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A Timeless Sales Lesson From The 18th Century
Blog / For Sales Pros / Jun 18, 2015 / Posted by Laura Posey / 4395

A Timeless Sales Lesson From The 18th Century


In 1725, a young Italian painter named Giovanni Antonio Canal, or as he is better known, Canaletto, learned an extremely important lesson about the business of painting.

That lesson turned him from a down-and-out painter of everyday Venetian life into a wealthy artist whose works were fought over by Catherine The Great and other European monarchs.

So what did Canaletto learn and how you apply the same lesson to your sales?

When Canaletto began his career, the market for painting of Venice centered around British tourists.

The wealthiest of British society flocked to Venice to partake in gambling, prostitution, and all manner of other vices available for those with ample means. These tourists, like those of today, wanted to take home souvenirs of their visit to show friends at home.

Of course, they didn’t want to bring home scenes from their most sinful exploits but instead wanted paintings of the glories of Venice – quaint gondolas, stunning architecture and gilded piazzas. Just like now, they wanted to brag about the glorious sites they had seen.

In his early career, Canaletto, a gifted artist, painted what he saw around him in his own neighborhood – gritty scenes of poverty, dirty, run-down buildings, and trash-filled canals.


As you can imagine, the British tourists were not at all interested in Canaletto’s work.

But a friend of Canaletto’s helped him understand that, if he painted the world of the British instead of his own world, he could capitalize on his talent.

In essence, Canaletto learned that he needed to understand his buyer’s deepest desire (to impress others) and emotion (vanity), if he was going to bring value to his work.

From 1725 on, Canaletto painted lovely works featuring Venice’s most important places – The Doges Palace, San Marco Piazza, The Grand Canal.

His works were greatly valued. In fact, Catherine the Great was an avid collector and often vied with other European monarchs to procure Canaletto’s paintings.

Do you know your buyer’s deepest desires and emotions? Are you tapping into what they most want from you?

If you’re looking for a good place to start, write a one-page Simple Strategic Plan for understanding your deepest value.

About Author

Laura Posey is Chief Instigator at She is an international consultant, speaker and author specializing in helping entrepreneurs double their profits while taking time away from the office to change the world.

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