Why “You shouldn’t buy that” can be a powerful selling tactic

Artist Life | Blog | Events | Gallerist Life | Uncategorized
2 March 2023
by Susan J Mumford

March 2nd, 2023

My art business was in its formative days and I hadn’t yet moved into my own space. The pop-up exhibition presenting works by five artists was in its last days, and a potential collector and his wife were dithering about a painting.

On the opening night, they were really taken by the piece and put it on reserve. They returned one evening later in show and something was stopping them from firmly committing. They were standing in front of the piece – looking up close and stepping back, nodding their heads, hands on chins, whispering to each other.

So I joined the conversation, and advised them to not buy it.

I emphasised that a person should only purchase a work of art if 100% confident about it. Should there be any doubt whatsoever and a purchase still proceeds, the collector inevitably ends up questioning if they did the right thing, and that was the last thing I wanted. 

It is important that individuals are confident with each and every purchase and enjoy living with their art.

At the time, there was a feeling of taking pressure off them, and equally I felt bonkers for making such a move. I had to pay rent, for goodness sake! The man was a business contact who I saw on a regular basis, so figured there would be ample opportunities to build the relationship, so as to develop them as long-term clients.

A year later, they visited my newly established gallery for an evening event. The painting had not yet sold and thus was being shown. 

In anticipation of their visit, I ensured the lighting was arranged to illuminate its colours. 

Upon entering the space, they instantly spotted the piece, and with big smiles unanimously agreed that they were ready to buy it. They explained that they had originally doubted if they liked it enough, however now upon seeing it again with fresh eyes were certain that it was right for them.

Susan says NO!

Over the next several years, the couple became established collectors of the artist’s work. 

It got to the point that, as soon as new paintings by the artist were consigned, they were given first refusal.

Although the strategy of advising a potential client to not buy isn’t always right (for example, during an art or artist fair when you meet someone for the first time) and furthermore is not guaranteed to work as a selling strategy, it can be incredibly effective. Should you be in the process of developing a long-term client relationship, it is paramount to advise the individual with their best interests in mind. 

Should they seem to be in doubt, encourage them to go with their hearts and not to rush into something.  

Do it right, and you will end up fostering happy, confident long-term collectors who return to you time and time again. 

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