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Becoming a Better Art Salesperson – Part 3 | Restating Questions and Objections

by Jason Horejs on 12/18/2013 · 24 comments

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been writing about the sales process and sharing sales tips that I’ve found useful in my art sales experience. Last week we discussed the power of silence – today I’d like to discuss another powerful tool: feedback. I’m not talking about getting feedback from your customers after a sale (although that’s valuable too), instead I’m talking about using feedback when a client asks you a question or raises an objection to making a purchase.

The typical reaction to a question or objection raised by a potential customer is to try and provide an immediate answer. After gaining some sales experience, you will have heard all the questions and objections, and will have a ready answer for each. I would encourage you to resist the temptation to blurt out an immediate answer, and instead restate your clients question or objection in your own words. This is a simple thing to do once you get the hang of it, but you will be amazed at how much it impacts your ability to help your customer solve her own questions or perceived problems. That’s a real key – helping your client solve her own problems, instead of trying to solve them for her.

A client might ask, “What happens if I get the piece home and it doesn’t work?” You will be tempted to immediately say something like, “I can let you take the piece home and try it before you make a purchase” or “You can return it and I will give you your money back.”

There’s nothing wrong with either of these responses per se, but you will more naturally move toward the close if you instead reformulate the question and give it back to the customer.

Try saying something like, “This is an important piece and you’re concerned what would happen if you got it home and found it not to be right for the space – is that right?”

Be restating the question, you are letting the client know that you are listening, and you’re making sure that you understand the question exactly. You are also engaging the client’s mind in the problem solving process. By stating the question out loud you are engaging their mind in the problem solving process. Just like you feel the urge to answer a question and solve the problem, they will have the same reaction, if only on a subconscious level. Sometimes you will be surprised to find that you actually misunderstood the question, or that the client didn’t ask the question she meant to ask. This gives the client to work through details of the question and allows you both to get to the same page.

When the you and the client understand one another, you should then ask, “is there anything else?”

This is very powerful. In essence, you are helping move the client to the buying point. In essence, you are saying, “if I can answer this question for you, or solve this problem, will we  have removed every obstacle from our path to making this art yours?”

Once the client responds, you will have your opportunity to help her find a solution. We’ll talk about how to present the solution, along with great solutions to common objections in a future post, but for now, I would encourage you to try to get in the habit of restating questions.

Not Every Question Needs to Be Restated

Obviously, there are limits to this technique – you wouldn’t want to restate a string of five questions (here silence might come in handy again).

Nor would you want to restate simple, informational questions:

“What’s the size of this painting?”

“Let me make sure I understand what you’re asking. You want to know the exact dimensions of this piece? Is that right?”

Client stares at you blankly, “uh, yes, I think that’s what I asked . . .”

Restating Questions Moves you Toward the Close

Over the years, I’ve restated thousands of questions. I don’t always remember to do it, but when I do, I always find the encounter with the client proceeds more smoothly. I remember having a client ask a question very similar to the one above, “what if I get it home and it doesn’t work?” I restated the question, and the client said, “Oh, I know I’m going to love it – if it doesn’t work where I’m thinking, I’ll place it somewhere else.”

By getting in the habit of restating questions, you will also begin getting in the habit of moving your clients toward the close.

Leave a Comment

What do you think, does restating questions and concerns make sense? Have you used this technique in the past? What questions have clients asked you in the past, and how would you restate them? Are there questions you wouldn’t know how to restate (I’ll take a crack at them)? Leave your comments and questions in the comments below.

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Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of, 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.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob Hills December 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Thanks for more helpful tips, Jason. I always enjoy learning the insights you’ve gained through your experience.


Suzanne Poursine Massion December 18, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Jason, I will have to practice, practice, practice this one. I always want to answer clients’ questions right away. It’s that desire to fill silences that you’ve touched on in another blog. I’m thinking of enlisting my husband in some role playing to test my ability to re-state questions. He will love thinking up scenarios and questions to challenge me. Do you think role playing would be of any value here?


marianne hornbuckle December 18, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Your insights into the selling process, and your willingness to share them concisely with your readers, are particularly helpful to the artist engaged in that end of the marketing game. I have slowly developed my selling/relationship skills with my potential clients over the past ten years of direct selling of my paintings and sculpture, and yet have found myself falling short in the end game – these last two posts have been extremely helpful, and now if i can just put them to work under pressure, I may overcome my final shortcomings! Thank you!!


Arlen Madole December 18, 2013 at 9:28 pm

A common comment in the area of hundreds of retirees is, “I don’t have any free wall space.” I haven’t found a really good answer. Would you repeat the comment or just be silent and wait for their comment on the art work?


Lori Woodward December 19, 2013 at 6:48 am

Arlen, good question! I get this one from time to time. I suspect that it is their way of saying they’re not interested in buying. I sometimes get this when I ask for the sale, and I usually take it as a “polite no” response. What do you think Jason? I get this question at outdoor shows and events that aren’t in a gallery setting. Do you get this response in the gallery as well?


Ulrike Opitz January 8, 2014 at 2:47 pm

It can happen that it is a simple honest answer. Our house is rather big, lots of light, which means many windows and limited wall space. I would not have a chance of finding space for a big piece…


Penny Markley January 17, 2014 at 6:14 pm

I often say that can be a problem, but I like to rotate art work and do it fairly often. It’s not necessary to exhibit a piece in one space forever. I’m not sure whether I’ve changed anyone’s mind, but it is a reasonable answer.


John Rubino December 19, 2013 at 8:41 am

I might try something like.

I don’t have enough wall space either.
I have found that if I rearrange my art from time to time, swapping some out from storage, it makes the place seem larger.


Jeni Bate December 20, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I figure I’ll get about a dozen OWAFs (our walls are full) per show. I’ve tried various tacks including suggesting seasonal displays (they have a closet full of seasonally oriented clothes), or asking what other work they have and seeing whether they are ready to let go their least favorite piece. I’ve not had any luck with that approach yet, but I will pick up on John’s comment and echo something a couple of friends of mine say about my house – “it’s always wonderful to come over because every time the display is different”. I’m just thinking as I’m typing that perhaps I should suggest it’s one of the most inexpensive and stress-free ways to feel like you’ve acquired a new home. Sigh, and I think of that one when it’s a whole three weeks until the next show…..


resonanteye January 6, 2014 at 3:50 am

This site is so helpful! I’m new here, but already reading as hard as I can.

I get this in two forms- at the tattoo shop, with “where will I put it?” and when selling paintings, in the classic form. I respond to the latter by saying “your collection can be bigger than your walls, change things as the mood strikes you! It’s like redecorating without all the fuss.”

When they’re running out of empty skin, though…that one has no solution.


cindy January 28, 2014 at 10:28 pm

“your collection can be bigger than your walls, change things as the mood strikes you! It’s like redecorating without all the fuss.”

I liked the way you worded that.


Marshall December 18, 2013 at 10:21 pm

You are right on. This is a process that I have used for a long time in sales as well as in my personal life.
It creates trust and proves to the client or friend that you care and want understand their problem.
I would like to recommend this book to my fellow artists
Sales Effectiveness Training
by Carl D. Zaiss (Author) , Thomas Gordon (Author)
It covers this method in detail.

Keep up the great work,


Lorraine December 19, 2013 at 8:45 am

I agree with Arlen. I hear this so much from prospective buyers – “I have so much art already there is no room left on my walls.” My standard response to this is to explain how I have the same problem, so when I buy a new piece, I rotate what I already have and I might put a piece or two away for a while. Then the next time I buy a new piece, and I am rotating again, I might be delighted to pull one of those older pieces back out, hang it in a new spot and have a fresh new art display. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to work very often!


Thomas Dean December 20, 2013 at 10:15 am

Jason, this is a great article. I have found restating the prospect’s objection ensures that I clearly heard what they said. Jumping in with a quick answer, may be providing an answer to something that was not actually asked. You have to clearly understand the objection before you can address it.

I especially like the aspect of asking if there is “anything else”. I have found many times objections are smoke screens. You can’t move forward unless you have uncovered the real objection.


estherpearlman December 24, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Hi Jason, This statement of restating the statement to the customer is similar to active listening. When you are speaking to a child or a family member one should restate the statement so that it encourages the person to hear what they are saying. It encourages the person to open up their feelings. The more clearer the conversation is the better the communications. Thank you Jason for reminding me of a psychology lesson. Happy holiday to you and your family. Esther


Susan Hess December 29, 2013 at 2:33 pm

For the no space problem I painted 4×12 mini masterpieces and tell them these would fit anywhere.


stacey landfield December 30, 2013 at 10:30 am

thank you yes that was helpful


betty vaughn January 3, 2014 at 9:31 pm

My response to the no wall space comment is usually ” You can always find room for a new painting that you love, even if it means taking another one down for awhile”.


Will January 7, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Jason, can you give us an example or two where you have closed the sale over the “full walls” objection?


Rhonda A. Davis January 7, 2014 at 11:39 am

Jason, now that I have read your book, I have gained some insight into problems I have created in my own business. From running customers off with too much information during my openings. Too not letting them look around in silence. I look forward to your workshop Jan. 18th in Scottsdale.\


Catie Barron January 17, 2014 at 10:47 am

I think it makes perfect sense. Not only do you engage the buyer to solve the potential issue, but you also have an extra few minutes to create a relationship with the buyer. Dialog is a good thing and helps firm up that connection. My clients like to feel part of my world and circle; conversation and keeping the conversation going helps in that.

Great post, Jason!


Daniel A.I. Swanger January 29, 2014 at 8:42 am

Arlen, when the potential patron remarks that they don’t have enough wall space, I suggest they rotate the art, as in volleyball, and maybe store the other art in the closet or under the bed! Then I suggest a discount on the art–this happened with someone who already had one of my pieces, at an arts festival. They bought the piece!


Joyce Wynes January 29, 2014 at 9:33 am

I have never tried to repeat the question but you can be sure that I will from now on. I always feel on the spot when someone asks a question as to what is the best way to answer it so this is a great way to get some time to think about it and maybe not have to answer it at all. It makes perfect sense in knowing how the potential buyers mind might work.

I have 2 solo shows coming up and a group show in the next several months and was already worrying on how to sell my art at the receptions. What to say to encourage the sale. So Jason, I am going to try this theory out at these events and I will let you know how they work for me. And I will also reread your last 2 articles in this series. And practice all these helpful hints over and over again in my head. Thanks for the advice.


Natalya Kalugina March 27, 2014 at 11:58 am

Any question or objection is a sign of interest and desire to bue. By doing so a client to be asks us to release him from his/her fear to make a mistake.


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