Hot summer days in Scottsdale usually make for quiet times in the Old Town arts district. Last Monday was an exception.
Xanadu Gallery director Elaine recounts the following experience:
“About mid-morning, Sherry and her mom Sidney (Names changed to protect the innocent) strolled in for their first visit to Xanadu. With homes in both Chicago and Scottsdale, they were looking for art for the Arizona residence, a beautiful new Tuscan-style home in North Scottsdale. Armed with a “cheat sheet” of desired painting/artwork sizes, the duo started zeroing in on the exciting offerings in the gallery.
The first discovery was a colorful painting by husband and wife artists John and Elli Milan, “Transcending View I,” for the master bath. When the clients mentioned they would like to find one or two other paintings for the same room that would complement the Milan, I led them to the front window to see two other Milans that were perfect for what they had in mind.
The next artworks they fell in love with were a stunning new steel and wood wall sculpture by Jeanie Thorn titled “Artifact,” two colorful abstracts by Penny Benjamin Peterson, and Guilloume’s powerful bronze relief, “We Can Grow.” Moving to the southern section of the gallery, Shelley spotted the oil painting “On My Knees” by Guilloume. It was one of those goose-bump moments as I shared the narrative the artist has written about the artwork.”
I take Mondays off, but when Elaine called me about the client’s interest, I drove in to the gallery, picked up the art and drove out to the collector’s home. Sherry and Sid were an absolute delight and were excited to have found so many pieces they felt would work for their home.
I began bringing the artwork into the home while they showed me the space they had in mind for each piece. Most of the pieces fit the spaces perfectly, and it was immediately clear we had good matches. Several pieces didn’t work, but we were able to find other spots throughout the house where the work fit.
Of nine pieces delivered, only two didn’t find space (and one of those, though it didn’t fit, may lead to a commission for the artist this fall).
The clients were delighted, and I set about hanging the work. In a bathroom space, I had to remove a towel bar and touch up the paint on the wall. I helped them figure out the right positioning for each piece.
When everything was hung, Sherry said, “I love all of it – now, . . . you can offer me a collector’s discount can’t you?”
“Of course,” I said, “these pieces look spectacular. I will take care of you.”
We went to the kitchen and I started doing the math. This kind of situation presents a unique negotiating challenge. Normally, if there were only one piece involved I would ask the customer to make an offer. I couldn’t do this with this sale because I was quite sure the client had no idea what the seven pieces would add up to, and the last thing I wanted to have happen was have her give me a number so far on the low side that there would be no way to recover.
My approach was simple. I added up the total retail value of all of the pieces (I took my time doing this) and then calculated the tax. “Hmmmmmmmm . . . let’s see what I can do,” I muttered as I worked on the figures, wanting to make it clear I was going to work hard for them to help them acquire the art at a great value.
“What form of payment will you be using?” I asked.
“I can pay by check.”
“Great, that helps a lot, I can include the credit card fees in your discount.”
I continued calculating and wrote all of the figures on the sales slip. Finally, I had everything prepared and presented my offer to Shelley.
The few moments discussing the deal are delicate and must be handled carefully. I always remember that my goal is the same as the client’s: we both want them to have the artwork, but the way I present the offer can make all the difference between closing the sale and not.
Here are the figures as I presented them:
$1,933.20 Sales Tax
I talked them through each part of the calculation. “The total for all seven pieces is $21,600, the tax is $1,933.20, bringing the total to twenty-three thousand five hundred thirty three dollars and twenty cents. I spell that last number out for you here, because that’s exactly how I said it to the client. My goal is to have this number sound terrifyingly large, complicated and expensive. And then I paused . . . and let this number sink in.
Because I felt we were coming from a point where the client may not have had an idea what the total was going to be, or even the magnitude of the purchase, I want to let this number sink in. I want her mind to have a chance to adjust to it. I have no idea what number she may have had in her mind, but I want to erase that number and let this one become firmly planted. My hope is that the number takes her breath away just a little bit.
Then I begin whittling away at the number for her.
“Now as I told you, we can give you a very strong collector’s discount of $1,944.”
I rewrote the retail price and subtracted the collector’s discount.
“You mentioned you would be paying by check instead of credit card, which allows me to deduct another $588.” I wrote this number down and subtracted it from my subtotal. Now our tax is only $1,706.59. Which brings us to a total of $20,774.59″
I paused again to let this number sink in. “And,” I said after a beat, “I promised to take care of you, so it would be my pleasure to round down to $20,000.”
I underlined this number.
“Thank you! I knew you were my friend!” Sherry said, pulling out her pen to start writing the check. “I was worried I might not be able to get them all.”
This was exactly the outcome I was aiming for. Negotiation is a fine art in itself, and handled incorrectly can cause sales to crumble (I speak from experience). Handled correctly it helps everyone get what they want.
When I first started in the business almost twenty years ago, I might have handled the situation by throwing my offer out right in the beginning: “I can do it for $20,000.” This might even work from time to time. If the client has the number $17,000 in her mind, however, $20,000 seems expensive, and this is why my efforts to take the client on an odyssey up to $23,533 is worth the effort. If I can take them there and work my way back down, $20,000 now seems like a very reasonable number.
I know that negotiation can be a sensitive topic, so I look forward to hearing your comments below. Keep in mind that I am not trying to pull the wool over my customers’ eyes, or trick them into making a purchase. My motives are not nefarious. I want to help them get what they want and feel great about the purchase, and I am going to use psychology and salesmanship to help make this happen.