So I’m at the gym working out one morning. This guy is staring at me. Mid 50’s, semi stocky build, thick arms with deep hair growth, tattoo on one shoulder, and tree trunk legs. His hands are calloused and his skin had a sheen like well worn leather. I’m thinking at first it’s just me but there is no doubt after a while the guy is staring. I finally walk over to him and say,

“Hi, I’m Pat, I don’t think we’ve met.”

“I know who you are!” He blasts back, “My wife spent $1100 more than we were going to because of you – you are really good at what you do you bastard!”

At first I’m thinking, OK if he hits me in the face I can’t do next week’s auction. It’s hard to sell when guests are looking at a swollen lip and a broken nose, so I should probably cover my face and hope he goes for the body. He smiles at me after he sees me stress. Whew!

That was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received in my career. I don’t remember his wife or what the item was but I will tell you how that ends up happening. In auctioneering split second decisions can make the sale higher. In those flash moments of impulse bidding a vision can entice a guest to cross their self-imposed limits.

I learned this at auctioneering school. Early on I knew, as did my peers, I was going to be a career auctioneer. I was good at filling the flash moments. Everyone has flash moments. It’s the few seconds at the register looking really quick at the candy bar. All you see is the candy bar. Think, for a moment, about what you don’t see. The wrapper and colors are all designed to be appealing. It’s the first assault upon your mind with pictures of chocolate and caramel. The pictures are deliberately displayed to project an image of the creamy feel and rich velvety texture of sweet chocolate which you remember the last time you had one.

What Snickers and Reese’s pieces are hoping to do is bring back memories which then give you an emotional feeling which bypasses reason. That’s it! A flash moment is when you’re immersed in the euphoria of feelings and you buy it. Emotion will prevail over reason every time. That’s been proven over and over. You don’t need that candy bar. It doesn’t contribute to your health, it adds weight you don’t need, but it tastes and feels good. Bam! Flash moment!

The candy bars are strategically positioned to be reachable by kids and for you to make a quick grab. Advertisers spend millions trying to figure out how to get you to think yes when your body and wallet say no. We use the same strategy at an auction.

Commandment #1

Everything can be purchased with a bidding number. That’s our guest’s credit card. They don’t have to think, or reason, or EVER pull out money to do something. All they need is a card or to remember their number. Both husband and wife get their own card. They both must have the ability to have a flash moment with me filling in the gaps without needing to ask the other for the bidding card. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost the sale when the husband sits on the card or the wife is looking for him to get the card. Create an easy flash moment.

Commandment #2

Bid boards are marvelous tools. You have your silent items on the tables during the preliminary part of the auction, but higher valued items and donated services go on a bid board. People walk around with the bid board and all your guests have to do is sign their number to the space. I have the ability to talk up the bid boards and put time pressure on and people in a flash moment buy.

Wine can be sold that way. Floating bid boards are terrific and the more you train your volunteers on the gentle art of vision when selling the items on the bid board the better.

Commandment #3

Vision – I’ve got bidders fighting for the trip to Hawaii. We’re now at the threshold point where the money is hitting where they want to stop. Vision is the power to lean into the undecided bidder and say,

If you can imagine getting out of this cold and rain here in Washington and sitting on a powder sugar, sandy beach.  You are sipping a foo foo coconut concoction with an umbrella that isn’t keeping the rain off your head and you are realizing that as you’re here basking in the sun the money that you spend will further cancer research – isn’t that worth putting your hand up and saying, Yes I believe, I believe! And raising your card one more time and Aloha! – grass skirts and roasted pig here we come!

It doesn’t always work. But I know of at least one guy who wasn’t happy with me! Vision is filling the gaps during a flash moment. So to you, the auction committee how does this all relate? It relates in some very vital ways.

Put your committee together and start with a vision. Close your eyes and see the night. See the guests. Look in detail at the silent auction tables. What colors are the balloons that make the tables easily different? See the space between the items. See the elegant baskets wrapped in cellophane, the art pieces, the flowers and aromas of anticipation. See in your mind how you want them to appeal like a candy bar to our guests.

Who are the people walking around with your bid boards? Can they fill in the flash moments? Are they friendly and smiling, and can they connect with people? See the colors of the table cloths, the rich reddish hue of the sirloin steaks, the sweet waft of salmon and asparagus, the deep sultry red Cabernet’s (or the light airy gold of  Martinelli’s to my Christian School friends…amen!), the laughter and diaphanous gowns, the diamond encrusted ladies. Do you see the black ties and handsome men, the excitement, the glitz and glimmer, bling and things that are all happening at once? Close your eyes and see it before we create it. Vision must precede execution.

And in that moment – that precious flash moment when you are seeing it in your mind and the colors, aroma’s, sights and sounds become so vivid you get excited! Right then honey we’re in business. It’s at that moment our auction becomes a success! We’re going to build a legacy for years to come that will support so many people because of your power to see it before anyone else did.

I want someone else to call me a bastard when we’re done!

Love ya,


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