Building emotional trust in client relationships

Sonia Patwardhan
3 min readOct 27, 2023


Before transitioning to the art industry and founding Laasya Art, I started my career in advertising at Lintas Lowe, which was considered one of the best ad agencies in India at that time. I cut my teeth working on the Unilever account, and they were known to be demanding clients. I couldn’t have asked for better mentors or a better training ground to learn the fundamentals of client management.

Whether it’s advertising or fine art, I believe the fundamentals of managing client relationships have more or less remained consistent over the years. In fact I have built my business as a gallerist and art advisor applying this perspective.

Here are my thoughts on the key pillars of strong client relationships:

Knowing one’s stuff.

Being knowledgeable and competent in what one does is non-negotiable for excellent client service! It begins with passion. To that, one adds hard work and persistence. I try to be proactive about possible questions from clients and ensure I am on top of things, including information about the overall art market and specifics about the artists’ journey and credentials.

Listening actively

I invest the time to really understand what clients want, both what is explicitly said and what is implied. When I meet with clients, I pay attention not only to their stated preferences but also how they react to certain paintings and what seems to speak to them in terms of colors, themes and overall style. Seeing their homes is illuminating, as well as getting to know them as individuals. A combination of these factors helps me make recommendations to clients, and often they are pleasantly surprised with some of the options I present to them.

Doing what one loves

I think having passion for what one does is a huge brand discriminator in any field. I have been drawn to art since childhood, and it has been an enduring passion. Clients sense that energy when we work together — it is infectious, and it helps to make the whole process more enjoyable.

Being honest

I believe managing expectations is key to client satisfaction. I communicate clearly about what I can and cannot provide — for instance, when a client considers a commissioned artwork, I am very candid about what we can and cannot deliver and sometimes even advise them against it if I feel it may not be a good fit.

Being reliable and consistent

When I promise a deliverable by a certain date, I ensure that I follow through. To begin with, I avoid overpromising tight turnarounds or timelines I cannot guarantee. Over time, reliability helps inspire a sense of dependability and trust.

Owning one’s mistakes

We are human and mistakes are bound to happen sometimes, despite one’s best efforts. When that happens, instead of being defensive and offering explanations, I find it easier to just say, “I am sorry — I made a mistake, and this is how I can fix it.” In my experience, clients appreciate this candor and accountability.

Emotional intelligence (EQ)

Having high EQ, especially in a service industry, is priceless. Some of it is intuitive, and the rest comes from life experience. Very simply, taking the time to better understand and empathize with clients and validate their emotions. Clients know when you genuinely care about their satisfaction with a purchase and that, in turn, helps build a strong emotional connection.

Having the long term in mind

I prefer to focus on the long term and always work with the client’s interest in mind, versus trying to make the next deal. If a client wants time to mull over a decision or is not quite ready to finalize, I give them their space and sometimes advise them to take a clean break and revisit this a few months later. I feel if one is focused on what’s best for the client, the sales will follow in time. More importantly, it helps build trust and makes for an enjoyable working relationship.

— Sonia Patwardhan



Sonia Patwardhan

Curator, founder & entrepreneur of Laasya Art Gallery in Palo Alto, California. Passionate about raising awareness of contemporary and traditional Indian art.