Tag : seller

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193: You Want More Sellers, But What Do Sellers Want?

Everybody’s looking for more sellers. I know this, because auctioneers constantly ask me to help them get more.

Some of the emails I procrastinate most to answer are the ones in response to the materials those auctioneers send me to assemble into direct mail. I don’t like telling people that sellers don’t care about what they think is important.

Sellers don’t need to know how long you’ve been in business, how many employees or offices you have, or in what trade associations you’re a member. Sellers don’t care that you won a bid calling contest in 2007 or won some advertising awards (they’ve never heard of) in 2012. Sellers rarely care how many sales reps you have or how much combined experience they hold. Outside of institutional sellers, your prospect base doesn’t care in how many states you have licenses.

Sellers want to know you’ll get them the best deal possible.

It’s not enough to tell them you get stuff sold. Few of your prospects would be surprised auctions end in transactions. What they doubt is that sellers get the good end of the deal.

Americans see house flippers buy houses at a bargain on TV. Many hear about companies going bankrupt and banks trying to get what they can. They know that car dealers make money off cars they buy at auction. I’ve even seen an ad claiming that its readers could “Buy at auction prices!” So, “SOLD!” doesn’t mean as much as you think it does.

Sellers want as many of the following as possible.

Most Cash

Bottom line. Will you net them a bigger payday? Can you show comparable sales from other marketing methods or a track record of surpassing assessed value? I’m not talking guarantees—just a pattern of strong prices. You don’t have to offer a buyout, either. The number one obstacle you’ll have to overcome is the fire sale perception of auctions. If you can’t prove that you reliably achieve market value for your assets, (1) don’t use clichés that imply that you do; and (2) emphasize one of the other two selling points.

Sellers want fast cash

Fastest Cash

Auctions are not always or necessarily the fastest way to get money for their assets. In a world with Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Ebay’s Buy It Now, an auction can seem like too long to wait. In real estate markets like mine, where sellers get multiple offers within 24 hours of listing, it can be hard for sellers to forego the bird in the hand for the two in the bush. If your past sellers go on record about the speed of their closing or if you have statistical evidence of your quick turns, leverage that. Otherwise, emphasize one of the remaining two selling points.

Sellers want easiest cash

Easiest Cash

Consumers (including your sellers) are willing to part with money if it means less pain or inconvenience. They probably don’t know that they want or need is an auction. They just want a solution. Short, topical testimonials typically work best, if this is your best selling point. Be careful on the length, since the American adult attention span has weakened now to less than that of a goldfish. No, really. That’s what social scientists have found in clinical studies.

If you talk abut the auction method or “accelerated marketing,” do so only in context of how it generates the kind(s) of money they seek. If you can’t prove that you can provide more money, faster money, and/or easier money, don’t waste your hard-earned dollars on company promotion. Instead, spend your institutional advertising budget to beef up your auctions’ asset advertising to look better than your competition’s campaigns—and let potential sellers make their own assumptions.

If you can prove any or all of the above, sell the heck out of them to people who look just like your past sellers. Don’t shoot one piece into the ether and wait for the Brinks truck. Create a systematic series of digital and/or print touches, and brand them with a consistent look and familiar message. If you come across as empathetic and competent, you’re more likely to grab the sellers everyone wants. That means you’ll get the deals that your competition inside and outside the auction industry won’t.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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162: 5 Ways Fiduciary Responsibility Guides Auction Advertising

I touch only one part of the auction process: the advertising campaign. So, I’m not someone to consult regarding human resources, bidding software, legal technicalities, facility selection, or bid calling techniques.

I used to think that terms like “fiduciary responsibility” belonged to the part of the auction process that happen away from my office. I know better now.

Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute posted this summary of fiduciary responsibility:

“A fiduciary duty is a legal duty to act solely in another party’s interests. Parties owing this duty are called fiduciaries. The individuals to whom they owe a duty are called principals. Fiduciaries may not profit from their relationship with their principals unless they have the principals’ express informed consent. They also have a duty to avoid any conflicts of interest between themselves and their principals or between their principals and the fiduciaries’ other clients. A fiduciary duty is the strictest duty of care recognized by the US legal system.”

In the auction business, this duty means that we exclusively attempt to achieve the highest possible sale price for our sellers’ assets or at least the highest net financial gain for them. Some auctioneers might assert that this responsibility would also include doing all of the above in the shortest time possible.

Fiduciary duty doesn’t run on altruism, and that’s okay. The higher the asset selling price, the more commission auctioneers typically make. Almost everyone in our culture understands that both the asset owners and the commissioned sales representatives benefit from transactions.

This responsibility influences a lot of the advertising choices that auctioneers make every week. Budgeting decisions, media choices, and even design order can determine whether we as marketers are holding up our end of the fiduciary duty deal.

Pursue the right bidders, not necessarily the most bidders.

In the world of auctions, “something for everyone” probably isn’t even true; but it definitely should’t be the clarion call in our advertising. Getting a lot of spectators or even bidders should not be the goal of our advertising. The goal should be to entice the most motivated buyers. It can be more expensive to chase the most qualified and best-matched buyers, but it’s in our sellers’ best interest for us to take that approach.

Sell our sellers’ assets, not our events.

Does our advertising sell our auction or its assets? A good way to tell where your emphasis lies is by what is mentioned first, most, or largest. It’s not 50/50, either. In the vast majority of situations, the asset should cover far more space in an advertisement than content related to the event. We’re trying to sell the asset. In most cases, consumers will participate in our event only if they want the assets in it.

Sell our sellers’ asset, not our brand or marketplace.

If our logo is at the top of our advertising, we’re putting our needs and wants ahead of our duty to our sellers. When an ad from Amazon or other online retailer shows up in our browser margin, its content is dominated by the asset (or asset category) for sale and not by its source. All these retailers using tracking pixels know you’ll click the link only if you want what’s in the picture or headline—neither of which typically include the name of the store.

Make it as easy as possible for buyers to buy.

The easier it is for buyers to bid, the more likely it is that they’ll bid and continue bidding. So, the easier we make it to bid, the more competition can happen; and the higher sale prices can go. It’s our responsibility as marketers to pursue the most diverse ways and the most convenient times for consumers to place bids—stopping just short of that pursuit encroaching on our sellers’ bottom lines. All auctioneers should be moving toward enabling bids to be placed immediately after a consumer sees an ad, even if it’s just a pre-bid. “Buy now” and “bid now” prove to be powerful calls to action, especially in social media.

Leverage the most effective and efficient advertising possible.

Unless an auction company is using the advertising budget as a secondary revenue stream, our goals typically align pretty easily with our sellers’ hopes on this one. The challenge comes in knowing the best places to advertise as well as the best content to use for various asset categories. We should be constantly experimenting with a portion of our advertising budgets, and explaining to our sellers that this is a “paying forward” strategy that costs all sellers but also benefits all sellers. We should also be consistently measuring and recording the results of both our proven techniques and our experiments to know what is most efficient. It’s a never-ending process, as the media and cultural landscapes continually change.

Whether “fiduciary duty” can be found in our auction contract or not, it is always in our best interest to conduct business as if it is. That decision filter will lead us to make decisions that may not be easy but will be the right thing to do. Some of those decisions will be in our marketing plan.

Stock image purchase from iStockPhoto.com
Editing assistance by Gillian Zimmerman.

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120: Ask 4 Questions to Get More Sellers

Every once in a while, an auctioneer will ask me how to grow their business. What they’re really asking is, “How do I find more sellers?”

I usually answer this question quickly. “Where do you get your current sellers?” That’s the first of multiple questions I’ll ask, as I try to wrap my head around their situation.

My clients tend to be residual accounts; and it’s fairly easy to discover who hires me and why. Most auctioneers, though, have to be finding new sellers constantly, as few of their sellers are repeat clients.

Asking enough questions and asking the right questions will take a lot of the guesswork out of the prospecting process. Some of these questions you can answer on your own after some personal reflection or staff conversations. Some of these questions, though, will require you to interview your past and current sellers. All of these questions will give you insight into how to most efficiently maintain and even grow your client base.

QUESTION 1: What are the common denominators of my current sellers—especially the ones that drive the most efficient and/or largest-transaction revenue?

The answer could be professional occupations, demographic similarities, or organizational affiliations. Maybe it’s situational realities—financial, relational, or transactional positions your sellers are typically facing.

QUESTION 2: Where would I find more people with the same common denominator?

Sometimes this is a geographic area which you can saturate. Other times, it might be a trade group, a publication audience, or specific website traffic. It might be social events, volunteer organizations, or collector clubs. It could even be referral agents—the people who are consistently recommending your solutions to their connections.

QUESTION 3: Why were those sellers selling?

Typically, not everyone in that prospect group is selling their assets. Something motivates your sellers to move from the kinetic value of ownership to cash in their hands. What is that? There are typically one or two reasons that each seller puts an asset or group of assets on the market; and they vary from seller to seller. If you query enough sellers, though, you can start to see common themes in the triggers, motives, or situations that lead to selling. These trends will tell you what solutions the marketplace is craving. If you’re smart, they will also guide your brand’s value proposition(s).

QUESTION 4: Why did those sellers hire me?

Don’t guess at this. Don’t assume you or your employees know. Ask your previous sellers. Again, listen to reoccurring similarities. These answers, combined with your learned value proposition(s) from the previous question, will give you your brand message. The nature of seller responses will also let you know what kind of supporting content will best convey that message. Examples of these include the following: promise or guarantee, stats and info graphics, testimonials, relational empathy, financial incentive, and creativity.

Armed with this collected data, you will be able to specialize—to concentrate your efforts where you get the most bang for the buck. Specialists typically generate more efficient and predictable income, too. Knowing the answers to these questions will let you spend less money in unproductive media or social initiatives—even if your perceived competition has a big presence in them. You’ll waste less time and energy convincing people to hire you, because you’ll be more likely to speak to the heart of a seller’s concerns or goals. And, more than likely, you’ll notice a higher conversion rate in your seller presentations.

Don’t take it from me. Take it from the people answering these questions.

Taking It Personally

I have never taken a psychology or counseling class. I don’t like confrontation and awkward relational conversations—let alone with people who aren’t related to me. Since moving into leadership positions at my church, though, I’ve been dropped into uncomfortable situations on a regular basis—times when I don’t know what to say and when I don’t know if silence is the best response.

One of the things I’ve learned to do is ask questions.

  • “Help me understand: so, what does that look like?”
  • “What do your conversations with God look like right now?”
  • “What would it look like for you to feel this situation is resolved?”
  • “What is a small first step you can make in that direction?”
  • “What does your [love interest, family member, or mentor] say about this?”
  • “How can we as a [ministry environment] make this easier for you?”

The answers to these questions help me know if I need to refer them to someone with special training or similar experience. If I can remember Scripture that speaks to the situation, the answers help me narrow my personal database of memorized Bible passages to share. In the least, it gives me a better idea what to pray—which is often the only thing I know to do.

I don’t know all the questions to ask, let alone all the answers. Thankfully, I know the One who does.

Stock photo purchased from iStockPhoto.com

119: There Is No Routine Auction

Hospital Billboards

Do you see any parallel headlines to our auction industry headlines?

Over the course of three days, I happened to drive through West Virginia twice. Both times, I was captivated by a short headline on two hospital billboards on I-64.

“There is no routine cancer.”

Often, hospitals tell you that they’re rated in the top ten in the country for a particular disease center or that they perform [insert number] of a certain procedure per year. Or they wrap some cliché in a font that appeals to AARP members.

But this hospital gets it. They know that a person with cancer doesn’t want to be another notch on an oncologist’s belt. My friends and family who’ve battled cancer definitely didn’t want to be a statistic. On the other end of a biopsy, the patient needs assurance of getting the best medical care possible. They’re looking for signs of two things: expertise and empathy. “There is no routine cancer” communicates the care part of the equation. That message gives the impression that medical professionals will fight to save their lives.

The same desire is true for a large portion of auction sellers—at least those with assets big enough to warrant a proposal or earn a company brochure. They want to know the auction marketer pitching to them will understand their situation, study their asset, and create a custom plan to make the best outcome possible. They want to hear, “There is no routine auction.”

Despite this, auctioneers tend to spend the majority of their pitch on what they tell every seller: “Look at my resumé; I’ve won some accolades and earned some designations. We sell lots of stuff like yours. Auctions are the best.” Most of the company brochures I’ve read express little empathy. Property analysis is usually one of the shortest sections of proposals—if it’s even in there. I’ve seen more market analysis from one meeting with my old REALTOR® than I’ve seen in probably 99% of the seller presentations that I’ve been asked to design.

The good news is that you can be the exception to that rule, and exceptional can give you a competitive advantage.

You can still leverage your experience and accomplishments. They just have to be framed within the context of the seller’s benefit. How does your bid calling competition win benefit them? What did you learn at CAI or CES that you can use for this auction? How do those marketing awards translate into better advertising for the campaign at hand? Your time as a leader in an association gave you what insight that you can implement for the challenge of this sale? How do all those years in the business make you worth that commission number they’re skipping through the proposal to find?

I got this wrong for most of my career. I stacked my plaques and auction folders to impress potential clients. I still do. It’s a hard default to reset.

I’m working toward bringing those into context with a different message: “working with assets and winning for auctioneers all over the country has given me insight that might help you.” Hopefully, I’ve given enough information away in emails & on phone calls, in blog posts & on seminar screens to let people know that I’m trying to bring them on that same learning, growing journey—even when I resort to my stats.

How ‘bout you? How could you bring empathy and customization into your presentations? What content do you need to add or emphasize, cut or edit?
[tip]

A woman named Janet walked up to me after a Bible study and told me that years ago her first impression of our church was me greeting her and her husband at their car and walking them into the building. She hadn’t expected that at a church of over 3,000 people. Now, she and Randy are in environments that challenge their faith; and it started with a small gesture to make them feel comfortable and welcomed in a nervous moment.

That story and longer ones have been told multiple times about multiple people on our parking team. Some of the stories give me goose bumps. I like to tell and retell them—especially to my team mates. “What we do here matters! Our impact will never be fully known. Keep your eyes open.”

The gradual compilation of those moments makes you aware of other potential moments. The more you put yourself in another’s glasses, the easier it becomes to see out of yours.

Someday, I hope to bring the empathy to my office that I bring to my church’s asphalt.

[footer] Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com. Billboard images obtained from Google Images.[/footer]

106: 4 Things Every Business Proposal Should Say

Even if you haven’t watched reality television or romantic comedy movies, you know some of the standard visual and verbal ingredients of a marriage proposal. There’s a guy (or sometimes a gal) on one knee. At some point, he goes through an awkward narrative around the following four basic points:

1.    “I love you.”
2.    “I want to spend my life with you.”
3.    “I got you this ring.” [usually non-verbally communicated]
4.    “Will you marry me?”

Image Used With Permission Through Purchase From iStockPhoto.comThese steps prove so common, they smell of cliche; but there aren’t too many ways around that outline. That’s just how marriage proposals work.

Believe it or not, those same four steps work well for business proposals, especially auction proposals to sellers.

“I love you.
“
Translation: “I value what you bring to this relationship.”


Sellers know we want a commission and that we wouldn’t be offering our services without a price tag. What they’re hoping is that we care about their assets—and not just another pay check—and that we’ll handle their sale with the care we would give our own sale.

One way to communicate this is to discuss the attributes of their assets that will interest buyers—what makes them unique or valuable. Follow this with explaining what part of your plan is connected to these attributes. Here are some examples:

“Due to the location of your property, signs will be more critical to the advertising campaign than our typical campaign. We recommend spending a higher percentage of the budget on banners that cover your building to attract attention.”

“Because of how new your restaurant equipment is, we will reach out to our list of restaurant chain developers in addition to our recent bidder lists of three similar Outback restaurant auctions that we held last year.”

“Not all auctions are newsworthy; but with your recent interstate PowerBall win and now famous tweet about your move to a private island, the human interest part of this auction’s story can be leveraged for maximum exposure. We’re going to bring in a public relations consultant to help us craft a press release that will attract members of the media.”

“I want to spend my life with you.” 

Translation: “This could be an ongoing, mutually-beneficial reality.”


Clients, like spouses, crave long-term security. Sellers want to know that we’ll stay attentive to their project amidst our others during the marketing campaign—especially for absolute/no-reserve auctions.

Put them at ease by describing all the expectations to which your willing to be held. Show them a detailed timeline of what you’ll do and when. Note when or how often you’ll communicate with them about market response and the progress of the campaign. Explain specific actions you’ll take to make their situation less stressful, less complicated, or less prolonged.

Empathy is huge for trust. That means letting people know that we realize that this is their treasured collection, their lifetime achievement, or their financial security that’s at stake. Each situation will determine what is professionally appropriate to say; and this doesn’t have to be a verbose section of a proposal, but intentionally moving into this perspective for even one sentence can be enough to separate ourselves from the competition.

“I got you this ring.” 

Translation: “Here’s my indicative deposit on good things to come.”


I remember a dude in college going room to room in our dorm building, asking for donations to help him buy a $500 engagement ring. He must have gotten enough donations. She said, “Yes,” and he’s still married to her more than a decade later; but it wasn’t the ring that sold her on life with him. Sometimes, we get the auction in spite of the proposal instead of because of it.

If our proposals look like cheap and easy templates—especially Word documents with a few variable data mentions bolded like a mail merge letter—we communicate to sellers that they are just a number, a transaction, another notch on our belts. The amount of time and effort and even financial investment our proposal connotes (whether real or assumed) reflects on the level of individuality, creativity, and professionalism we’ll bring to marketing their assets.

One sentence that regularly makes its way into my clients’ proposals reads something along the lines of, “We hope this proposal illustrates our level of commitment not only to book your auction but also to get you the most bidders and highest sale proceeds possible for your asset.” Would you be confident enough to make that statement in your cover letter?

“Will you marry me?”

Translation: “Does this look like a good deal to you?”


A difficult reality of business proposals is that we’re asking a seller to marry us on a first, second, or even blind date. Because a history with us can’t inform the future with us, we need to build the case that it will be a good deal. By using graphs of past results, samples of advertising from similar auctions, and pull quotes from people in their shoes you’ve served in the past, you can establish a track record that casts for them a vision for the future.

Unlike a résumé, though, this all needs to be framed by their benefit. Only a fool would drop to his knee and tell his girlfriend, “I was voted ‘Least Likely to Divorce’ in high school. I graduated from college with both academic and humanitarian honors and got the lone internship offered by Mark Zuckerburg this year. I have written over 450 love letters in my dating career and have attended the Certified Lover Institute. I’m a member of the National Association of Romantic Beaus. You can trust your married life in my hands.”

How many times do auction proposals read like that?

If we talk about what we bring to the table, we need to do so in a way that gives them more confidence than it gives us. For instance: “Our membership in [national franchise/alliance/affiliate network] connects us with more industrial real estate investors and the collaboration of multiple auctioneers who have sold paper production plants like yours.” Or: “Our hundreds of state and national marketing awards mean that our sellers get the best advertising available. We want our clients not only to get the biggest-possible settlement checks but also to be proud of how their assets are shown to their peers and the general public.”

Yes, all of this means more work; but that extra work on this end might just be the difference between you getting the work on the other end of the proposal.
[tip]
Throughout the Bible’s newer testament, Christians are told that we will some day marry Jesus and be his bride.  As a dude, that’s still weird to me. At the same time, it’s utterly humbling.

The bride is supposed to be the beautiful half of the wedding and the ensuing marriage. Jesus, our promised groom, lived a perfect life, a selfless existence. He did more good than any human will ever replicate.  Everything about him is beautiful. Nobody can even aspire to the beauty of his soul, the transformative gaze of his eyes, the gentle healing of his touch.

Contrastingly, we smell of unfaithfulness. We have been muddied by sin and disfigured by guilt. Our teeth are decayed by gorging ourselves on the delicacies of selfishness. We walk our life journey with a limp.

Still he loves us. He wants us. He cherishes us. He’s preparing a wedding even David Tutera can’t imagine and then an eternal honeymoon in a magical city on the other side of the universe. And he invites all of us through an eternal proposal into his mercy, grace, and redemptive power.

I don’t deserve it, and I definitely don’t understand it. But, man, am I grateful for it!

[footer]Image used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com.[/footer]

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89: The Ebay Rule for Advertising Estates

Pederson Estate

It might sound macabre, but one of the least volatile segments of the auction industry seems to estate liquidations.  I can’t imagine how awkward it must be for auctioneers to advertise and sell estate liquidation services, as family emotions and situations are bigger than the inanimate balance sheets that drive many of other auction segments.

So, I understand when an auctioneer tries to honor their sellers and/or their loved ones by headlining their advertising with “The Estate of John & Jane Doe.”

I get the request for such on a regular basis by well-meaning auctioneers, and I usually push back against the request.  It’s not that I don’t want to honor lives with well-earned legacies.  It’s not that I don’t understand that my design fees and the cost of the media I’m designing are paid by the sweat of their lifetimes.

It’s just that I’m paid to design the most effective media possible.

Krause CatalogSee, we only get a few seconds to land our marketing message; and that means we have to put information in the order of importance to the buyer—not the seller.  Unless who owned the property is more important than what the property is, the seller’s name shouldn’t be the headline.  If we give consumers information they don’t care about at the outset, we’re wasting their time and squandering precious chances that they’ll keep reading.

I call it “the Ebay rule for advertising estates.”  It works like this: if you were to list what you’re selling on Ebay [or Google or Amazon, etc.], what would be your headline?

If you’re selling a car from Jay Leno’s garage, you leverage his fame in the headline.  If you’re selling the typewriter that Edward R. Murrow used to write his news briefs, you lead with his name.  If you’re selling the garage tools for a beloved, local high school English teacher, you headline the line of matching DeWalt equipment.

“Well, this isn’t an auction the whole country would care about,” or “This guy was well known in his community,” you might retort.  If that’s the case, the local community probably already knows about their passing.  If not, a retrospective press release might be a gracious gesture and even an effective marketing tool to increase interest in your ensuing auction.

Yes: a previous owner’s reputation can influence the price items bring.  And this important moment in their legacy deserves to be recognized—just not headlined in the advertising.  My clients often include pictures of their sellers, regularly with kind words about their contribution to the community and the care of their belongings.  You should consider doing the same, when space and budget allow.

Fellows PostcardOne exception to “the Ebay rule for advertising estates” that I’ve learned to appreciate is the person with niche notoriety—typically a well-known collector.  I’ve worked for an auctioneer marketing a multi-million-dollar automotive collection [not an estate] from the founder of car and collecting magazines.  I’ve recently helped two auction companies jointly auction literally almost an entire town, owned by a family known for almost a century for the unique inventory of their multiple specialty warehouses.  (The auction companies even brought in historians to have displays on site at the three-day auction to answer questions and relay the rich history not eh auction block.)  I’ve assisted an auctioneer selling a mass of very specific estate items from a philanthropist known for his collection of hunting and fishing items.  At all of these auctions, people showed up in droves to purchase something that had higher value because of the reputation of the seller.

If your audience would investigate a collection because of who owned it, by all means use the seller’s popularity to their advantage.  But if the seller isn’t the selling point, stick to the facts important to the buyers in your advertising headlines.

Taking It Personally

I play basketball at the YMCA for 60 to 90 minutes just about every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—and have for the past three years.  I love it, even though I’m frustratingly not as good as my height should allow.  I still haven’t learned the pick and roll; I struggle to know when to help on defense and when to stick with my defensive assignment.  Embarrassingly, my layup percentage is probably in the same ballpark as Shaq’s free-throw efficiency.

Jesus couldn’t trust me with athletic talent.  I would’ve been a punk.

That’s why I have a great respect for Christian athletes who have received more than their fair share of dexterity, strength, and speed—and handled it with grace, humility, and candor.  I particularly applaud the star athletes of the I Am Second campaign.  They are actually leveraging their sports accomplishments for the One who made them possible.

I aspire to follow in Colt McCoy’s example with the modicum of talent I have with my words and my business.  I would love to leverage my accomplishment for the kingdom.  This section of my AdverRyting posts is just a small step in that direction.

What could you be doing to leverage your strengths for the One who gave them to you?

Stock image of menu image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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