Heavy equipment roundtable: How to win at selling “Yellow Iron”

Want to win at bid-calling “yellow iron”? Entering bid-calling contests and networking will get you started.

By Brittany Lane

Four forces in heavy equipment auction sales recently gathered to discuss their yellow iron/ heavy equipment successes and strategies.

Russ Hilk, CAI, AMM, GPPA, recently facilitated a nearly two-hour talk about the industry, trends, and how you can break into selling yellow iron at auction. No stranger to accomplishments himself, Hilk has over $50 million in industrial equipment sales and is the founding partner of Wavebid, an auction software company.

The discussion also featured Dustin Rogers, CAI, CAS, an auctioneer with Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers who has nearly $600 million in sales to his credit; Harold Musser, CAI, AMM, who brings 42 years of experience selling heavy equipment and real estate for Musser Bros., Inc.; Jeff Martin, a multi-generational auctioneering experiencing a major growth spurt for his self-titled company, Jeff Martin Auctioneers, Inc.; and Tim Hill, senior vice president of sales at BidSpotter.com, who knows the world of heavy construction and has experience working with dozens of auction companies.

What follows is an edited preview of the conversation.
Russ: Dustin, you’re a lot of what many people want to be. You’re a bid caller for some of the biggest companies selling equipment in the world. If somebody wanted to follow in your footsteps, how should they do that?

Dustin: Contests are how I got started. I was spotted at a contest and literally offered a job from that. Networking. I know people don’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth. Find the lead auctioneer at any company and talk to them. NAA now has the Contract Auction Specialist. I sat through it earlier this week and took three pages of notes. It’s outstanding.

If you want to be a contract auctioneer, sign up and take it. The next time will be at the Designation Academy in December. NAA did not pay me for that sales pitch. I’m a full-time auctioneer, but I’m always learning. Even if you aren’t a contract auctioneer, CAS will benefit you because they go over all the information that anyone in the auction business needs.

Russ: Harold, how do heavy equipment and real estate sales work together?

Harold: Whatever the items, sales should be the two legs of your ladder. I like to look at our sales like solutions. Some people might call us and have a problem that is selling their real estate. You can say what are you doing with all your equipment? Or they call about their equipment and I can say what are you doing with your property? My dad went to auction school in 1956 then earned his real estate license in 1958 because he said, ‘it’s like ham and eggs, they just go together.’
I’ve also found there is a nice diversity in it. When interest rates were way high, we weren’t selling a lot of real estate, but we were having a lot of auctions on equipment. Then the inverse of that, sometimes when equipment is down, real estate is selling high. It’s nice to me to have the ham and egg deal. You always have something to eat.

Russ: How does your experience and product knowledge help when working with sellers?

Jeff: It’s important to use your product knowledge to be firm with a seller to let them know what their product is worth today. However, I tell all my staff to put themselves in the seller’s position. It’s important to be personable and kind. Know the value of that piece of equipment in how it relates to the seller’s net worth and their annual yearly income. The larger the percentage that is, the greater importance that machine carries to them.
With multinational corporations, one machine to them is nothing. But if you’re selling for a small business and he’s got one backhoe, then that’s their livelihood.

Tim: In my role, I get clients where this is their first heavy equipment auction they’ve ever done. My experience from being a contractor who has touched all parts of the process–from operating machinery to fixing machinery to hauling machinery–allows me to lend sellers advice on all fronts.

I can tell a client how a machine should be set up or how it should be photographed. If you’re not familiar with an estimator or don’t actually know what auxiliary hydraulics are, I can show you where to look.

Russ: What are your thoughts on more people wanting to bid online?

Harold: Like Wayne Gretzky says, he doesn’t want to be where the puck is, he wants to be where the puck is going to be. The puck is going to be online. We’re seeing 50-60 percent of our bidders are mobile. They aren’t sitting at their computer.

Tim: We’re seeing the exact same thing. I think one of the main drivers it’s because technology has improved so much. Last month alone, 46 percent of the people that bid on any auction in BidSpotter did it from a mobile device.

This article was an excerpt from a presentation given at the 2017 NAA International Auctioneers Conference and Show. Full audio of the presentation is available at the NAA Knowledge Center.
You can find the #NAAPro in your area here.