Saturday, October 07, 2006

Auctioneers Like Large Crowds
By Robert A. Doyle, CAI, ISA, CES, CAGA

50th President of the National Auctioneers Association
Principal Auctioneer/Appraiser Absolute Auction & Realty, Inc.

Robert A. Doyle


The larger the crowd of anxious bidders that assembles before the auction begins, the more comfortable an auctioneer feels. Auctioneers want to feel the energy produced by a swarm of eager bidders at the start of the auction. A large crowd endorses in everyone’s mind that they are doing the “right thing” by being in attendance. A new “reality” is created by the active participation of all in attendance. Even before the auctioneer provides the opening statements and calls for the first bid on the first lot, the stage has been set for action.

A large crowd can create some logistical nightmares such as not enough parking and long registrations lines. Issues regarding “security” and “viewing” of items may be a challenge. However, these “problems” can be wonderful challenges to have. All of the logistical issues add to the positive image that all participants are in the right place; the place where the action is going to be.

In sharp contrast to the large crowds that auctioneers love, are the events where only a few participants show up, or worse yet the scene where the auctioneer is chanting to his or her self. I believe that one of the areas that causes pre-mature aging for auctioneers is the time where the auctioneer is waiting for a crowd to assemble. You know, 15 minutes before the auction and no one is registered. This is the time that the seller wants to know what went wrong and the auctioneer is second-guessing the marketing strategy. Interestingly enough, the good news about a poorly attended auction is the fact that there were very few witnesses! Furthermore, the auctioneer is not going to be talking about it.

Historically, auctioneers have always boasted about their auctions with record high attendance. How often we hear about the hundreds and even thousands of participants and from how many states or countries they traveled from to attend the auction. Today, the numbers are getting larger by adding all the Internet bidders to the count.

The fact is, it is not the “quantity” of bidders that counts it is the “quality”. Auctioneers need to attract serious buyers for the product they are offering, bidders qualified to buy.

I once attended a seminar where the auctioneer explained how to conduct an auction in a high-rise apartment building, in the actual apartment of the seller. The auctioneers in attendance immediately focused on the large crowds that attend their auctions and therefore concluded that this on-site, apartment auction plan could never work. The instructor raised several questions. How many good “buyers” attend your auctions? Further, how many people does it take to get the fair market value for the contents of a linen closet? The presenter went on to show that you could have a successful auction by doing an “Invitation Only” auction to your best 100 buyers.

The on-site apartment auction plan works well, and by the way, 100 people in a two-bedroom apartment is a crowd. The auctioneer benefits from the same positive energy and feeding frenzy with 100 people indoors that the auctioneer with 600 people generates outdoors.

I believe you should always have a crowd. We always have a crowd at our auctions. Remember, the auctioneer is in charge. If only 6 people show up for an on-site real estate auction conduct the auction in the kitchen.



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