About this class

Introduction to the selling specifics of framing, indicating the client and their demands. Sharing personal experiences about the first considerations in sales and customer service.

Video transcript

This session is about selling strategically. We’ll talk about five principles for successful relationships between buyers and sellers. We’ll also discuss different sales strategies, the importance of quoting a final price during the design process, helping the customer “own” the design, delivery commitments, and collecting a monetary deposit.

Here are my five principles for successful buyer-seller relationships:

Mutual Respect 

The buyer and seller both earn respect from each other through courtesy and fair

consideration of each other’s ideas and concerns.  It’s true that respect can be one-sided in some relationships, but the buyer and seller should realize that mutual respect increases the chances of success for both parties, especially in the long term.

Careful communication 

We communicate by listening and talking. When listening, of course it’s important to hear and understand the words, but there’s more. Listen for voice inflections, and observe facial expressions and body language. These signals help to clarify and verify the speaker’s message.

When speaking, enunciate clearly and confidently. Use voice inflections, facial expressions, and body language to verify and amplify your words.


This is about honesty, sincerity, and trustworthiness. Demonstrate these traits clearly to others, and promote them in buyer-seller relationships.  Nobody likes to deal with someone who is dishonest or insincere, but sometimes that becomes necessary. Anyway, it is fair to expect honesty and sincerity, which would greatly increase the chances of a successful business relationship.

Realistic expectations 

Both the buyer and the seller need to realize the limitations of their relationship, and expect only what may be reasonably anticipated. For example, the buyer should expect that custom framing would take some time and should not demand an impossible delivery date. The framer should expect that the customer would benefit from details about the proposed framing features and benefits, and provide those explanations in realistic terms. For example, it would be unrealistic to say that ultraviolet filtering glass stops fading, but that’s a common misunderstanding among consumers.  Even though the most harmful, invisible ultraviolet radiation can be almost completely blocked, that would not be perfect protection.  It is important for the glass to transmit as much visible light as possible, since that’s what brings an image to our eyes. But visible light is also radiation, it’s also harmful, and the framer should explain that realistically.

Positive approach 

This could be called active optimism. That is, think positively, and speak positively, too.  For instance, the seller could say, “This image is going to fade quickly if you don’t buy UV filtering glass. You don’t want that to happen, do you?”  Such a negative comment might lead the buyer to wonder if he ought to frame this item in the first place. Instead, the seller could say, “UV filtering glass reduces the harm of light exposure as much as possible, and I’m sure you’ll agree that’s good.”  And to that, the buyer nods affirmatively. The positive approach takes some practice, but try to always phrase your statements and questions to elicit positive responses. It’s a strange quirk of psychology, that when a person repeatedly decides to say yes, he’s more likely to say yes again.

Budget negotiations: working your way down 

When a customer comes in with something to be framed, sales strategy is important.  In order to work with the customer most effectively and earn the best order, framers are often taught to present what they perceive to be their best and most-elaborate framing design first, and then modify the design as the customer demands. This conversation usually ends up with a simpler design and a lower price because, as the range of framing materials has grown, and the fancy components have become more expensive, the best framing designs could have much higher prices than a particular customer would be willing to pay.

If you know the customer’s preferences and feel confident that the design you suggest would be acceptable, then that’s a good strategy. However, there is a real danger in starting high with an expensive design and working your way down to a design the customer perceives to be acceptable. That is, the first design’s price might be so high that the customer becomes disinterested and walks out before any less-expensive designs can be offered. In America we call it “sticker shock”, and it’s a big problem. In that case, you not only waste your time, but you also alienate a potential customer, who might talk to others and perpetuate the myth that custom framing is expensive.

Some customers might go ahead with the project on the assumption that the professional framer’s design must be worth the price, even if the value of it isn’t clear to them. Customers may be satisfied with that, but some of them never forget that the framing they bought was more elaborate and more expensive than they really wanted. Every time they look at it on the wall, they are reminded that, in their perception, they spent more than necessary. That’s called buyer’s remorse.

Budget negotiations: working your way up

Custom picture framing has a reputation for being expensive. It may be undeserved, but that often is the customers’ perception, especially when framers want to design expensive framing first. So, when a customer puts an item on the design table and says, “I want to have this framed, but I don’t want to spend a lot”, there’s a good chance that this customer has already walked out of another shop, because the price was too high. In my business, I meet these customers all the time.

I used to follow the generally-accepted strategy of starting high and working my way down to designs my customers perceive to be reasonably priced. But in recent years, more and more customers have walked out before the conversation could progress to that point.  When customers walk out thinking the price is too high, even when it isn’t, that’s discouraging.

So now I take the opposite strategy. When a customer says, “I don’t want to spend a lot”, or “Show me your cheapest frame” we begin at the bottom and work our way up.  Sometimes we actually do end up selling the cheapest framing, but not usually, because most customers don’t really want cheap framing. What they really want is good framing, and they need to understand and appreciate the value of what they’re buying.

In my shop the routine framing design process involves conversation about color and style, of course, and also about technical features. For example, even the most frugal customers are interested in knowing that UV-filtering glass might double or triple the useful life of an art print for only 5% or 10% more money. That really is a good deal, so that’s where we start working our way up. Knowing the value of UV-filtering glass, and not just the price, most customers want to buy it.

And then I point to the framed examples on the wall, showing how a wider mat of the right color doesn’t overpower the image, but actually draws more attention to the picture and makes it a more-attractive focal point in the room. Again, it costs just a little bit more, and most customers think it’s worth the extra price.

The conversation continues with explanations about other features, such as multiple mats, V-grooves, ink lines, fillets, fabric-covered liners, or perhaps an upgraded frame moulding.  Customers consider each of these features one at a time, with full understanding of their value.  As you might guess, most customers don’t buy everything proposed, but they end up spending more than they planned, and gladly, because they understand the value of what they’re buying. Every time they look at that framed display on the wall, they recall the value they purchased, even long after they have forgotten the price. And that’s the opposite of buyer’s remorse.

Owning the design 

Customers are often helpless in the framing design process and expect framers to suggest the colors, styles, components, and decorative features that they believe would be best for a particular framing project. And, since professional framers work in this realm all the time, customers usually accept the recommendations.  When the framing design proceeds this way, the customer may agree, but the framer created the design entirely, so it belongs to the framer. So, what happens if the customer takes home the framing, hangs it on the wall, and realizes the mat color clashes with the sofa, or the style is all wrong for the room?  Whose problem is that? Rightfully, the one who owns the design owns the problem.

The ideal design conversation is an open exchange of ideas and information.  Customers should be encouraged to describe what they want in detail, but sometimes they don’t know where to begin, so frame designers need to take the lead by showing samples and framed examples, and explaining the features.  The grand plan is to help customers make informed decisions about their framing projects. When a customer makes informed decisions and participates in creating the framing design, then the design belongs to the customer.

When the customer owns the framing design, there’s less chance of incorrect choices or buyer’s remorse, and more chance that the customer will appreciate and enjoy the framing long into the future. And isn’t that the best result?

Determining the total price 

Customers are rightfully concerned about the price of their framing projects, so it is essential for framers to provide accurate prices during the design process. Knowing the total prices of optional designs helps customers make better-informed buying decisions.  Professional point-of-sale framing software keeps prices in a database and takes care of the calculations, which makes pricing more reliable and consistently accurate. Providing firm pricing during the framing design is a mark of professionalism, helping to assure customers that the pricing is fair and reasonable.

Occasionally it may be impossible to quote a firm price. For example, if the framer needs to do some research and purchase a special component for the project, it may be necessary to delay final pricing for a day or two. If so, the framer should explain the unusual need for delay, provide the final price as soon as possible, and make sure the customer approves before going ahead with the project.

Committing to an agreed delivery date 

Just as accurate, consistent pricing is a mark of professionalism in framing, so is consistently reliable delivery. So, framers need to promise a firm delivery date when the framing order is placed, and make sure the work is done on time.  Usually, framing shops establish a standard production schedule; perhaps one, two, or three weeks – whatever period of time is necessary to order and receive all of the framing materials and complete the framing work.

If it becomes necessary to miss a promised delivery date, perhaps because something arrives damaged and has to be reordered, the framer should immediately inform the customer about the delay and provide a revised delivery promise. If a framer doesn’t complete the framing on time and doesn’t keep the customer informed, that would be a failed commitment.

And of course, as soon as the framing work is completed, the customer should be notified to pick it up and pay the remaining balance of money. Customers often appreciate early delivery, because that exceeds the framer’s commitment. Usually it’s a pleasant surprise.

Collecting deposit 

Custom framing is one-of-a-kind work. Once the moulding, mat, glass, and other components are cut, those parts are committed to the order. That commitment of materials is essential for the framer, and a commitment of money is essential for the customer. Certainly, most customers would come back to pick up and pay for the framing they order, but requiring a monetary deposit when the order is placed serves three specific purposes: 1. The deposit represents the customer’s financial commitment to the order and provides some assurance that the finished framing will be picked up and the balance paid when the job is done; 2. It signals approval for the framing design; a customer who is not sure about the framing design might hesitate to pay a deposit, and that uncertainty would need to be resolved before production begins; 3. The deposit provides some financial relief for the framer, helping cash flow and profitability.

A deposit of 50% is fair and reasonable for custom framing, and it generally covers the cost of materials and part of the labor for a typical framing job.

Selling strategically is about tailoring the selling process to fit the needs and wants of customers and framers alike. The five principles of buyer-seller relationships are given in the context of a framing design conversation, but these same principles apply just as well in all personal relationships.

It’s essential for sellers to understand what motivates and satisfies buyers. Sometimes you should start high and work your way down, and other times, you should start low and work your way up. You need to be proficient in both strategies, and make the right choice with each customer. And at every opportunity, help your customers own their framing designs.

Sometimes our customers voice objections, and we need to deal with them positively. That’s what our next video is about.

Read more

James Miller

James Miller is not only framer but educator on a global scale. Miller specialise in preservation framing, which means that both technique and materials are in huge importance. 
Also being an author of two successful books on professional framing, Miller is one of the most acknowledged framing specialist around the world. Now he has teamed up with GroGlass to provide an online course to invite framers aim for excellence. 

Discuss this video

Your feedback on the lessons and the Framing Academy is the most significant for us. Help us make Framing Academy the most useful resource for the framing community by sharing your opinion.