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Start as you mean to carry on

By Andy Reid
27 February 2024 | 13 minute read
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It’s the tried and tested understanding that first impressions matter. It stands to reason then that the start of an auction, as well as the start of the bidding, can very quickly hold a huge influence over the remainder of the call.

A lot of auctioneers tend to focus solely on getting the auction to a conclusion, focusing on the end goal which is understandable. A bit like holding your breath while diving underwater, a lot of callers can focus for a short time, but before too long all they can think about is getting their heads above water.

The challenge with that is that a lot of the outcome actually relies on the quality of the interactions at the beginning of each section of the auction (i.e. the introduction and the bidding) – how can you make the pressure count if you haven’t created any level of connection or influence in the first place?

Let’s take a look at the beginning of both parts and highlight key elements that hold a lot more sway on the outcome than we tend to give credit for.

Making the most of the introduction

Most of the time, functionality is the order of the day in the early part of an auction, which is reasonable since there are some legalities and formalities that must be addressed in every state.

But it can be much more than that. Setting the scene, creating the atmosphere, and quickly building that balance of authority and approachability in your persona can be the difference between not only a good result and a great result, but also whether the impression you leave onlookers and potential sellers with is one of quality.

One of the biggest challenges that few auctioneers manage to overcome is that ability to be authoritative without burning bridges. But it can be achieved to a much greater extent if we focus on a few small additions/alterations to our opening volley, which sets us up to be able to use that to our advantage when the bidding begins.

  1. Act like you want to be there. If you watch auction recordings on YouTube, the opening line(s) from a number of auctioneers are done on the exhale, with a predictable, repetitive monotony that kind of makes it feel like we are privileged to have them with us. Put a smile on your face, fill your lungs from your diaphragm, put your shoulders back and say “hello” like you’re grateful to be given the responsibility to advance people’s lives.
  2. Use your mouth to articulate, but your body to engage. Credit must go to The Godfather of Auctioneering, Mark Sumich, for this one. Although you’re broadcasting to a crowd, it’s important to engage on an individual basis during the early exchanges so that you capture their attention. Eye contact, hand gestures towards individuals and key bidders, nodding and smiling in acknowledgment as you go through the contract and conduct are all small things that you can bring in … and if you’re struggling, then just start by trying to be courteous to people.
  3. Get a lot more comfortable with your rules and regulations. Life is made a lot easier and your articulation more natural if you actually take the time to learn and be smooth with your rules and regulations.
  4. Alter your tone, change up your speed. The quick route to boredom leads through being monotone, and although we want to get to the important part ASAP, it’s vital that we utilise silences to accentuate points, peaks and troughs in our tonality to highlight key selling points.

If you sprinkle some of these into the start of your auction, you’ll have a much more attentive crowd in front of you to begin the bidding with. From here we need to reassert ourselves as the ones in charge, while maintaining that early connection and laying the early foundation for our end result. Here are a few things to be wary of when heading into the bidding:

  1. Visualise each scenario you’re likely to face. Prior to kicking off your auction, play out what you could face in your mind, so that you aren’t surprised by what could happen. You can be as confident as you want based on prior information, but we all know what assumption does.
  2. Make bidding suggestions early on. A lot of buyers just want some sort of idea as to where to begin, but too often auctioneers jump to vendor bids instead of helping bidders out by making suggestions as to which way to start their bidding. By highlighting the quote range (if applicable, not possible in Queensland) and talking to buyer feedback, you can make it easier for people to get involved.
  3. Don’t be afraid to knock back a bid. If your increments early on are nice and big, it’s absolutely okay to politely decline a bid if you’re a long way away from your target figure. Do it in a way that helps them by highlighting how it would help them to go a bit further early on, but use a small silent pause to increase the pressure too. And if they don’t come up further, then at least you know that you have some money out there.
  4. Engage with onlookers. Promoting engagement with you by having fun with neighbours can help to show that you (the auctioneer) are easy to connect with, which helps to break the ice for buyers. There are lots of ways to do this, but a very good way is to engage with neighbours and onlookers while reselling certain location highlights and amenities.

There are more ways to help you through an auction, but these will definitely improve your performance with the gavel. Above all of this though, take the chance to be yourself while you’re out there! Plenty of practise gives you the freedom in your mind to flow through the process and make decisions with much greater clarity. It also means that you don’t have to worry about the legalities and it allows you to focus on your customers a lot more!

Andy Reid is an auctioneer, podcast host, coach and speaker.

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