9 February 2018,

Making it as a first-generation auction professional


Being the first of anything is never easy. Here are some major pitfalls and how to avoid them.

By Emma Dougherty, NAA Content Developer

Making it as a first-generation Auctioneer is challenging. In fact, the industry’s history is full of men and women who gave it their best shot but didn’t wind up making things work.

So, what makes “making it” so hard? Some of the top causes of failure for first-generation Auctioneers are a lack of footprint and knowledge, and making the mistake of thinking “it just looks easy.”
Believing that making it in the auction industry is easy is a pitfall for many first-generation auctioneers. Many tend to focus on the stage or his or her chant. Those pieces are the final steps to the business process, however, and many neglect the necessary, critical steps they need to take before getting on stage.

First-generation fails: No business plan

This mindset – wanting to rush to the end of the process – causes people to overlook setting a vision and strategic business plan for how to achieve their ultimate goal. Not having a plan or vision causes many to ignore the consideration of all strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. In other words, they don’t perform a SWOT analysis. Not doing so creates the business pothole of not understanding your own business well enough to position it for long-term success.

Those who do conduct SWOT analyses often identify whether they have two key ingredients for success – salesmanship and constant self-promotion.

“The number one reason why people fail is the absence of salesmanship,” says Kenny Lindsay, a first-gen Auctioneer. “That is the reason people are crashing and burning in the auction industry.”

First-generation fails: Selling vs. salesmanship

Lindsay describes selling as a simple process that even kids can perform, while salesmanship is an art – a skilled trade that takes years to perfect.

“The difference between selling and salesmanship is that selling is a secondary function and salesmanship is the art of persuasion,” says Lindsay.

Salesmanship for an Auctioneer consists of nine key components, according to Lindsay, who says he has gained first-hand knowledge. These components are: structure of the auction, auctioneering methodology, product knowledge, rapport with the audience, power words and phrases, non-verbal communication, style flexing, showmanship, and body language.
Lindsay has advice for all of these, but especially that last one.

“When you’re selling, don’t do the finger point, do the open hand. It’s psychological,” he says. “When you were a little kid and you were in trouble, what happened? You got pointed at. Now, as adults, the assumption is that pointing is a negative action.”

First-generation fails: Promote the industry

Another tip Kenny Lindsay recommends is promoting the business and industry.

“If you’re not promoting the industry, you’re hurting yourself,” he says. Bear in mind that people must see something three or four times before calling.”

Three tips Lindsay has for promotion:

– Join in with industry hashtags such as #AuctionsWork. However, be careful when using certain social media platforms such as Facebook Live. Although it is important for friends and followers to see things, be aware that it is live and use common sense to not post a disaster.

– Spend the money to have premium placement on a provider’s website such as GotoAuction.com, estatesale.com, and AuctionZip. This helps get your name out there.

– Logo up. The internet isn’t the only place where audiences will see promotions. Think of cars, business cards, and billboards.

“It only costs yourself a little bit more to go first class,” says Lindsay, who also recommends against cutting corners when it comes to business cards and related items. “I use high-gloss folders for my information. That way they can’t lose it.”

Besides inadequate marketing and internet presence, first-gen Auctioneers should be cognizant of several additional pitfalls also. These areas include: a lack of general business knowledge, perseverance, passion and enthusiasm, and misdirected or misguided focus. Any one or a collection of these can cause the public to form an impression that your business brings nothing to the table.

Fortunately, NAA has several resources built to help first-gen (and everyone else) through those challenges.

Continuing education through workshops, summits, and designation programs, daily peer-to-peer conversations in the NAA Auction Professionals Facebook group, and expanded networking opportunities can pave the way to finding answers in quick fashion – which can sometimes be the “make” in a make-or-break situation. Be sure to check them out.

This article was an excerpt from a presentation given at the 2017 NAA International Auctioneers Conference and Show. Want even more tips regarding this topic? NAA members can access the full audio of this presentation and many others in the NAA Knowledge Center. You can access the NAA Auction Professionals Facebook group at: facebook.com/naaauctioneers.