3 Little Words: Corral That Difficult Customer With This Magic Phrase
by Luann Udell on 3/27/2014 7:31:25 AM

I wrote a book (literally!) about managing difficult customers. It’s called How to Get People Out of Your Booth. You can buy it on Amazon. It’s an e-book, but you don’t have to have a Kindle device to download it. Download the free Kindle app for use on any reader or smartphone.

I wrote the book because I love sharing my hard-won knowledge. Whenever and whatever we sell, be it our artwork, our knowledge, our services, or even our household goods at an indoor yard sale, a potential customer who’s giving us a hard time can set us back on our derriéres. My goal is to turn troublesome people into customers. OR move them along so they can bug someone else!

I don’t want to sell to everyone. I know we need to know how to sell our work, and I took up that task with a full and ready heart. But life is short. I’m at a point where I’ll sell you something if I can.

But at a show, I’m not going to spend way too much time doing it. Especially when other customers – eager customers, passionate customers, REAL customers – are waiting in line behind your difficult one.

Today’s column is about an assumption that often gets in the way of selling. In fact, if you ask anyone what they know for sure about the selling process, they’ll probably say the same thing….
“The customer is always right.”
The customer is NOT always right. We just don’t know how to turn it around when they’re wrong.

The truth is, some people won’t ever pay your asking price. They have to get “a deal”. Some people will denigrate your work, hoping to get a better price. Some people have no intention of buying your work at all. They simply recognize that it’s easy to pull your chain if you are too eager to sell. Some people enjoy that. Some don’t know better. They’ve been told that nowadays, it’s always okay to bargain, even department stores and art galleries.

So, armed with the knowledge that the customer is always right, they try to get a deal. If you’re caught off-guard, you may find yourself agreeing to something unacceptable to you, in order to make a sale.

The three magic words are a way to tell the customer they are WRONG. And then, make it RIGHT.
The three magic words are, “No, but if…”

“NO, I can’t go lower on my price. It’s my best piece, it’s fairly priced and it’s already won a judge’s choice award. BUT IF you purchase it today, I will deliver it personally to your home to help pick the very best location for hanging. Invite your friends to attend and I’ll talk with you all about the painting.”
“NO, I can’t trade you that painting for your xyz goods and/or services. BUT IF you buy it today, I can offer you a professional courtesy discount of 5%.”
“NO, there is no discount for buying directly from me rather than the gallery. It would be disrespectful to undersell the people who represent my work. BUT IF you purchase this piece today, I will host a private reception at that gallery for you and a dozen of your closest friends who might also enjoy my work.”
“NO, there is no discount for multiple purchases. BUT IF you refer three people to me who also purchase my work, I’ll give you 10% off your next purchase.”

See what happens? The first “no” marks your boundaries. No, I don’t give discounts. No, I don’t undercut my galleries. No, I don’t need your services, I need cash to earn my living.

The next two words “but if”, shows you’re willing to meet the customer halfway – IF they step up to the plate, too. They prove their worth as a collector, and you give them something (anything acceptable to you) in return. Beyond the actual painting, that is.

My feeling is, your best customers deserve a discount (if you give them), not somebody walking in off the street who’s never purchased from you before. I know other artists are more flexible about pricing and discounts. It’s come back to bite me, so I’m a little stricter.

These three little words (NO, BUT IF….) are a powerful way to stand firm and make your customer stand up to the plate. All while keeping the transaction peaceful, respectful, and hopefully, profitable.
Work out some alternatives ahead of your next show or exhibition. Be prepared to offer something you can live with.
Don’t be afraid to be right when your customer is wrong. Make it right for BOTH of you!


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