To be a successful auctioneer, there is no math or science involved, no history to be remembered, athleticism required, artistic ability necessary. To say it is simple would not be fair to all the auctioneers out there, but to say it is rock-science would be far-fetched.
Do you know how the auction process works? Everything from the initial conversation with the bank to the closing of the case?
Do you know how the auction day runs?
If the answer to both is yes, you are 50% there.
To be a successful auctioneer, you don’t need to be some smooth, fast-talking auctioneer confusing customers as if you are speaking Arabic.
To get to that 100%, it really boils down to 2 traits:
1) Character and 2) Auction IQ
Combine an award-winning personality with a decent understanding of business and you should be good to go. Below find 10 steps (5 Character & 5 Auction IQ) to help you become the most successful auctioneer possible.
1. Don’t Be A Robot
The beauty of an auction is the human interaction, customers playing their hand like a poker game coupled with the auctioneer heckling people for money. An auction is not a computerized process. There is no need to make it one.
Don’t be a robot – work with the customers. People only want to buy from someone they are comfortable with. If one of the auction’s big spenders is bidding $50 when you’re asking for $100, give it to him at that price. You may have lost $50 in the short run, but a positive customer experience will make you hundreds extra by the auction’s end and potentially thousands in the future.
2. Be Professional
To say auctioneers have a decent reputation would be generous. But just like any other industry, there are your top-of-the-line guys and the slouches. It’s these slimy auctioneers that ruin the name for the rest. Set yourself apart – it will be obvious to you and your clientele when you do. We hear it from customers all the time when they tell us “they only come to Caspert Auctions”. Why?
Professionalism. Organization. Accountability. Responsibility. Awareness.
Avoid counting the money like your adding up change in a piggy bank
Don’t write up invoices like your writing on scrap paper for 3rd grade math homework
Never let pressure from the customers overrun you once the auction has ended like it’s the mall on Black Friday
Don’t make shady back-door deals or create bids out of thin air
This is someone’s business you are selling, not a school mock project. At all times, have awareness and responsibility of the money, the auction lots and the customers. Follow these five characteristics and it will be smooth sailing to becoming a successful auctioneer.
3. …But Also Keep it Light
An auction should be more like a sporting event than a Supreme Court case. It’s an experience, a show for the customers. Professionalism is important, but there is no need to treat it like your under oath.
If, and when problems occur – don’t get stressed.
But go further than preventing disruption; encourage positive activity. An auction can be an all-day event. Imagine listening to a boring, monotone auctioneer up on the stand for 7 hours? You are going to lose all your customers.
Keep the crowd involved, tell a few jokes, have a smile and stay stress-free.
4. Be Courteous of People’s Time
This is more applicable for longer auctions (3+ hours), but if that’s the case it is super important to be courteous of your customer’s time.
What This Does Not Mean:
Don’t rush through the auction lots to get to each item quicker
Don’t skip around, from Lot 14 to Lot 126 back to 73
And don’t auction off certain items first because a few nagging customers suddenly expressed an interest
What This Does Mean:
If the auction has 500 lots, there are always customers interested in specific items. If someone is only looking at Lot 400, don’t have them stick around all day – be courteous. Let them know at what time you expect Lot 400 to be sold. My auctions generally do about 75 lots/hour.
5. Play to your Audience
This may be obvious to some, but do not overlooking playing the part. Dress to your audience. If you are meeting with a bunch of lawyers, wear a suit. If you are selling to ironworkers, jeans and a polo is fine.
Make your audience feel welcomed and comfortable. You do not want to intimidate anyone, but you also don’t want anyone to think little of you.
6. Know the Commodity
Monday you could be selling an electronics store, Tuesday cars, Wednesday a machine shop and Thursday a gym. Know the commodity you are selling. But even more so, the current market. What was hot 6 months ago may not be hot today and a successful auctioneer needs to know that.
Keep in mind your customers are generally going to be industry experts. Time and experience will allow you to learn the market and industry jargon, but research can always help. Make sure you can talk-the-talk.
7. Presentation is Key
The amount of effort put into presentation is the difference between a $50,000 and $100,000 auction. No exaggeration. Make the auction look neat, organized and presentable. Our first task in arriving to any site is cleaning up the place, which sometimes is such a huge undertaking in itself we hire a 3rd-party company.
If there’s a lot of 500 TV remotes, organize them by brand. Selling 20 ladders scattered all over the building? Move them into one location. Piles of sawdust? Brush it aside. Clean up the place. It may not seem worth it, but trust me, it is.
Tip: Imagine the layout of the auction to be a retail store. Have each item neat and clean in its respective place.
Before and After Our Team Comes In To Prep a Printing Plant For Auction
8. Don’t Substitute the Auctioneer
Would you substitute Steve Harvey in the middle of a Family Feud episode? The same concept applies for the auctioneer.
After a couple hours on the stand, the auctioneer and customers start to build a rapport. The auctioneer learns customers’ paddle numbers, their style of bidding. There is a sense of comfort that begins to build.
Switch up the auctioneer half way through and you throw all of that away, needing to re-build that customer relationship from scratch. It makes no sense. I admit to making this mistake in the past, but there is a reason I say “the past”.
9. The Auction is Giant Poker Game
Don’t ever ask for the price you are looking for. This is all about the negotiation – it’s human nature. Look up the definition of auction and it is sure to say “the art of heckling”. Nobody will give you the price you are looking for. EVER.
Looking for $50? Overstate the asking price.
Ask for $50 and someone will offer $25.
Ask for $100 and someone will offer the $50 you want.
*You can always ask for less – you can never ask for more.
10. And Lastly…Enjoy Every Moment of It
If you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.
After each auction, our chief auctioneer gets asked a dozen times how he talks for 7 hours straight without any breaks.
His response, “I’m human, of course I get tired…. but when I’m finished.”
This is a tough job; there is a lot of grinding. And as the auctioneer, your attitude affects the entire auction. An excited, engaging, joking and successful auctioneer will keep the crowd’s attention. A lazy and halfhearted one will lose the audience. If you want to reach your full potential, you need to bring your A-game every time. And it helps when you actually enjoy it.
Follow these 10 steps and you will be golden. Remember, a strong character coupled with some industry IQ is the key.
Not any person can come in and run a successful auction. It takes years of experience, years of education, mentorship, and much more.
To get ahead let’s recap the 10 steps that can make you a successful auctioneer.
Don’t Be a Robot
Keep It Light
Be Courteous of Other People’s Time
Play to Your Audience
Know the Commodity
Presentation is Key
Don’t Substitute the Auctioneer
The Auction is a Giant Poker Game
Enjoy Every Moment
Use any of these tips in the past, present or plan to use them in the future? Have any other tips to becoming a successful auctioneer?
Let us know and share with your thoughts, comments and questions!
Caspert Auctioneers and Appraisers was founded 96 years ago in 1921 making us the most established auction and appraisal company in America. We have conducted thousands of commercial and industrial auctions, assisting a wide range of companies both large and small. We serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the New Jersey State Society of Auctioneers as well as the National Auctioneers Association. As for our appraisal services, we are long-standing members of both the American Society of Appraisers and the Association of Machinery & Equipment Appraisers.