Maria Brophy

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business of art / More Money / Selling Art

How to get a buyer to happily pay full price

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An artist wrote for help with pricing.  She said “it’s rare for a buyer to accept my proposal outright.

She explained that every time she is asked to give a price quote, her buyers attempt to talk her down in price.  She is starting to feel bitter towards her buyers, and angry that they don’t appreciate her value.

This is a common problem, especially for artists who are new to business.   Please know that you can solve this, because once you understand where the buyer’s hesitation comes from, you can remedy it.  (I discuss this and other solutions to problems with selling art in my book in great detail.)

But first, know that there are two issues going on inside our own minds, when a buyer wants to negotiate down on price:

1 – The first issue is our erroneous belief that it is our buyer’s fault that they don’t see our value.

2 – The second issue is our erroneous belief that selling our art should happen easily and naturally.

For the first :  It is not your buyer’s fault if they don’t understand your value or don’t know that your prices are non-negotiable.

Their understanding of “how you work” is entirely your responsibility.

You may be creating an invitation to negotiate your prices.  Artists do this all the time, unknowingly.  Here’s a few examples:

I.)  You imply that your price is negotiable by a lack of confidence in your voice when you give a quote, through the words that you use or through your body language.  Your buyer will pick up on this.

REMEDY:  Practice feeling confident giving a price quote.  Allow your words to sound like you’ve quoted it a hundred times before, and that your prices are set.  Then, use your body language to show that you are confident – stand tall, arms back, head high.  This makes a difference to people who feel unworthy of their own pricing.  Body language transmits to our brains and makes us feel the way our body is standing.

and:

Create a standardized pricing system.  Does it make sense on paper, how you price for one size versus another size, or one type of service versus another?   Having a standard pricing structure will help you give prices in a confident manner, and it will make your buyers feel more confident about your prices as well.

II.)  You haven’t taken the time to explain or show the buyer that you are fully capable of giving them what they want. 

Remedy:  Take the time to sell your art and services to your buyer.

What I mean is this:  don’t give up on your buyers when they question your pricing or your skill.  Take the time to help them to understand how you work, and give them other options if they have a smaller budget.  And, show similar works that you have done for other buyers, to help them see what you are capable of.

III.)  You are charging more than your mastery commands

I once hired a graphic designer to do work for me.  He charged me top prices, which I happily paid, but in the end, his work wasn’t good enough for me to even use.  I lost the money I paid him.  I realized that some people are over-charging for their skill set.

Make sure that you are charging in accordance with your experience and what you have to offer.  If you aren’t, then you may be attracting buyers who sense this and don’t want to pay your prices.

On the other hand, if you are the top in your field, or if you have many years of experience, or a long line of happy buyers, then charge your higher prices accordingly.  If someone cannot or will not pay those prices, then they are not your target market.

IV)  You are charging more than this particular market will pay

Sometimes I see artists exhibit at shows where the middle class attend, but their art is priced for the more affluent.   You won’t sell affluent pricing at middle class venues.

If you are selling on Etsy, a lower end market, you wouldn’t charge Saatchi prices. If you want to charge higher prices, you have to target affluent buyers, and this means that you have to go to where affluent buyers hang out.

HOW TO WIN IN NEGOTIATING:

The best way to win the negotiating game is to avoid it in the first place and make it clear that your prices are what they are.  They are not negotiable.

You can make it clear in your communications.  When you give a price, give it confidently.  During conversation, you can mention different options, based on size or substrate or complexity, etc.

When someone calls for a price quote for a custom shaped and painted surfboard, I tell them “pricing depends on size and complexity of the design.  It ranges from $2,500 – $10,000.  But the most commonly ordered piece is $4,500.”

By saying it in this way, they get an idea of the price range and that our most commonly sold item is priced at $4,500.  They also understand that we have done many, many custom painted surfboards, because of the way I responded.   If they cannot afford it, it is at this stage that they realize that it’s out of their price range, and I’m okay with the fact that not everyone can pay our prices.  Those that can pay it, do.

Take the time to give your buyer confidence in your abilities.  I always say that a buyer’s budget is equal to the amount of confidence they have in your ability to give them what they want.

Take the time to show them or tell them about other projects you’ve done in the past.  Explain your process, your materials and anything else that is relevant that shows the value in what you do.

Tell the buyer about a similar project you have done for another buyer who was wildly happy with the results.   You can describe a previous happy buyer and your process in this way:  “When I created XXX for a collector who asked for XXX, my approach was XXX…..and they were extremely happy with the end result.”

This could be a little easier if you let your website do most of this work for you.  It could show excellent photos and have descriptions of what you’ve done in the past.

For our corporate clients, we have created “Case Studies” on Drew’s site to show how we have worked with large name clients to solve their marketing problems, with art.  These case studies have worked hard for us, as they clearly demonstrate the value of what we offer.  The added benefit is the key words that are in the case studies, which bring people to our site through Google that are looking for similar art and services.

When a viable buyer is confident that you can do what they need, they are more than happy to pay full price.

Many artists will GIVE UP on their buyers the second the buyer questions pricing.

DON’T GIVE UP ON YOUR BUYER!  Not until after you have exhausted all options.

A few years ago I quoted a painting project at $4,000.  After giving the quote, the buyer said he only had a budget of $2,500.  My first reaction was disappointment, I assumed that we just wouldn’t close that gap, as it was too large.  I almost gave up, but then decided to see if I could work it out with him.  I took the time to explain to the buyer the work involved.  I showed him how Drew was going to do what he needed him to do in this project.  In the end, we worked it out and he increased his budget.  I learned a huge lesson that day; to not give up on the buyer until after I did all I could to help them understand the process and value of what they wanted.

Even if it seems all hope is lost to salvage the sale, do this:  Decide to have fun with it; experiment and try out different methods of communicating with your buyer and see if any of them work.

WHEN A BUYER ASKS FOR A LOWER PRICE, DO THIS:

Don’t you hate it when a buyer says “Oh, I really want this, but I only have half of what you’re asking.

If a buyer is pushing for a lower price, either convince them to raise their budget to get what they really want, or, offer them a lower priced option.

For example, if the buyer says they can only afford $800 but they want your $1,500 item, say this:   “Okay, so instead of paying $1,500, you would like an $800 option?  Well, I can do this.  We can cut back on my time by making the project more simple, using less expensive materials and a smaller size.  So here is what I can do for $800….”

NEVER give the same option for a lower price.  If you do, your buyer will never trust your prices again.  And you will feel bad about yourself.  It’s bad business all the way around.

Always offer a lower option for a lower price.

And if all else fails, and the buyer still doesn’t want to pay you what’s reasonable, don’t take it personally.  They just aren’t the right buyer for you; they are not in alignment with your offerings.

Instead of feeling bad about it, refer them to an artist who is either in high school or college, trying to build their portfolio.  By doing this, you are being gracious, and at the same time, making it clear to them that if they want to pay low prices they have to go to someone who is not experienced.  You get what you pay for.  It’s an important lesson for everyone.

Have you experienced this?  Having a buyer talk to you down on price?  And if so, how have you handled it?  Share in the comments, please!

Maria xxoo

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6 Comments How to get a buyer to happily pay full price

  1. Michele O.

    Thank you, Maria. This was really informative. It is so helpful to get real language to use in responses and approaches. Most don’t go this far.

    Reply
  2. Carol

    Hey, Maria! I consulted with you several years ago, before embarking on my business, and you were not only very encouraging but you gave me some great first steps. I tried to keep up with your blog, and your articles on pricing have been invaluable. My most recent mural project ….with children for a school, has had it’s ups and downs, but the phrase I learned from you has keep me on top of every curve ball. “This is how I work”….. I had set out an initial contract that I referred back to and am sticking to it. Thank you so much for your practical wisdom learned through experience. I soooooo appreciate it !

    Reply
    1. Maria

      Carol, thank you for this! It feels good knowing that you have adopted my “this is how I work” mantra! It truly is a life changer in the art biz. Thanks for keeping in touch 🙂

      Reply
  3. Brad

    Absolutely “spot-on” for dealing with objections. My wife & I not only run a Sign Business together (our backgrounds are very diverse, collectively, but mainly come from the Outdoor Industry known as Billboards. She, an accomplished designer & me, a Master Painter Journeyman). We currently do everything in this Industry except for neon. She does all of the computer work & does some pictorial work, I do airbrushing, pinstriping & pictorial work, as well as, master lettering. We constantly run into budgetary issues not only in our Sign Business but also in our Mural Business which we’re trying to completely switch over to. Our favorite response to “How much will this cost?” is this: “More than a six-pack but less than a mortgage” ~ this always breaks the ice & segways into an enjoyable conversation about pricing. We can sometimes “sell up” by being humorous & trustworthy, all the while explaining what we can & can’t do.
    One of my mentors once said, wisely “You don’t want to get every job. If you do, you’re doing something wrong!”
    I’ve lived carefully by this advice. One more thing; when my wife & I ever have a bad feeling about a potential client & we don’t agree, we ALWAYS yield to the one who has the bad feeling, no matter how bad the other wants the job. We’ve vowed to live by this because we were burned in the past & we don’t care to visit that place ever again because WE are in control of who we work for & we don’t HAVE to be taken when we already yield to the warning signs.
    Hope this helps someone.

    Reply
    1. Maria

      Wow, Brad, so much wisdom in this comment you wrote! I especially love these 2 tidbits:

      “More than a six-pack but less than a mortgage”
      and
      “You don’t want to get every job. If you do, you’re doing something wrong.”

      I’m adding these two nuggets to my tool kit!

      Reply
  4. Kym

    I can’t wait to put these methods to work– although, as a grad student in the rural-ish Southeast, opportunities are still pretty limited. However, I did gain confidence from your chapter on live events, and a week later, I stuck my neck out & got a live painting gig for a fundraiser!

    Reply

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