So I’ve been thinking – I do that between commercials. What are the most valuable experiences I can give you, the reader that will help you build a beautiful auction? There are several principles I could tell you. Here’s a few.
TO MY BACKSTAGE PEEPS
You are the quiet, unsung, uncelebrated, and under valued treasure of an auction. You may not say much, you may not be up front, but your work and efforts are so important. You are the clerks, the organizers; you catalogue, categorize, and catapult the abstract into concrete. You hang the decorations, sweep the floors, position the lights, set up the bars, decorate the tables, place the centerpieces, make the calls, add the items, arrange the meetings, print the programs, display the products, project the images, coordinate the speakers, wear the bid boards, pull the bid sheets, and every other minor major detail required to run an auction.
I love you quiet people! I want to marry you! If you’re female, and single, and you like crunchy peanut butter because I think creamy peanut butter is a sin punishable by denied food and isolation in a Russian gulag with Rosie O’Donnell for six months but that’s another article.
Without you we’re dead. You watch and listen. You pay attention to details that greatly matter at an auction and I am so grateful for you. Your boldness is silent and superb. You have a supportive strength that we could not live without. I want you to know you are the most important and we salute you tonight!
To those who have the temerity to dream and be outspoken in public places this is for you! You are the ones who dare to act, take the risks, and empower us! To those who get up every morning when the sun still sleeps and the alarm clock still snoozes, there is victory! To those who shut down the voices of the cynics and turn up the volume of their souls, I am ready to work with you! To those who beckon to hear the clarion call for excellence when you’re name is on the project, there is opportunity! To the bold you will rule!
The bold build beautiful! Bold people broach a crazy idea and ask “why not?” Bold people are not easily embarrassed because they believe in themselves more than others opinion. Bold people are ready to try something different. Auction chairs who lead auction committees that are allowed to say, “Tell me why we can’t try this before you tell me why it can’t work.” are the lifeblood of society. Your group will benefit more from a fearless leader than from a feckless one.
Burlington Meals on Wheels program is bold. Jackie and her crew have never done an auction before. They are going first class and want to start small but stellar in this first attempt because they love the elderly people they serve. They know raising more money means they can give more love to their clients. She emailed me and said, “Pat we want to try this because not trying would leave us all wondering what we could have achieved together.” I am honored to be their auctioneer.
Hospice of the Northwest is bold. Elma Johnston who is 80 years old baked a blackberry pie and asked me to sell it for her at their auction. She said it would probably be the last one she ever does and they got $1000 last year with a different auctioneer. I stiffened my backbone, clenched my teeth, looked that iron matriarch right in the eyes and said, “I’ll do better Elma.” I walked out onto the floor, looked at three hundred beautifully dressed people and thought, “I got a big mouth – why don’t I think before I say things.”
I was shaking I was so stressed. I looked over at Elma who was looking at me with a “you’ll do just fine Pat or I’ll shoot you dead” look. I started the bidding at $1000 and there wasn’t a sound in the room. It was like I was a beef salesman at a vegan convention. The place was one thick slab of silence. Then we got a bid at $1000 and the place applauded. Inching up by $100 increments I then hear, “$2000!” We sold that pie for $2000!
Skip and Annette Hawk, who are gifts to Hospice, bought it. The entire room thundered. They got a standing ovation for their generosity. They ended up in the newspaper and I still get asked if the story is true that I sold a pie for $2000. Elma just informed me that because her pies are that good she’s baking her reunion tour pie for this year’s auction. I’m nervous being her auctioneer.
People respond when they know you’re taking a risk and putting it out there. Fortune favors the bold, and auctions love the bold. Be creative, be visionary, and be uninhibited in your ideas and creative in your thoughts. Lead your committee to dream vividly and watch the impossible happen. That’s the power of leaping and allowing everyone to help you land. Never be afraid, never give up, never give in, and believe!
So I’m in the middle of this auction and one of the items is this guy who is willing to come to your business or high school and do a motivational speech. His presentation is about his life and how he overcame these huge obstacles. He seems like a nice guy as he’s there at the auction that night. He’s got stage presence and he talks well.
The item comes up for bid – no takers. He stands up, does a quick rah rah about how this will profoundly move your organization, and then sits down. I put it up for bid again – nada. I pass it and move on to the next item. I watch him stomp out of the room.
I’m guessing he’s mad that no one wanted to buy his service. I’m guessing he thinks these people don’t know what they’ve lost and he may actually be right. He is angry because he thinks he’s a gifted speaker with a great message and these people don’t appreciate what he has to offer. To prove that he’s right he leaves to find others who will appreciate him.
So my question is where are you going to go? If these people don’t want to buy your service the chances are pretty good no one else will either. If they chose not to buy you there, then there is one of two choices you have to make here. You can choose to be angry at them for being such a stupid bunch, OR you can ask yourself WHY didn’t they buy you?
There are reasons for everything and if you honestly pursue the truth you’ll learn. What you learn is valuable and you will be more successful in the future because of this temporary failure. Too often I see people just walk out and dismiss the failure as, the economy, the date, the location, or whatever other excuses you want to make to make yourself feel better.
Here’s what I was thinking when he left. He might be a really good speaker but this floor doesn’t know him. They aren’t familiar with his style or his methods. If he was really lousy, or unpredictable I’m fairly certain the committee would have never let him get on the auction block – so his no bid item wasn’t because of incompetence it was a lack of persistence. Here was the real irony of the night.
I was considered one of the top students in my auction class. My class thought if anyone would become a career auctioneer it was me. I knew I had a gift for auctioneering the moment I was fumbling through the chanting process and trying to sell something… That same auction that he walked out of – I was doing for free. I wasn’t charging them because I wanted to get in the door. I wanted them to know me with the hope they would hire me back. They did. It’s not that I’m incompetent; it’s that I’m unknown and persistence is the answer to that.
Reputation and momentum are two of the most important pieces in the success puzzle. As people get to know you, like you, and remember you favorably, they hire you back. If you’re just starting they don’t know you yet. There is a lot of begging, calling, and not giving up. There are hours of selling and persuading people to attend and support this great cause. It’s all about persistence when you’re starting out to build an auction.
To those who are persistent and hold onto the vision in their heads instead of the apathy in their eyes they will succeed. Once people have experienced you, been inspired by you, and felt good about you, they’ll come back. They’ll contribute, they’ll support and they’ll be excited when they know you and have heard and seen you. It’s persistence in the beginning, momentum after that.
I’ve worked a lot of free auctions. They’re now clients. You’re going to have to work very hard in the beginning, but nothing can replace what a good auction can do for morale. High morale is money! Persistence is sending out personal cards to key couples, phone calls, emails, smoke signals, whatever it takes. Smiling when they tell you this is going to fail, thanking them for hanging in there. Begging for their donations to the auction is almost a given in the first two years. Learn to be polite and cordial and then ask again, call again, start again but never give up, let up, or shut up till you’ve looked up to God and thanked Him afterwards for seeing this through.
Love you guys!