Developing Lifelong Relationships with Clients
By Jan David Winitz, President & Founder
My business as the founder/president of a global art gallery devoted entirely to rugs woven during the “Golden Age of Persian Weaving” (ca. 1800 to ca. 1910), has allowed me to work with some of the world’s wealthiest people (more than 75 of my clients are Forbes List billionaires). And what have I observed?
By and large, because of their financial position and because of their exposure to objects and lifestyle, they expect a standard of service and “product” unknown to everyone else. And I have experienced, correspondingly, that by approaching my interactions with them as both an information exchange and an educational process that I am developing many lifelong clients.
While price/value is always a consideration in any transaction, I find that the price segment is secondary to the object of their desire. The rugs that I sell are both rare art and precious tangible assets, valued in the $20,000 to more than $500,000 per piece range. To have reached the pinnacle of success that my gallery, Claremont Rug Company, has achieved is the culmination and combination of inventory, expertise and a respect for and an understanding that my clients have the expectation of having access not only to only elite products, but the very finest of service. In turn, our clients have access to what has been to historically an undervalued and “under the radar” precious tangible asset.
I’ve found that ultimately the success in working with clients at this level of wealth is dependent upon building a trusting relationship, intimate product knowledge and recognition that the relationships are not really about selling something. Rather, we are exploring our clients’ psyches to uncover what they desire and helping them understand what they are acquiring. We are acting as intimate consultants to help and guide them to explore their passions. I have had clients who have worked with us for nearly the full 37 years of my Gallery’s existence. Some I work with them and their family members frequently over that three-and-a-half-decade period. With others, the contact may be only once a decade. But they are loyal and I have helped them, exclusively, to build important private art collections of rare rugs. We have active clients on five continents and annually sell more art-level Second Golden Age rugs than all the world’s leading auction houses combined.
Our approach is entirely educational and completely deferential. We recognize that our clients are extremely different than others, but in more ways than simply having money. They wish to have access to our knowledge in a palatable and pleasurable manner
Our business model from Day 1 has been predicated upon the notion that Persian and tribal rugs from the Second Golden Age of Weaving are objects of art on the same level with other fine arts and antiques and, as such, were to be considered precious tangible assets. We also established early on a level of client satisfaction and an approach that continues to value our clients’ most precious commodity: time. We understand the importance of the knowledge and reputation of their art dealer, their desire to have access to one-in-the-world inventory available and their desire to know and to understand what they are acquiring.
In a very real sense, we recognize that client service starts not after a purchase but at the initial interaction. This continues not only through the sales process but for years to come through our ongoing service and long-term rug exchange programs. With this as our operating premise, we have built a base of knowledgeable clients who value working with us. They are provided with access to exceptional pieces of art, through our program of private sales that satisfy them on an emotional level while assuring them that they are acquiring precious tangible assets which have increased in rarity for decades.
As a privately-owned Gallery working with extremely wealthy clients for more than three decades, we have built a knowledge base on a very specific business model that is applicable across a broad spectrum of industries. While our niche is antique Oriental rugs, our success is based on fundamental principles that are all too often misapplied or disregarded by those who work with the wealthy.