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We run an auction house and know the names of upwards of 60% of our bidders who we see on a regular basis. Roger and his wife are regular attendees. He buys glassware, tools, and boxed lots containing either/both.

We’ve gotten to know Roger, his wife Karen, and their two kids Marie and Will. Roger has purchased, on average, $500 – $1,000 each week for almost four years. Yet, this year so far his purchases have been more like $100 – $300 each week.

After several weeks of less than “normal” purchasing, we asked Roger if all was well. Roger confided in us that his brother had died, and Will had been in and out of the hospital. “It’s just been a rough time for me, but I still enjoy coming to your auction.”

Given Roger and Karen’s issues, we were actually surprised we still saw him at all — it could be coming to the auction and seeing us and his other friends helped him forget his problems for a night?

Yet, it got us thinking about his purchases. When all was well, his purchases averaged $750 a night; since things became more troubled for him, his purchases averaged $200.

We wondered, more generally, how much of how people bid is due to them “feeling good?”

Bob Carter, Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor North America said some time ago that consumer confidence seemed to be the key issue in regard to increased sales. He continued that, “People are feeling good and are increasingly willing to open up their pocketbooks.”

Is it as simple as that? The better people feel, the freer they are with their money? The more they pay — the more they purchase?

Obviously, people have financial parameters as well as desires for certain property they wish to buy. But with all other things equal, is how someone is feeling material to how much they will bid?

I’ve told bidders for over 30 years — “It’s not what you need, but what you want.” In other words, if bidders only bid on property they needed, they would buy far less than if they bid on property they want. Wanting something is often emotional, whereas needing something is more cognitive.

And emotions are tied to how someone is feeling … feeling good points to positive emotions. So, what does this tell auctioneers? Anything we can do to make bidders “feel better” during the auction, the more they’ll bid?

Here are some auctioneer traits (similar to great salesperson traits) which might help bidders feel better:

  • Empathetic: Shows compassion, sympathy; wants to listen and understand
  • Confident: Believes in own abilities and can handle adversities
  • Outgoing: Projects a great first impression and is energized by social interactions
  • Entertaining: Engages customer emotions, is likeable and memorable
  • Relational: Cares about the person, not just the sale; effectively identifies customer needs
  • Focused: Talks to someone without checking their phone, looking around elsewhere …

Or course, much of these actions take place before and after the actual auction. Walking around the auction venue … shaking hands … smiling … engaging people in attendance.

Auctioneers aren’t the only ones who can make bidders feel better. Auctioneer’s staff and even other bidders can have profound effects. The overall crowd can also help bidders feel as if they are at the “right” auction and should participate: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/large-auction-crowds-busy-restaurants-and-relevance/.

We can’t bring Roger’s brother back nor help with his son’s illness. What we as auctioneers can do, however, is make him feel a bit better; in fact, we should.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, and an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and Western College of Auctioneering. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.