How to become, and remain, an Auto Auctioneer
The most effective tips for breaking into and staying in the auto auction industry center on a team-first, humble attitude.
By Emma Dougherty, NAA Content Developer
The auto auction industry has long held a certain appeal for many aspiring Auctioneers. But, what many who have traveled down this road find is that breaking into the industry can be every bit as challenging as trying to carve out a long career.
So, what are the best ways to break into the auto auction industry? One great way is to find a way in the door, period.
Becoming an office assistant, working in the title department, body shop, or as a clerk are all ways that aspiring auctioneers can gain experience and knowledge.
“Once you get your foot in the door, talk to the Auctioneer or management,” said NAA member and 2016 World Automobile Auctioneers Champion Michael Riggins, CAS. This can showcase enthusiasm and, in return, a new Auctioneer can gain valuable insight in different areas.
When it comes to asking for a job, there are multiple ways to go about it. NAA member Joseph Mast, CAI, suggests letting the person in charge of hiring know about your interest and availability. And, be upfront about your lack of experience if you are just getting into the industry.
“I always get much more turned off by somebody that tries to oversell themselves to me on what they know and their experiences versus somebody that comes to me and says, ‘I want to be the clay. Help mold me into what could make me a good Auctioneer down the road,’” Mast said.
Timing and self-awareness are key, too.
“It’s important to know when to present yourself as an Auctioneer. If you do it and you’re not ready, you can really hurt yourself,” said NAA member Michael Chambers, CAS. “Stay humble, and always keep that in the forefront of your mind.”
That doesn’t mean an aspiring auto Auctioneer can’t take steps and be prepared for when the right time comes. Be available for opportunities to come in their own time and be open to the fact that something may not be available right now. However, always keep a running conversation with your network, which can be built on non-working days. In fact, Mast recommends going in on non-auction days when people have time to meet, make an introduction, and discuss things in detail.
To that point, one of the biggest mistakes that new Auctioneers can make is attempting to talk to a manager on auction day and doing so with so much pride that he or she comes across as arrogant.
In addition to approaching auto auctions themselves, effectively networking through competitions and associations is a great way for new Auctioneers to gain contacts or even a mentor. Go into those situations with the mentality of learning, networking, and trying to lift other people up.
“It may seem like you are investing in other people, but, in turn, you are investing in yourself,” said Chambers, who won the 2014 Chuck Cumberlin Sportsmanship Award at the NAA IAC competition in Louisville, Kentucky.
Doing all of these things, however, still doesn’t guarantee a gig, especially when you’re brand new to the industry. It’s a cut-and-dried fact that experience and loyalty built from that experience counts in a lot of places, which means it isn’t anything against the new Auctioneer when a veteran won’t give them a chance. It’s more often that they don’t want to damage their hard-earned buyer and seller relationships.
Another common pitfall for auto Auctioneers is burnout. Long hours on the block, and even longer hours on the road, sometimes without much payoff, can wear down even the best attitudes and work ethics.
“The first thing you have to do is take care of yourself – mind, body, and spirit,” Chambers said. “It’s easy to get burnt out on the road and lose your focus.”
Above all, the best advice these Auctioneers provided to keep egos in check, and to always remember Auctioneers are the lowest on the totem pole in an auction room. That means listening to sellers and being careful not to prejudge a car on what you think it is worth. Also, be fair and consistent, but always work every car as if it is your last.
This will cultivate a long successful career in the auto auction industry.
This article was an excerpt from a presentation given at the 2016 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. Also, you can access the NAA Auction Professionals Facebook group at: facebook.com/naaauctioneers.