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Silence – The ultimate power for auctioneers

By Andy Reid
14 March 2024 | 12 minute read
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Auctioneers should love to be quiet.

Doesn’t sound right, does it?! The most rambunctious, gregarious element of the game, where fire and brimstone rain down on the market with a cacophony of high-powered warbling … and yet, it can be in the silence that our greatest power can lie!

And yet auctioneers can have this fear of it, instead preferring to ramble gibberish repetitively in the hope that it masks a lack of action.

Why is that? Why does silence twist the knife of anxiety into our midriffs? Well, it’s in that internal reaction that we find the clue as to why we should be embracing it as an active part of our arsenal.

Tradition teaches us to keep firing.

If we look into how we are classically trained in the craft of auctioneering, the art of a silence is something that isn’t focused on that much (if at all), which is largely understandable when you consider how awkward it can feel.

For example, when in competition mode, once we have attempted a trial close and intertwined some reselling in between the three calls, we are taught to move the auction forward by placing a vendor bid in order to trigger the next part of the bidding sequence.

It makes complete sense to do that in plenty of cases because we do want to maintain a flow to the auction, and when we are early on in the bidding, we can’t be messing around at the shallow end for too long.


But when we get towards the pointy end of the call, a lot of auctioneers end up backing themselves into a corner by trial closing too often when the bidding starts to slow right down. The problem that this creates is that the trial close ends up losing its potency as an instigator of bidding, and buyers become numb to it which ultimately ends up with the pressure gauge being released.

Basically, we run out of weapons to use!

The first ones to talk lose!

You will have heard about this when learning about negotiating because it is very commonly known that if you propose an action or figure to a client and stay tight-lipped, then providing a space for the client to sit in their own thoughts creates a pressure to move forward with whatever you’re proposing.

Remember the anxiety that we talked about earlier? Well, that’s what the silence produces in people, and it’s whoever is in control of that silence that gets to choose who that anxiety is pointing towards.

So if that’s the case in a private negotiation, imagine the push that it can provide in an auction environment!

If there’s a rally of bidding going on, silence may be all you need to keep the bidding rolling along if any bidder shows an element of hesitation. That subconscious push to keep going via that little twist of anxiety is all the auctioneer needs to keep the money flowing, and it’s way better than sounding like a broken record by shouting “first call … second call …!”

Why do auctioneers fear it?

This is where we auctioneers need to build a bit more stress resilience. For many, the brief pause in action can be perceived as we either don’t know what to do next, we’ve lost where we are in the bidding, or that we’ve simply frozen under the pressure!

And there are some who can’t quite get the right feel between a strategic silence and a really long awkward pause that frustrates the crowd and other bidders, which prompts the agent to give them the hurry-up.

To feel comfortable in having silence in the tool kit, we are required to be very aware of the energy at play during the auction, and the momentum that we have at any one point. If getting bids is like pulling teeth, then adding silence can potentially turn the auction into a snooze fest. But if the auction’s flowing nicely with a good momentum to it, a lot of auctioneers struggle to shut up, which can create a huge amount of distortion because we simply lack the control to keep our counsel and get out of the way!

Turn silence into a strength.

Advice that we could do with taking heed of in other areas of life I suspect! But before we go into some sort of relationship therapy, the understanding that silence has a critical part to play in an auction call not only provides a source of power, but it also encourages you to become more aware of the energy at play between you and the bidders.

And if you can learn to operate actively with that greater awareness, then you’ll open yourself up to an unspoken human language that can take your game (in both auctions and life) to a whole new level.

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