your advice on a recent sale and it worked fine, showing the figures is a great idea, as it is to see my painting go away to a new home. As long as the final price does not harm your body of work, negotiation means a happy ending for both parties.

  7. Kathy, your experience was unpleasant indeed. Good to ask advice on it, any better idea on how to handle sonething like that? Many times we artists remain on the thinner portion of the thread, if you know what I mean, so it is good to have sone sentences ready to go.

  8. Last month I sold a piece considerably cheaper than the listed price. It was on my scheduled day to work the local co-op gallery (artists work one day a month for reduced commission).
    While this piece represented a lot of work, it was an older piece, it was gouache on YUPO (not as salable as traditional papers) and it was only matted (not framed), I sold it to a wonderful local woman. She didn’t ask to negotiate, merely stated that she was saving money to buy it at a later time.
    She’s a very active and caring person in this small community, and I felt honored that she was hopeful for a piece (her love of the animal was an equal consideration). Most often, I listen to people’s stories of their love or experience with a particular bird or animal when they show interest in a painting. It is NOT so much the story I tell, but rather hearing of their interaction which appears to be the most common denominator for buyers.
    She was clearly surprised and pleased by the offer of sale at a considerable reduction. No calculations were made in my offer. It was simply a gut offer.
    She mentioned it was her birthday, so in addition to the hand written thanks, I included a birthday card. (was a joke on the political parties- ooops! but she hasn’t mentioned it so hopefully she appreciated the humor in it).
    I am SO glad I sold that.

    1. Hi Susanne
      those kind of sales are fun. The first piece of art I ever sold was on the last day of an art fair – 20+ years ago. A young boy came up and told me how much he liked a small, graphite drawing I had displayed. He said however that he only had $7 to spend. I sold it to him for that and he left with a huge smile on his face. Hopefully he is now still looking at real art, not posters and buying art he loves.

  9. Good going for Heidi! I read this exact chapter in your book “How To Sell Art” just the day before. Did Heidi pay the tax and include that into her discounted price? Just curious to know as our sales tax here in Santa Fe is 8.4 %. I think Boise ID is around 6%, which can cutinto end of sale profit significantly if included into the discounted 20% calculation. Should I mark my pieces up 28% for wiggle room?

  10. Jason, your formula is solid and obviously works well. Not quite the same but I make sure potential buyers are aware I will entertain a discount or find terms that will work for them. I want my work to end up with someone who loves it. “I really want you to have this. Tell me, what will work for you?” They know what bills they have due and how they can manage payments. We’ve gotten creative a few times with a little bartering on the side. Professional carpet cleaning has value just as pruning trees and detailing a car. Don’t underestimate labor.
    My only caution is in letting someone manipulate you. People tend not to value artists’ labor either. Example: a manager of a commercial venue where I displayed quite a few pieces. He fell in love with my Paris scene and got teary eyed over a life highlight. He visited the exact same spot. I immediately gave him a verbal discount because he was instrumental in the corporate offer to display my work. Even with the discount he couldn’t handle it. I offered him terms … still couldn’t. I even pulled the painting and replaced it with another. I found out he was let go shortly after that.
    Then I received several emails from him how badly he wanted the painting, give him a chance to get settled in his new job, he was going to introduce me to the wealthy owners, etc. Sound familiar? We even made an appointment to see the new facility. We talked about what subject matter the owners would commission but they weren’t there. 🙂 Bottom line, he wanted me to give him the painting in exchange for something he would do later …. No. Haven’t heard from him since.

  11. The negotiating topic brings to mind a sale from last summer, at a festival, with arts and crafts exhibitors and sellers. First I tailored my prices to what the traffic will bear, for small inexpensive pieces, which I sold a lot of. A mother and her three children came by my booth and her young daughter fell in love with one of my paintings. At that time I had not sold anything so far on the 2nd day of this event. The child wanted the art work and the mother only had a certain amount to spend. So we negotiated a discount….
    I sold more pieces that day, as if my discount “opened doors”.
    I, too, think it’s better to negotiate and not have to lug unsold work home as in this case.

  12. I do many of my negotiations via email and usually having never met the person face-to-face.
    One collector wanted 5 of my small bird paintings. I had eight available at the time. They were all originally priced for $6 a sq inch. Being so small 4×4’s, 6×6’s, and one 12×12 that was priced at $2 per sq inch. He took the deal and bought all eight. The eight originally totaled $1200 and I sold them all for $900. He essentially got 8 for the price of 7. 3 more pieces than he originally wanted

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