Working Through Difficult Art Sales: The Case of the Hounded Clients

At Xanadu Gallery, we pride ourselves on providing superior customer service to our clients. We work very hard to engage with people who are visiting the gallery, to provide personalized and friendly service, and to go above and beyond in meeting our customers’ needs. This outreach has been, I feel, a critical part of our long-term success, and we get great feedback from our clients. I have buyers tell me that they love our gallery because the art is approachable, and the gallery staff makes them feel welcome and important.

Over the last month, however, we’ve had three incidents where things have gone less smoothly than we would have liked, sometimes disastrously so. We’ve certainly had these kinds of incidents in the past, but very, very rarely, and so it was odd to have three in quick succession. I feel like these incidents have served as reminders of the importance of customer service, but they are also reminders that in spite of every effort on our part to provide a great experience, sometimes things just aren’t going to click. In the coming weeks, I hope to be able to share what we’ve learned from each of these experiences. I’ll begin with what I call “The Case of the Hounded Clients.” (Names have been removed to protect the innocent)

Several weeks ago, I was at work in my office when a member of my staff came in and said that a customer “wished to speak with the person in charge.”

“Why, what’s up?” I asked.

“He’s upset about something,” she replied.

I stepped out of my office with some trepidation. My staff member lead me to the client, a middle-aged gentleman, who immediately began speaking with some tension in his voice.

“My wife and I have been looking around your gallery, and there are some pieces that we are interested in,” he began. “but we won’t buy them from [a certain member of your staff].”

I was caught completely off guard, and couldn’t even begin to think how to respond before he continued.

“[This member of your staff] followed us around the gallery and wouldn’t leave us alone. We’ve never had someone hound us that way.”

Now I was truly flabbergasted.

“I’m sorry you felt that way,” I replied, instinct kicking in. “We strive to provide great customer service to our clients.”

“Well,” he said, cutting me off, “we would like to come back when [the member of your staff] isn’t working to buy some art.”

Unsure of what else to say, I explained our schedule, including times when the staff member in question wouldn’t be working. Even as I was sharing this information, it felt like the wrong way to respond, but I was completely dumbfounded by what the gentleman was saying and couldn’t think of anything other than this lame reply.

The customer replied that the timing might not work for them, and then proceeded to quickly walk out of the gallery, and then up the street with his wife.

The entire exchange couldn’t have taken more than a minute, and I was left standing there scratching my head, feeling a little like I had just been hit by a bus.

The whole situation was very awkward. If you’ve visited our gallery before, you know that it is not large. My entire staff heard the exchange, including the staff member who had worked with the couple. I knew that what had been described to me simply didn’t fit with what I knew of my staff. They are very responsive and conscious of how much interaction to provide clients.

I went to the staff member to get the other side of the story. The gallery consultant described exactly what I would have expected. She greeted the couple as they entered the gallery, and they shared that they had been to the gallery before and were quite interested in one of our artists. The couple was very energetic and enthusiastic as they looked at the artist’s work, and the consultant carried on a dialogue with them about the artist and the pieces that were of interest to them. The couple then started to look through the rest of the gallery. As they stopped to admire work by another artist, the consultant approached them to share some information about the artist and his whimsical series of paintings. At this point, the consultant noticed that the couple wasn’t listening to her as they were having their own discussion, so she gave them space while they continued to look through the gallery.

The couple proceeded towards the front window display and started to chuckle, which cued the consultant that they must have seen another piece on display by the whimsical artist. So she started to approach them to talk about the piece, and it was at this point, that the couple exploded and, in raised voices, accused the consultant of following them around the gallery and talking to them too much. Before the consultant could respond, the couple dramatically stormed out of the gallery while loudly expressing their displeasure. This continued as they stood outside of the gallery (our front door was propped open, making it possible to hear every word).

After a few minutes, the husband returned and demanded to speak to the person in charge. The consultant immediately apologized for any misunderstanding, but the husband ignored her.

After hearing the story, I tried to reassure my staff member that I didn’t see that she had done anything wrong. This was probably unnecessary because it was clear to all of us that the staff member was doing exactly what we always strive to do – namely being welcoming and helpful. I immediately felt that I had failed to defend the consultant the way I should have. I felt I should have stood up to the client by expressing my faith in my staff, a faith which I feel is well-deserved.

I also said that I didn’t want to change anything we are doing because these customers seemed to feel that we were being overly aggressive in our sales efforts. I have frequently heard customers complain that other galleries ignore them or provide a low level of service. I certainly wouldn’t want this experience to cause us to provide poor service to future clients because we are afraid of overdoing it.

As I went back to my office and thought more about the situation, I decided that the clients were highly unlikely to return to buy anything, and were just saying they would so that I would take them seriously. Even if I were to take their claim that they wanted to buy seriously, I wished that had been more forceful in my defense of my staff and our sales efforts. I should have said,

“I stand 100% behind my staff.”

or

“You are being unnecessarily rude.”

or

“Go to hell!”

The fact is, though my clients are important and valuable to me, my staff is even more valuable and important to me. I think of us as family, and I knew I should have stood up more firmly. I don’t believe in the “customer is always right” adage, especially when the client is being unreasonable and rude.

I probably spent more time thinking about the situation than I should have, but I’m sure you’ve been in a scenario where you can’t stop thinking about what you should have said to someone.

I finally came to the conclusion that my lesson was learned and that in the future, if something like this should ever happen again, I would show more spine.

End of story.

Except it’s not. Several days later, the couple returned (on a day when the staff member they had complained about wasn’t working) and proceeded to purchase three significant works of art from us. On this visit they were, according to my staff, pleasant and amenable, though my staff, understandably, gave them wide berth until they requested help.

Now the situation was even more confusing. Had I shown more spine and fought fire with fire, we would have missed out on these sales. As a gallery owner I also have a duty to do right by my artists, and they would certainly appreciate these sales. Was I selling out my staff though?

I’ve been around and around the situation, and I’m not sure I’ve come to any satisfactory conclusion of what I should have done.  Perhaps my conciliatory instinct ended up being the best approach in the end? Maybe the clients were just having a bad day the first time they came in and my staff took the brunt of it.

Because of the way we pool sales for staff sales commissions, the consultant who took the abuse ended up making commission on the sale to these clients. Perhaps that’s the best kind of payback we could hope for in this situation.

How Have you Dealt with Unreasonable Clients and Confrontational Situations?

Have you ever run into a similar situation to the one we faced with our clients? How have you reacted? What would you suggest might have been the right response to the clients? Share your thoughts, experiences and suggestions in the comments below.

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47 Comments

  1. When I first began working in a retail store, the manager told me to treat difficult clients with even more kindness and care, than the other clients and she was right. Most of those demanding clients came back later smiling and with a gentler attitude.

    1. Louise, this made me tear up. Indeed, on the occasions when I have been truly rude to the staff in an establishment, there has been something else pretty bad going on that day, and an undeserved kindness can make a huge difference.

  2. Years ago I worked in a fine jewelry/gift store where the owner taught me how to approach the clients. Be available, but don’t be aggressive. It was a great lesson which I’ve carried through other retail situations including my own high-end floral design shop and my gallery shows. I’m one of the customers who likes to browse without a steady conversation and am much more likely to buy something if the chatty clerks will leave me alone to make my decision.
    At my art exhibit last fall, I followed the same tactic – always greeting visitors, speaking with them briefly about the work on display, letting them know I was available for questions and keeping an eye out for opportunities to approach them without getting in the way.
    I work to keep a good balance between welcoming and pushing. And this is how I like to be treated in any gallery or retail business.

    1. Great response, Molly! I worked in retail for many years, and my treatment of clients was much like yours. One thing I did on many occasions was to leave the customer to browse after my initial approach, but told them if they needed more information or wanted my attention in any way, all they needed to do was to catch my eye and flash me a small pre-arranged signal, and I would be right there to help. This small conspiracy seemed to make many clients feel a bit special, as if they had been admitted to some inner circle. I think it made clients feel like we were both on the same side, working for the same goals, and that they were in charge of the situation. At my own gallery shows I use the same approach; the client is always in charge.

  3. Wow. I’m so glad that worked out for you. I would have thought I’d seen the last of that couple too. To tell you the truth, though, I don’t like it when sales staff do more than greet me and let me know they’re there if I want to ask questions because I need to think about things without someone talking to me (especially a big ticket item) and come back. Although I wouldn’t have gone off the beam like that gentleman did. Anyway, I think you did the right thing even if you felt disloyal to the staff. You wouldn’t have convinced the couple you were right and you would have solidified hard feelings. When I worked in a customer service situation we were told that a customer tells 10 people about a bad experience, they tell 1 person about a good one.

  4. I am a full time artist and have delt with customers fir 38 years. I think your article is informative and written with hopes of understanding. I have been on both sides. What a great salesperson has is unteachable , because it is an inate skill, they intuitively read each situstion and the people.They clearly knew , and if not knew, loved the artists work and wanted to buy. They have they’re own process between themsrlves deciding what to buy. I can be this way myself when I know I will buy and want to have my own process in deciding, they will ask when they want info or have questions. They could have said, we will let you know when we want assistance , it woukd have been less rude. Really glad you made three sales . I think they let your sales person know immediately , they were buying, and perhaps she needed to trust them more.

  5. I have yet to find the balance between being available and being too present. My sales show the lack of understanding on this point. Personally I would love to see more clientele so I could practice. Nonetheless, I appreciate the time and effort it takes to be really good at sales. It is a skill I find hard to undertake with any commitment. I’d rather be painting.

  6. Sometimes you can’t win. What feels like “hovering” to a person who likes to be left alone may feel like “ignoring” to someone else who is more sociable. I think you did the right thing by offering to accommodate their preference for dealing with a different staff member and acknowledging the customer’s feelings – but also neither criticizing nor defending the staff member before hearing the whole story.

    What would you have done if the customer’s criticism was more personal – for example, if they preferred not to to be waited on by someone of another race, or your staff member’s religious headcovering made them uneasy? Would you assign another staff member or call out the customer for being a bigot?

    In most galleries, as in real estate offices, restaurants, car dealers, etc. a customer walking in the door is greeted by the staff member assigned to that duty at that moment. And then the customer is “stuck” with that person, even if they would prefer to deal with someone else (For example, I recently stopped at a car dealer and was greeted by someone who admitted it was his first day on the job. While everyone has to start some time, I preferred to talk with someone who had some experience. But their “rules” didn’t allow that – so I left and they lost a sale.)

  7. You can’t change the personality of cranky, unreasonable people who go through life creating dramas based on negativity. I think you handled the situation perfectly, and if it ever happens again, do it exactly the same. It takes more courage and spine to be diplomatic and unbiased in the face of an unreasonable client than it does to get emotional or defensive. It’s good to be introspective and ask, how could I do it better … but it is also good to recognize that you did it well.

    1. The thing is, they stated that they had already been to the gallery before and had an interest in a particular artist. That statement should have caused the salesperson to ask if they had learned all they wanted to know about the artist or pieces because it was probably all explained to them the first time they were there. I am an artist and I buy original art from galleries. I don’t like being followed or chiming in each time I stop to look at a piece. I do like it when the salesperson makes it clear that they are there to answer questions. It’s a fine line between hounding people and ignoring them, I know this from my own experience in retail management.

  8. What I really carried away from this is how much you care, for your staff, your artists and your clients. The fact that it bothered you so much shows me why you are successful. Well played!

  9. Here’s the bottom line: without sales your staff member won’t have a job and you won’t have a business to run. Tell your staff (in private) that in cases like this you will respond as neutrally as possible while striving to not anger the customer. While the customer is *not* always right, you must treat them as if they are for the sake of your bottom line. Let your staff members all know that if a customer becomes abusive like that, he or she (only the one involved) will be excused from the sales floor for the moment if they wish. This should by no means be obligatory, but for their own comfort they should be given the option. Then, handle the customer exactly as you did and, if necessary, reassure your staff member afterward. But if they know that you stand behind them 100%, it shouldn’t bother them if you have a situation where you appear to not defend them for the sake of a sale. Not too much anyway. You can’t help but be a little offended when people are that rude.

  10. After reading your story, I remembered a situation with my sister that relates. My sister and I grew up in New York. Although we live in other states now, we are still very much New Yorkers.
    Janet came to visit me in Ogden last year. We went shopping on historic 25th street. After we left one shop, she turned to me and said… ” Does everyone have to talk to us?”.
    This was so funny to me but think this is a cultural difference between states, countries and places. Ogden is very friendly and for some too friendly. I noticed this when I first came here. Waiters and waitress’s spend time getting to know their customers. That is just not what we do in NY. We want them to be efficient, polite and stay in the background.
    So I suspect what you experienced was a cultural difference. How your staff should respond is tricky. It takes some worldly intuition. This is a very hard thing to teach.
    FYI as they say, all’s well that ends well.

  11. Most of the “tough” potential clients I’ve had simply expected to pay too little and became incensed when I showed them my prices. Lots of people have no idea how art is made and the only painter they’re even remotely familiar with is Bob Ross, who makes paintings in 20-30 minutes. Some of my paintings take hundreds of hours. I show them progress shots of my process and if they still think I’m charging way too much I tell them something along the lines of “Sorry, I don’t think we’ll be able to work together” – most never get back to me, but a few ponder it and come back with “Sorry I didn’t understand your process, maybe we can still do one, but a bit smaller size to fit my budget?”

  12. I can understand the feeling of beeing hit by a bus, when all you belive you/ your staff is doing is to be nice and helpful. It’s no need to be rude for any of the parties, it could be a number of reasons for this reaction, we are all different, and it could even be a matter of cultural differences, I don’t know whether your client was local or a foreigner though. As a norwegian I would say that scandinavians for example, in general are much more reserved than americans. We tend to be more selfgoing and just ask for help if desired. Personally I don’t like to be followed around whether I’m in a clothing store, a gallery, or anywhere else, if I’m not looking for anything special that is. I don’t feel I need to be told a lot of information about everything I happen to look at unless I find it particulary interesting, then I will approach the staff myself. If I want to bye something, I do, I do not want to be talked into bying anything.
    But as I sad, no need to be rude, when greeted, which is nice ofcourse, I would just say somthing like ” let me have a look around by my self, and I’ll ask if I need any help”
    I don’t think there is any reason for you to regret not fiering back at the client, you would most likely lost the sale, and you would have had that talk with your staff anyway. It’s a fine line, but in the end of the day it’ s all about the money, and no client, no money, no job for the staff… In this case I belive it was pretty obvious the client that was rude because of misunderstood comunication that seems to be mosty his own fault.

  13. Too long a read for me…I got ADD. Got to the part where the buyer was turned off by a salesperson.
    .
    So what? At least they were still interested. Have someone else sell them.
    .
    That is the nice thing about being underground and not having to bow down to a customer. You can do and say as you like. The bad thing about it is, unless you are rich, you are always just trying to scrape by so you can do your art.
    .
    I’m the wrong person for retail sales or even dealing with people. Humans are a pretty nasty species. Sure I like to take pictures of people, but I really don’t like people. That is why I specialize in candid work, I don’t have to talk to them.

  14. You might have asked them what their preference would be. “I’m so sorry! We DO strive to be extra responsive, and to be ‘Johnny-on-the-spot’ in case a collector has questions about a piece, but while *I* have instructed all my staff to be as visible and responsive as possible, we certainly, absolutely, do NOT mean to be intrusive. We’ve actually received many positive comments about our staff’s availability and responsiveness, from collectors who have told us in the past that they felt ignored at other establishments. But maybe we should look at that protocol. Everyone is different, after all! What would YOU prefer?” From a psychological viewpoint, you (a) validate their emotional response (I’m so sorry!) (b) Explain the reason for your behavior, hopefully defusing the perception that you’re just to to make a buck (positive comments etc.); (c) remove responsibility from the staff member (I’m the boss and it’s my policy; this also ups the relationship value, since some buyers only want to work with the top gun) (d) indicate willingness to adapt to their needs (maybe we should look at that…); (f) remove any indication of blame from their end (everyone is different, after all!); and (g) ask for clarification, indicating a willingness to meet their needs on an individual basis (What would YOU prefer?) I also AGREE with your response of providing them the information they wanted (when the staff member in questions was not going to be there) – that relationship had already soured (thanks to them, or at least in their minds). It’s VERY difficult to come back from that.

  15. I guess I don’t believe everything is about money. I cannot say I know anything about being a good salesperson, but I think the most important thing is being a good person! Which, Jason, you clearly are. The only thing I would wish you had done differently is to explain to the potential buyer that your salesperson was simply following the procedure in which she had been trained, but that you would be glad to have another salesperson help the buyer if that is what they preferred. I do think it is important that you vocally stand-up for your staff, as you would if she was a member of your blood family. Someone here raised a good question, though… how would you react if the buyer said they wouldn’t work with someone because of their race???

  16. I wonder if anyone has suggestions of cues to watch for that indicate that people are uncomfortable with the level of attention. I have no experience selling, but know that I get very uncomfortable when the staff is too eager. I tend to turn away, drop eye contact, become less responsive. Any others?

  17. If you had apologized for the behaviour of the consultant, rather than for the clients having a bad experience in uour gallery, you would have had something to apologize for to your employee. The fact is that at that point you didn’t know what actually happened, and you didn’t hide behind that. But you weren’t defensive, you weren’t judgmental of anyone other than yourself, later, and you left open the possibility that the clients would come back, buy art, and everyone would be satisfied. For me the story is inspiring.

  18. Cultural issue? Introverts don’t like people talking to them much because it means they have to talk back to that person! They fact that the customers left the store tells you that they might have had the kind of panic that comes to an introvert when too much talking is going on. Some countries such as Canada tend to have more introverts per capita than other countries such as the US. Or maybe the customers or the sales person was having a bad day (overly sensitive introverted customer and overly chatty or standing-too-close sales person). Some persons of color are not thrilled about sales persons talking to them a lot because they might have had the experience of sales persons thinking they were going to steal something (based on skin color or perceived socio-economic status). Bad day all around — but you were able to turn it around so good week!

    1. I hear what you are saying about introverts Michelle, but let me just assure you, after having spent a little time with the husband, I can promise you introversion was not the issue here!

      1. Could it be possible that your difficult customer had a ‘multiple personality disorder’? Some clients are alternately introvert and extravert. Makes it very difficult to make sales to people like that.

  19. I appreciate Michelle’s comments. People are very different from each other and I think we have to sense the others comfort level and act accordingly. It is like a dance and Jason I think you danced very well with these customers.

  20. If I owned a gallery and a customer complained about being hounded by a gallery employee, I would say:
    “I’m sorry you feel hounded. I never want customers to feel hounded. I must say that there is a wide variety of customers: some like a lot more guidance and information than others, and although we aim for the middle while trying to get a feel for how much attention each customer may want, sometimes the level of attention we provide is different than a particular customer prefers. Again, I’m sorry this has happened, and I assure you that the employee who assisted you and my remaining staff will be informed not to approach you after greeting you unless you request assistance. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to meet your expectations.”
    I know a few galleries that have employees who continually interrupt and keep talking while I’m trying to enjoy the art. I’m going to start replying to greetings by saying: “Do you mind if I look around on my own and let you know if I need any assistance?”

  21. Jason, thank you for your honesty and vulnerability here to help us all contemplate how to handle similar situations. There are some jerks in the world – prima donna types, “Do-you-know-who-I-am?” people, bullies, even. There are also some situations that just can’t be navigated while they are happening.
    Wow, that was awkward and difficult, and you handled it professionally. I don’t think you tossed your employee under the bus that ran over you. No one quit working for you or ran out in tears, plus you made a sale. (I was shocked that the customers returned!)

  22. The customers could have chosen to politely say to your staff member, “We’re all set for now, we’d like to look on our own for a few minutes, thanks.” That would have been the best way!
    Instead they escalated the situation and embarrassed everyone. There was no need for that! I too would have been flabbergasted!
    I used to wait tables and made good tips and provided good service (great training for customer service as an artist!). One time I got a customer feedback card that read, “We got Ritz service but we don’t want Ritz service when we come here.” You can imagine my mixed feelings about that review!!! Sometimes I find that a certain customer and I just simply aren’t a fit! But they like the product, or food, or art you sell and that’s that. Glad you still got the sales and your staff member got some of the pooled commission!

  23. I think the couple had something else going on aside from the gallery situation. The “misunderstanding” had little to do with the service they were provided. From my standpoint, the salesperson, the gallery and the client all got what they wanted, in the end. Their time away from the gallery helped them to renew their feelings about the gallery and the art they had seen and wanted to purchase. The gallery’s previous performance and consistent attention to it’s customers is ultimately what keeps bringing them back.

  24. Jason, you clearly respect all those you work with; artist, staff, customer, and I expect that comes through to all. Good relationship and your willingness to listen well give you more leeway with all in the equation. Some people are just not happy and that’s reflected in their behavior, even sometimes short-term as with these customers. It can be difficult balancing being welcoming/helpful with giving space as how much is wanted varies considerably. I have seen more than once customers welcomed, let know staff is available to help, sometimes by more than one worker, then being irritated when assistance takes longer than a snap of the fingers once they are ready. The suggestion of a pre-arranged signal for attention is excellent. I am curious to see your followups to this post.

  25. Customers can be like patrons at a restaurant … some want to be left alone to dine quietly with minimal attention from wait staff. Others want constant attention and still nothing is right, from the table to the lighting to the food, to the drinks. The personality spectrum is harder to navigate than a gray scale.
    I’ve had someone fuss about a scratched frame before. I agreed with him (it was). I offered to either replace the frame with a similar quality one, sell it without the frame, and even offered to discount the piece $100 … that was really what he wanted. Even though it was a barely discernible flaw he sought a better discount. Since he wasn’t happy with the discount I figured a new frame would close the sale. No. I even asked how much of a discount would he accept to buy the piece. He basically asked me to wholesale it and wanted half price. I declined and he left.
    I supposed one has to evaluate what the infringement or flaw is worth. Sometimes just letting a customer vent is all they want. Having an attentive sales staff is a terrific asset and is to be commended.

  26. That’s a tough situation. This might sound like I am being rude, but honestly, I understand where that client is coming from. I would not have asked to see a manager, but I have walked out of retail situations because the staff kept trying to talk to me. I simply do not like being talked to by strangers. I go into a store knowing what I want and usually have no problem finding it myself. I often find l overly involved staff to be hindering my ability to make decisions.

    Actually, I did that just yesterday at a printing store. I had everything set up to print the way I had always done it, I had my documents attached to an email, 2 seconds away from sending them to be printed and this staff member comes over and trys to get me to use some new, more confusing self-service method, because it will “save me money.” The thing is though, that If I wanted to save money, I would have just printed the things as home. I was willing to pay someone else to deal with it. And then the method she tries to show me wasn’t working. When I turned to the person who was with me and told them I wanted to leave, the clerk, kept trying to stop me. It turned into a whole embarassing scene and all I tried to do was leave!

    Eventually I did come back after that staff member was gone, but only after a trip to a competator’s shop who would be unable to do some-day service..

    When I go into a gallery, I want to have a conversation with the art. If I want to know more about the artist, I will ask. Otherwise, leave me alone!

    I know that the staff member was just trying to make a sale and do her job, but I feel like approaching a client who is having their own conversations and not listening multiple times is annoying. Obviously, they have something that they are talking about with each other and the staff member is hindering the conversation. Maybe if would have been better is she had simply said, “If you would like any information about the artist, I will be over here…”

    I’m sorry if this sound mean, but I am sure that many clients feel this way, even if they don’t actually say anything the way this guy did.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful input Diana. It’s a balancing act for sure and the ideal is to give the clients exactly as much attention as they want. The problem is that customers don’t come into the gallery wearing a sign that lets us know to leave them alone or talk to them, and it’s not always easy to read from their body language what they want. This being the case, I prefer my staff err on the side of giving too much attention than not enough. Very rarely, as in this case, it’s going to rub the client in the wrong way, but usually they will politely let us know that they want to be left alone. The art world is full of empty gallery spaces that used to be home to galleries that left their clients alone. I can’t tell you how often I talk to collectors who tell me they were ignored in a gallery and will never go back. We will never be guilty of that sin!

  27. Several things come to mind. I learned in other sales, not art sales that sometimes you can hack off a potential client by being aggressive. But it happens, it’s ok, move on. You are doing your job otherwise nothing happens. Your employees instincts were right, they are buyers, but rude ones! Secondly if they were reasonable all they had to say to your staff was “we would like to browse on our own and will touch base if we have questions”. It’s far worse to be ignored. And I have, maybe because I don’t look like a buyer, never underestimate. Yes stick up for your staff, but when faced with this type of client, instinct has us honor the customer. They are a client now. Can you do a brief coffee to smooth out in a three way with the employee and them. But maybe….they want to only deal with the owner. Many ways they could have handled this. They have done some what of a power play by buying from you. If they come in again perhaps that employee and you should greet them, and tell them you are both available when they are ready. I guess if they act out again, how far do YOU want to go. I just dropped a nice teaching gig due to abuse from the director, known for this. So I’m doing lessons privately now, their lose. Take care.

  28. I state my boundaries when I enter a gallery; after initially being approached by a salesperson, I say, “I much prefer to view the work without interruption and if I have a question I will ask for your help. Thank you.” Even better would be if the salesperson asked my preference.
    That normally works in any retail setting and saves effort on both sides.
    I don’t care for a guided tour in a gallery. Just because I pause and admire a piece doesn’t mean I need the bio of the artist or an explanation of her inspiration.

  29. All worked out in the end, but it was the customer who was far, far out of line. No excuses: the man was beyond rude nearly to the point of being abusive to your sales person. While salespeople need extra thick skins, this kind of incident could put a damper on the whole staff’s performance, reverberating far beyond a single sale. As former retail store owners, my husband and I never felt bound to entertain any particular customer. Though we usually bent over backward for our customers and overlooked much, a few extraordinarily rude people were asked to leave the premises. As an artist, I value my relationships with my sales outlets more than any single sale. A good salespetson is rare and worth his or her weight in gold. You handled it well. I would never apologize for a staff member performing exactly as trained—in fact, I’d reward that person. Some clients are not worth the drama. It is fine that they came back and bought, but it would have been fine as well to have stood up for the salesperson.

  30. I am with Jackie Knott on this one. I feel like you do not understand or really respect introverts. We are not unsociable but talking takes rather than gives us energy. Someone following us and talking to us is exhausting and subtracts from our experience with the art.

  31. Listening is important as is recognizing peoples efforts. All this was accomplished and art was appreciated – good ending. Understanding and Forgiving can go a long way in such uncomfortable situations when we care about people and overlook their idiosyncratic manners and in the end endeavour to do what we set out to do and that is “Good Service” – like “Good Art”.

  32. I was going to reply
    BUT……..
    after reading most of the responses I see you still do not have an answer.
    And the reason is ……there is no one perfect solution to be used in every encounter like this.
    You will always be half right or half wrong.

  33. Why not take a totally original approach to this challenge? What if you could completely PACIFY EVERYONE that walked through your doorway? What if you started with a startling entrance that would MAGNETIZE people to come to YOUR gallery door as opposed to your competition and then completely SEDUCE THEM after they entered your domain? If you can do it in just the right way, based on your own very strong intuition, people will buy things they had no intention of buying! I know the following information works, because I have seen how it has worked on me! I have purchased things I really couldn’t afford due to the way the gallery was set up, and the graciousness of the sales person.

    The idea is to help your clients DROP the layers of stress, old childhood personality quirks and psychological resistance to your staff, and your art BEFORE they enter your gallery. CREATE some visual and sense related SHOW STOPPERS at your ENTRANCE that will SPEAK VOLUMES to them without having seen any artwork yet! Let these items REMOVE the psychological barriers everyone walks in with, no matter what gallery they have chosen to visit.

    The color PINK is used in Prisons to PACIFY violent inmates. They also have to wear PINK clothing! Restaurants always offer you something to DRINK FIRST before you order the food. TO RELAX you, and whet your appetite. There are many galleries nearby. What can you do to your gallery inside and out that will PULL THEM IN? What can you put on your DOORWAY that will be IRRESISTIBLE to those searching for the right gallery?

    If you go into a coffee shop in any city, and then walk outside, can you identify that city? NO, they ALL LOOK ALIKE! All the coffee shops look alike. All the doors to so many galleries look alike. No one has any HOOKs out there to PULL you IN against the competition, and there are NO GALLERIES set up to SEDUCE you into relaxing after you walk in the door. There is very little ORIGINAL creativity in the world today. Everyone is copying something from some other source.

    What can you put on your DOOR that would have people saying…WOW!! WHAT is going on over THERE?!! We HAVE to go and take a look!!. If the outside walls of your gallery are made of glass and steel, but your DOORWAY was a LARGE hand carved work of ART that was painted with gorgeous shades of Southwest PINK? How about a few other somewhat SHOCKING eye catching Southwest colors like TOURQUISE? You may say, its NOT that kind of gallery, its MODERN and has to have a door that MATCHES. Ok, you can. However, your clients will be SHOCKED to see a large, ORIGINAL, hand carved, hand painted SCULPTURE door as their INVITATION to enter into your highly CONTRASTING icy glass and silver gallery. It will look like a PORTAL to another planet!! Whatever soft, southwestern style shade of pink you may decide to paint on this very special door will PACIFY THEM immediately, and the STRANGE contrast will want them to come in and take a LOOK at what you have there. THEY ARE GOING TO THINK you have something REALLY SPECIAL inside, and if the sales person may be a little over attentive, they won’t be so overactive as you have just SHOCKED them. Their minds are still trying to figure out how such a natural doorway was placed in the opposite type of gallery, and their minds will be PACIFIED and in WONDER. They will be much more receptive to your staff, and they will SEE your artwork as being a part of this MYSTERY, and take a deeper LOOK at it.

    If you are willing to try out this first step in CAPTURING their attention, why not go a little FURTHER? Try a GORDEOUS THICK hand carved Chinese rug with a lot of soft PINK in it that they HAVE to STEP INTO. Their attention has now been ENGAGED again. Their minds are saying…what? Chinese carpet after a really WILD Southwestern door, and now a MODERN gallery? Their minds will be DIVIDED and pacified. They will begin to feel like KINGS and QUEENS. If it is a high pile rug right in front of the door, they will HAVE to NOTICE it. It’s another PINK SCULPTURE they are directly engaging in, causing PACIFICATION of resistance to buying, being over sold, ANYTHING that may happen in the gallery. Again, this is not your usual rug in a glass and silver modern art gallery. It will again, THROW THEM OFF and make them RECEPTIVE. If you are still wanting to SLAY their RESERVED (or grumpy) MINDS, put one of those automatic Starbucks machines where they can’t miss it, near the entrance. The LARGE kind they have at expensive car dealerships, where you push a button as to what type of coffee, what size cup, etc that you want. Their senses are now being ENGAGED and their critical minds are being PACIFIED. A cheaper coffee set up is not effective. If you are trying to save a few dollars on their coffee treat, they will too, on your artwork. They are being FLOODED with pleasure impulses since they walked through that INCREDIBLE DOOR. You have SHOCKED THEM, SEDUCED THEM, GIFTED THEM, and now they are ready for your sales team and your art. Even if no one says anything about the door. rug or if they dont use the coffee machine much. These things have fulfilled their purpose. THEY ARE IN THEIR MINDS. THEY SAW THEM. They have done their PSYCHOLOGICAL WORK in making them FEEL GOOD about themselves, feel loved and welcomed, and now they are receptive. Anyone walking right past these things are most probably going to walk right past your sales people and your art work. You want clients who will SAVOR and APPRECIATE and NOTICE beautiful things. These items also COMMUNICATE that you are a SPECIAL ATTENTIVE gallery that CARES enough to do MORE to make them feel welcomed and pampered, and they will be more receptive to buying art now.

    The MORE BEAUTIFUL and UNUSUAL the doorway, the more SEDUCTIVE the pink shades and the more they are in contrast with the tourquise colors, etc, and the more DIFFERENT it is to the rest of your gallery, the MORE SHOCKED they will be when they enter. The rug, same thing. COFFEE is the last LOVELY PACIFICATION, and you are letting them know they DESERVE THE BEST. and HOW MUCH YOU WANT THEM THERE with all of these UNUSUAL attractions and seductions. Their defenses will have mostly been dropped. Anyone at this point who is NOT affected by these siren calls is better off somewhere else! If they RUSH past all of this, they will so the same thing with your staff and your art. You don’t have to take any of these suggestions literally, of course, choose your own version. I just know that people that are on vacation are tired stressed, overwhelmed, do NOT know which galleries to visit, etc, as I am when I am traveling, and like me, I am sure they are looking for something really SPECIAL, as they don’t have a lot of time to check EVERY ONE. STAND OUT so they can find you. You and your gallery ARE EXCEPTIONAL. LET THEM KNOW you are waiting for them. CALL OUT TO THEM with your DOORWAY so they can see where you are and perhaps add some really fun, CRAZY wildly painted chairs and maybe a small crazy table outside too as a WARM WELCOME. People that aren’t even looking for a gallery will sit in those chairs!! THEN PULL EM” IN, and PAMPER them when they CROSS YOUR AMAZING THRESH HOLD with a LUXURIOUS COLORFUL RUG, top of the line COFFEE. and a friendly greeting from your sales staff. I am sure there will be FEWER GRUMPS, and MORE SALES from clients who are more delighted, open, happy and receptive now. I also hope other artists may read this here. and perhaps try some suggestions in MAKING AN ENTRANCE STATEMENT and in STANDING OUT and in PACIFYING their clients for greater sales after they “GET IT” that you WANT TO PAMPER and GREET THEM.

    A FEW VERY COLORFUL three dimensional items outside, hand carved chairs or benches in the same style as the door WILL ATTRACT people into your gallery. These doors and chairs can also have colorful mosaics on them. The SKY’s the limit. The MORE CHARMING they are, the more people they will attract, and then they will just have to go INSIDE your gallery. If they are wondering whether to buy or not to buy, these items KEEP THEM THERE at the gallery, and they will be more inclined to say YES, with all the outside encouragements.

    If you are wondering whether I am an artist that creates these things, and this is a sales pitch to sell my own artwork to you, I can truthfully say no. I am a painter, not a sculptor, furniture maker/painter nor rug dealer! I have read many of your posts and comments from artists, and have found so much helpful information here. I am really enjoy sharing information that I feel may help you increase sales, creative positive experiences that encourage clients to come back, and pacify the more aggressive ones. I think the thing that most impresses me about you is your deep sincerity, honesty and care for EVERYONE involved. There is a genuine interest in the people themselves. This so unusual, and I would LOVE to see your gallery continue to succeed. It is your integrity, hard work, humility vulnerability, and love that keep your beautiful gallery going strong. MORE STRENGTH and SUCCESS to you!!

  34. The thing is people are different in how much “help” they want and it is often an art to determine what that is since many clients are not up front about their preferences. I think you did a good job. Your staff can feel supported by you after the client leaves.

  35. I do understand how this couple may have felt. My husband and I went to a fairly new gallery. A young woman was working, she said hello and told us the name of the artist being featured. I thought that was nice but then she followed us around the gallery explaining each piece in excruciating detail while extolling the artist’s virtue and technique. We could not get out of there fast enough.

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