Your Art Career

Selling Art the Way Your Customer Buys, by Karen Leland

Selling Art the Way Your Customer Buys, by Karen Leland

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Since 1975, Artist’s Graphic Designer’s Market has been a must-have reference guide for emerging artists who want to establish a successful career in fine art, illustration, cartooning or graphic design. Beyond up-to-date contact and submission information for more than 1,700 art markets, AGDM includes informative articles and interviews with successful artists and art buyers. Read on for a 2012 AGDM article by marketing consultant Karen Leland, who specializes in helping artists promote their businesses. Also, be sure to check out, the new online version of AGDM—you can try it for free with the 7-day risk-free trial.

Fine-tune your communication skills and sales pitch for success in today’s competitive marketplace.

One client is a cautious type who craves facts and figures about whom you’ve studied with, where you went to art school and how many gallery exhibitions you’ve had. Another potential patron thrives on hearing about your challenges as an artist and the way you dip into your deep well of inspiration for creative ideas. Still another just wants to chat about the beauty of your art all day long.

Successful artists know that to sell their work they must adjust to the ways individual customers buy. The small shifts you make in your presentation to accommodate your customers’ styles can help you land bigger, better and easier sales.

The Power Purchaser
Customers with this buying style have their eyes on the prize and know exactly how they’re going to succeed. Results oriented, they like to win and can be formidable negotiators when it comes to working out the details on purchasing a piece of artwork. You can easily identify these Donald Trump-like patrons by their
• direct eye contact
• bottom line language—“I’d like to buy this piece, but it’s more than I can afford.”
• quick decision making—“If it works with the color of my couch, I’ll take it.”
• somewhat abrupt tone—“How much is this?”
While Power Purchasers hate small talk, they love speedy results. To get them in your corner, step into their style by being clear, specific and brief in your conversation; not over-explaining or rambling about your artwork or process; getting down to business quickly; and focusing on getting the deal done. Try asking,
• “Do you have any questions I can answer?”
• “Are you interested in a particular painting?”
• “What do I need to do to close the deal on that piece you’re interested in?”

The Amiable Acquirer
Customers with this buying style are responsive and friendly, but not usually forceful or direct. They like to feel that they’re in partnership with you, as the artist, in the purchase of the piece. You can easily identify these Katie Couric-like patrons by their
• friendly facial expressions
• supportive and encouraging language—“You really have a great eye for color.”
• preference for asking questions rather than making statements—“How do you think these two pictures go together?”
• Discussion about feelings the artwork brings out—“This piece reminds me of home.”
Above all, the Amiable Acquirer is a good listener who wants to engage with you in a conversation about your work. In the end, these folks like to buy art—from artists they like. To engage their interest, avoid putting excessive pressure on them to make a decision; ask for their opinions and ideas; and share your personal story and process as an artist. Try asking,
• “What do you especially like about this piece?”
• “Would you like to hear what my inspiration for this painting was?”
• “May I tell you an interesting story about this piece of art?”

The Questioning Customer
Customers with this buying style like to step back and make rational, rather than emotional, choices when it comes to buying artwork. They evaluate the purchase of a piece objectively and gather a lot of data before making a decision. You can easily identify these Bill Gates types of buyers by their
• tendency toward monotone
• precise language and focus on details—“What was the process by which you were able to achieve this multidimensional image?”
• more serious facial expression and tone of voice
• logical approach to buying art—“I need a piece that will fit in the 5×6-foot space above my fireplace.”
Questioning Customers are risk adverse and, as such, are willing to take the time to examine all the details of a purchase in order to come to a logical conclusion. They believe in doing things right the first time. You can help them come to a decision by openly discussing the pros and cons of a purchase with them; avoiding overenthusiastic descriptions of your work or process; and keeping your answers to their questions focused on facts, not feelings or abstract ideas. Try asking,
• “Is there some specific information I could provide for you?”
• “Do you have any questions about the process I use to produce the work?”
• “Would you like to take this home on a trial basis?”

The Persuade-Me Patron
Customers with this buying style like to feel passionate about their purchases. They bring their enthusiasm for your artwork to the table and expect you to do the same. Leading fast-paced lives, they’re quick to make a decision based on intuition. You can easily identify these Oprah types of customers by their
• flowing, dramatic language—“I absolutely love the way the vibrant flowers in this piece pick up the stunning shape of the moon.”
• abundant energy and rapid hand movements
• strong and passionate opinions—“This is an absolutely perfect piece for my den.”
• enthusiasm to converse about the inspiration behind your artwork
Persuade-Me Patrons love pizzazz but are turned off by too much detail. They want to have fun with whatever they’re doing and like it when others show excitement about their ideas and opinions. You can help them channel their enthusiasm toward buying a piece of your work by asking for their intuitive feeling about a piece; keeping the conversation casual and fun, and responding to their questions and comments with energy. Try asking,
• “How do you think this would fit in your home?”
• “What do you like the most about that piece?”
• “What do you look for in a piece of artwork?”
Remember, regardless of your personal style, you have the ability to access all the customer styles to some degree. Practicing small shifts in your presentation to accommodate the way each customer buys gives you a chance not only to connect better with your clients, but to exercise and emphasize these aspects within yourself.

Karen Leland is coauthor of the book Customer Service in an Instant: 60 Ways to Win Customers and Keep Them Coming Back (Career Press, 2008). She is president of Karen Leland Communications, which helps authors, artists and entrepreneurs promote their businesses. She can be reached at and on Twitter at

Excerpted from the July/August 2010 issue of Magazine. Used with the kind permission of Magazine, a publication of F+W Media, Inc. To purchase a copy of Magazine July/August 2010 issue click here. Visit to subscribe.

Watch the video: 3 Reasons Why Youre NOT Ready to Sell Your Art (July 2022).


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