How to Sell Your Art Using Buyer Social Styles

There are four primary buyer social styles.

You can learn to improve your art sales and your people skills. Learning how to sell your art is necessary. Including sales training and ethical techniques to sell products is a good practice for artists.

Top Art Career Success Factors

As a small-business owner in a creative field, your success is determined by many factors. Arguably, the most important are these:

  1. Creative output – you must make work people want to buy. If your art pleases you and only a few others, you have either a problem or a hobby. Additionally, you need to produce enough work to satisfy demand from your buyers, distributors, and galleries.
  2. Getting found – it is not enough to make great work. You must work to get your work seen by potential prospects and qualified buyers and distributors.
  3. Steady sales – the exchange of money for your work is the result of activities around marketing and selling your work. Even artists who primarily sell through galleries and third-party distributors need adequate selling skills.

How to Recognize Different Kinds of Art Buyers

Artists who are attempting to learn what kind of customers they encounter have multiple things to consider. Understanding and recognizing social styles gives you a huge advantage.

You can break down buyer social styles into four main categories:

  • Driver – Sentinel
  • Expressive – Explorer
  • Amiable – Diplomat
  • Analytical – Analyst

I suggest you learn about these various social styles on this link. I further recommend you take this free personality profile. If you are like me, you will be amazed at the accuracy of the test. Click here to take the test. The types are the same even though 16 Personalities uses different names for them. The bullet points above show you how they relate.

Live Your Best Artist's LIfe
Live Your Best Artist’s LIfe

For those of you who are interested, I am a Campaigner ENFP-A  personality. According to the test, I am

An empathic and idealistic individual who enjoys exploring interesting ideas and prizes morality. One who is known for my enthusiasm, optimism and intuitive skills

The ENFP personality is a true free spirit. They are often the life of the party, but unlike Explorers, they are less interested in the sheer excitement and pleasure of the moment than they are in enjoying the social and emotional connections they make with others. Charming, independent, energetic and compassionate, the 7% of the population that they comprise can certainly be felt in any crowd.

How does knowing about buyer social styles help to sell art?

That’s a great question.

When you are in a social situation, step back from the crush of the moment, and use your powers of observation to help you get a read on your prospect. Most of us wear our styles on our sleeves, so it is not that hard to make a quick, accurate judgment.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

The whole point is to help you adjust your style to match that of your prospect more carefully. When you address buyers in the manner of their social style, you will find progressing a conversation to closing a deal much more natural with less friction.

Driver – Sentinel

Let’s start with the Driver style. This person is assertive, quick to decide, and expects to be treated with respect for his stature and, most likely, his time. Many CEOs are Drivers.

With a Driver, you want to get to the point fast, state your facts clearly, move to a close as soon as possible. Make sure they understand this is your best work and worthy of them owning it.

Expressive – Explorer

With an Expressive, you want to paint a picture for them. Let them know how much joy they will gain from sharing this fabulous piece of art with others. Compliment them for their inherent ability to pick the best art from among all available quickly. Paint them a picture of how this art will express their great taste where it is on display.

Amiable – Diplomat

With an Amiable, you want to let them know this art is widely popular. Explain to them that this artist has a vast following of collectors, fans, friends, and social media contacts. Assure them they are making an excellent choice in their purchase. Let them know that many people, just like them, are happy having purchased similar work by the same artist.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

Analytical – Analyst

With an Analytical, you want to take the time to explain the history of the artist, how the prices for the artist’s work have steadily risen over the years. You may want to give them the exact dimensions and ask them for details on where it will hang. You want to provide them with as much background information on the art and artist as possible. Let them know you have a return policy and give the specifics of it. Likewise, be specific about how you will ship or deliver the art, and so forth.

Understanding an art buyer’s social style gets you deeper into an open conversation or relationship.

The point of learning about buyer social styles is for you to gain confidence in your ability to do these things:

  • Use your social style knowledge to observe your buyer’s perspective.
  • Recognize your art buyer’s social style.
  • Apply the information by acknowledging your buyer’s social style.
  • Move to a closing situation by resolving your buyer’s needs based on their social styles.

Recognizing social styles and understanding how to respond to them will help you sell more art. You will find there are other broad characteristics in which you can group your customers. Some of these are self-evident. Nevertheless, being able to recognize a characteristic and then react to it is to your advantage in selling your art.

You can lump most buyers into one of these four categories:

  1. Informed buyers – they come into your gallery, exhibit booth or studio armed with knowledge about the art market, and maybe even your art history. Show them respect for their expertise. Don’t challenge their assumptions. Like the simple buyer below, they may be an easier sell, but it won’t happen if you take their knowledge and interest in art for granted.
  2. Suspicious buyers – these buyers are the opposite of informed buyers. They are cautious either because they don’t have any knowledge about the art market or how to buy art. Be calm, but not too authoritative. Offer as much information as needed, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to intimidate this kind of buyer further. Get to know them first, then seek to help them learn more about your art and how to buy it.
  3. Simple buyers – to be clear, a simple consumer in this context means they are ready to buy. Their mind is made up. You need to ask for the close and consummate the deal. It might be an impulse buyer or one who has desired to own your work for years. Don’t make a mistake on easy sales like these of not offering additional pieces. Learn to suggest a suite of works, a commission, or other add-ons enhance the sale. The only sales you will ever lose in these situations are the ones you did not ask for.
  4. Indifferent buyer – we know these types of buyers. Some are just Lookie-loos whom you can quickly dismiss; others are those who don’t know what they don’t know. Others are moderately interested in looking at art but have no front of mind intentions about buying it. Before you blow off an indifferent buyer, it is good to engage long enough to see if you can inject some enthusiasm into showing them your work. Assessing their social style will help you with this. It is a great challenge and an excellent reward when you convert this type of buyer. If you hone your skills to the point where you can sell to indifferent buyers, I believe you will have the greatest success with other types of buyers, and in your selling career overall.

Spending styles are different than social styles.

Spending styles fall into three broad categories and apply across all social styles:

  1. Tightwads–they are personified by B.B King who sang these famous lyrics:

    “But you know, if I ever get my hands on a dollar again I’m gonna squeeze it and squeeze it till the eagle grins.”

    Prying a sale from them is always a challenge. Like working with indifferent buyers, if you can master selling to tightwads, your success is enhanced.

  2. Spendthrifts–the dictionary says these are persons who extravagantly spend money. Those who love your art may be among your most prolific collectors. It happens. Be grateful for sales from eager buyers who seem to have no budget constraints. They make up for the added effort it takes with more difficult buyers.
  3. Average buyers–fortunately, this type of spending style is most common. Show them great art, relate well to their social style, and ask them to buy. Sounds simplistic, but details aside, that’s about all there is to it.


The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.


art business, art marketing, Selling art

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

  1. Hi Barney. I found this post as well as the webinar very informative an it left me wanting more. I want to understand the collector / buyers perspective (or frame of reference) to a greater degree because I think this is needful when sizing up their individual personality style. I think the combo makes for a better buyer / seller relationship.

    So I have a question that I think you might be able to answer: Are there online forums (etc) where buyers and collectors congregate to talk about art?

    I can find plenty of websites where artists talk about their frame of reference, but not for collectors. Any thoughts about where I can find collectors online?

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. I don’t know of a specific site set up for artists and collectors to hang out. It doesn’t seem like the concept would be populuar to me. I’m guessing that is why you haven’t seen such a site. Collectors may hang out in Facebook groups, or on forums of fine art consumer magazines. They can be found on sites about things that interest them whether horses, pets, wines, sports, outdoors, and so much more.

      1. Thanks for your reply. I thought it might be a long shot but if anyone was going to know it was going to be you. Perhaps there’s a chance that someone writes on the subject in some sort of publication. maybe I’ll poke around a little more. 🙂

  2. Is one of the biggest tricks to just ask for the close? What suggestions would you add to this in online display of work where someone comes to your site browsing for work? What type of social style should we aim to please? Is there a way to hit all 4?

    1. I would not call asking for the sale a close. It is a technique to help lead the buyer to a decision. Closing online is making the way to purchase easy to manage and understand, including costs and shipping. A clear call to action with a “Buy Now” is a way to facilitate closing online. Regarding social styles, you can put language that appeals to each style, possibly. It would take some work and testing to know what is most effective.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to Receive Tools Artists Use Download!

Search This Site