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136: 5 Things Missing From Most Auction Proposals

I hate taking auctioneer’s misdirected money. I typically don’t up-sell. In fact, my clients will tell you that I often advise against extraneous media. That said, I regularly accept paychecks to build ineffective proposals. It’s true. Sure, they will represent aesthetic upgrades from their old materials; but the final product doesn’t always have my confidence that it will help them secure new sales.

I say that, because many of the proposals I’ve seen in the auction industry wouldn’t work on me, if I were the seller. They are missing a lot of (proprietary) content that I as a vendor cannot include, let alone illustrate. It’s sad, too, because my future income is dependent on those pitches—since that signed auction would mean a campaign full of media for me to design.

So, here’s the content that I rarely see in auction proposals that would give me more hope that we could book the proposed auctions.

Market Analysis

What are the forces in the asset and geographic markets that will affect demand for what is being sold? My REALTOR® could show me how many like-kind properties were in the market at the moment and how many sold from that segment last year. Why can’t auctioneers? Sellers of all types of assets want an idea of how current market conditions will affect estimated sale price.

Comparable Sales

Again, I don’t understand why this is so easy for REALTORS® to demonstrate but so difficult for auctioneers. It’s not just real estate, either. From what I understand from talking to appraisers, some decent homework should be able to provide recent sale prices for similar personal property items—not all the time and for all the items but most of the time for the headline items being sold. If there isn’t a comparable sale, an explanation of why that is the case would be helpful information for the seller.

Property Analysis

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the asset or group of assets? What repair or upgrade work would add more value than its cost? What specific marketing choices & efforts will be made because of the asset’s attributes?

Advertising Analytics

If the reasons for your marketing suggestions are based on anecdotal information, you could be losing the deal to a competitor that tracks their advertising. They know what works best and most efficiently. They know how to market on the lowest possible budget. They can also prove the necessity of larger budgets—because they have data on bidder acquisition costs. They might even have that broken down by asset type and geography. If you have this data, use it. Show it; don’t tell it. If you don’t have this information, start collecting it.

Recommendations from Similar Clients

Auctioneers do like to grab stuffy recommendation letters from some huge name, but I’m still waiting to see testimonials from like-kind-asset sellers. If it were my proposal, I’d have recommendations that pertained to different aspects of the proposal sprinkled into their respective pages as big, magazine-style pull quotes. Or, if possible, I’d have that recommending quote under a picture of the sellers and a “SOLD!” sign. People want to hear from other people who’ve been in their situation.

It’s funny to me how many proposals I’ve read promise something along the lines of “We’ll do our best to sell your asset for the highest sale price,” when the auction company hasn’t done its best to sell their solutions.

Most auction proposals include a lot of content about the auction method—instead of data that proves its superiority. They promise fair market value but don’t illustrate proof of it. I can often find sections on company history, staff biographies, auctioneer designations, and even unsupported claims at market share. Those are for LinkedIn profiles, not seller presentations.

Just like marriage proposals, the most effective auction proposals have a higher percentage of content about the recipient’s attributes than the kneeler’s resumé. The less time we spend talking about us, the better. Our sellers need to know we’re the best option for their situation—not necessarily because of what we’ve accomplished in the past but because of how well our recent experience enables us to map the next few steps into the future. Sellers are looking for confidence that we can do that—trust built from the five things missing in most auction proposals.

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99: Who Should Manage Your Social Media Content?

Unknown Professional (iStockPhoto Purchase)Last month, I was sitting in the executive office of a company with 200 employees.  The chairman of the board asked me how I could help him offer social media solutions to his clients—how biplane productions could partner with his national firm.  I swallowed hard and then told him I wasn’t interested in such—even though his company’s clientele includes organizations for whom ad agencies would love to work.


Because social media content shouldn’t be outsourced.

Social media is sold every day to small business owners as the new secret weapon in marketing.  “Get your business in front of 800 million people on Facebook and over 300 million Twitter users!”  Never mind the fact that even Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga each have only a small fraction of either of those environments, advertisers think they’ll somehow gain a hoard of followers and fans, just by opening social media storefronts.

If these participatory environments were broadcast media, it would make sense to outsource the work to agencies like mine or those on Madison Avenue.  And for those who look at Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as advertising channels, there’s software for agencies to manage the social streams of multiple clients.

The problem is that social media sites are relational environments—places to do online what we do offline, admittedly with both upgrades and drawbacks over in-person conversations.  In most situations you wouldn’t pay another company to go have conversations with people for you at social gatherings.  So, why would you pay a company to have your conversations with your prospects and peers online?

Does that mean that your company’s founder or president needs to spend their day hitting the like button and responding to Tweets?  No.  But the person doing the conversing needs to be someone who can speak for your company—someone who has bought into the culture and mission of your organization.  The same care you apply to determining who you hire to sell your goods and services to clients offline should be applied to those who represent you in online social settings.

Valuable qualification criteria for this role include:

  • Positive, optimistic personality
  • Understanding what constitutes your brand
  • Connection to sources of newsworthy content for market and industry trends
  • Professional decorum yet with a sense of humor
  • Personal social streams with lots of activity (illustrating environment experience)
  • Flexible spirit and commitment to be constantly learning
  • Good spelling and grammar skills
  • Access to company images
  • 30 or more minutes available per day for conversational interaction and measurement
  • Maybe even public relations training or background

In some organizations, multiple people are granted administrative access.  The main challenge of that is to make sure posts and responses are consistent from one administrator to another.  (Having pre-written guidelines and sample responses can help with this, especially for companies where social media environments are more for customer service and responding to complaints than brand building.)

The social media shepherd in your company doesn’t need to be someone in management or ownership.  But they should be someone you trust with the voice of your brand.  With rare exception, that isn’t someone on the other end of an invoice.

I am embarrassingly weak when it comes to sharing my faith in interpersonal spaces.  I can throw some words up here on my blog or even on Facebook and Twitter.  But put me in a coffee shop or living room, and I don’t have much more than psychoanalytic questions and “Let me pray for you.”

The problem is that the stakes are too high to play the “good Christian kid” card all the time.  (My dad is a minister; so, I have a large box of those cards.)  There’s more on the line than whether someone goes to church or shares my beliefs.  The potential for pain redemption, spiritual wholeness, and worldview change are incredible additions to Christ’s offer of forgiveness, heaven, and purpose.

I’ve got to stop outsourcing these conversations to “professional” Christians and power evangelists.  The New Testament tells all believers—especially me—to “always [be] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”  That requires more time praying for people and more time inputting Truth into my memory.

It’s good to encourage other believers and love on those far from the Way.  But stopping there is dangerous for our eternal legacy and the futures of others.


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