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?

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]

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