5 January 2018,

Auto Auctioneer: What makes a great one?

NAA member Chad Bailey, President-elect of the National Auto Auction Association, shares what he believes makes for a successful auto Auctioneer.

By NAA Staff

Like other parts of the auction industry, the automobile auction niche can have its own unique challenges. Yet, there are a number of NAA professionals who are thriving as an auto Auctioneer.

One such member has accomplished something few people ever will – become auctioneering’s “Triple Crown” winner, and he’s got advice for other Auctioneers who want to excel in auto auctioneering.

NAA member Andy White, CAI, CAS, an auction professional from Ashland, Ohio, won the World Automobile Auctioneer Championship last May. In 2016, he won the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship. In 2013, NAA members will recall White as the winner in the men’s division IAC. That makes him only the second Auctioneer in history to score all three achievements. (You can read more about what led up to that victory in the October issue of Auctioneer.)

The WAAC is judged by a lot of CEOs, White said, and contestants have to feel out what they want, but one thing is certain – they’re looking for energy.

“I sold three cars in my final run, and I don’t know that I could have sold four,” said White of the intensity he put into that competition. “Those CEOs are looking for excitement.

“Another thing they’re looking for is communication, including everybody that is there. It is super-high energy, in your face, everything you’ve got, over the top – it’s not on the spectrum of natural.”

People like Chad Bailey, general manager at Akron Auto Auction (and president-elect of the National Auto Auction Association), rely on top-notch Auctioneers like White. His business includes six lanes with four separate buildings on approximately 30 acres of land in northeast Ohio. Every Tuesday, they manage a car dealer consignment auction that includes 1,200 vehicles, as well as a bank repossession sale of 150 vehicles a week.

White said it was intimidating when he first picked up work at Akron Auto Auction.

“It looks like a squirrel crossing a busy street,” White said of the action during a live auto auction. “They said, ‘hey, this will slow down for you.’ And it does.”

White also touched on how Auctioneers are just one piece of a huge puzzle that creates a successful auto auction, yet much of the success of that auction hinges on how they perform.

“The employees work really long hours and work really hard to get that product to sell,” White said. “Imagine all that work they just did goes out the door because you’re not an effective Auctioneer.

“We have one small window to make or break the business that we are working for. That’s why it’s always important to be at the top of your game.”

White advises Auctioneers to “check their issues at the door when you arrive that morning,” because the people they’re working for and with need them to be prepared and ready when they step up on that block.

“Those dealers can’t afford for me to have issues on my mind that will adversely affect their sale,” White said. “At the end of the day, if you don’t realize how important you are as the Auctioneer, you’re really missing the boat.

“If you don’t feel like you can make a difference, you’re not going to. We’re just a small part of it, but we’re an important part.”

Bailey seconded White’s statement about passion and excitement when it comes to Auctioneers he employs.

“I’m a big fan of energy,” Bailey said.

However, it’s not just the auto Auctioneer that needs to be on top of their game. Bailey said ringmen are crucial, especially considering how complex the auction has become with all the new technology and bidders coming in from online and simulcast sources.

“I don’t know how you can survive without ringmen,” Bailey said. “A good ringman makes your life awesome. A bad one makes your life a train wreck.”

With the possibility of evolving regulations at auto auctions, it appears that everyone on the floor will have to step up in regard to safety.

Bailey said the industry is facing challenges right now in the wake of an accident at an auto auction in Massachusetts that claimed the lives of three people. Safety is the upmost concern, but there is talk of legislation prohibiting cars from moving during auction, which could significantly alter the flow of the process.

“They’re now not wanting hoods open,” Bailey said, “they’re wanting to eliminate dropping windows. We’re to the point where they’re now wanting to get issues passed where cars don’t even move (at the auction).”

Bailey recognizes that safety must be a priority, however, it can’t fall on the auto Auctioneer to be the safety monitor.

“With all the screens and online buying and simulcast,” Bailey said, “the Auctioneer has enough on his plate trying to watch that arena let alone see those screens and the bids and then factor in all the safety now.”

He said the public auctions that his company manages include a high percentage of buyers who are not familiar with the auction process. That inexperience can add another layer of complexity to what the auto Auctioneer and ringmen have to do.

“We talked about adding additional staff to the lanes because it’s not fair for the Auctioneer to also be a safety monitor,” Bailey said of a meeting he had with other auction professionals.

Whether it’s safety, catching bids, managing sellers and buyers or anything in between, Bailey said the industry demands that everyone involved is alert and prepared to work.

“If you’re not ready,” he warned, “don’t come.”