In a couple of weeks, you can learn how to negotiate with an auctioneer in this live Easy First Auctions course. But before starting your negotiation, you’ve got to select an auctioneer. This article examines one marketing tactic an auctioneer may use to sway your opinion.
Have you ever heard of any of the hubbub over truth-in-advertising cases?
There’s no shortage of stories. Taylor Swift’s Cover Girl ad was pulled when it became known that the mascara she was wearing really didn’t make her eyelashes look like the photo. H&M was slammed for putting real model heads on fake computer-generated bodies. Naked Juice, Reebok, Splenda … there are many examples.
So what about truth-in-advertising in the benefit auction world? Do you think there are ways I can sound impressive as an auctioneer when maybe … I’m not?
Of course there are.
A few years ago, I was at an educational session attended by a number of auctioneers who either worked benefit auctions or wanted to work them. One marketing suggestion was to state how much money an auctioneer has helped charities raise.
Do you know what I mean? For example, the auctioneer’s website might say “proud to have helped charities raise over $10 million dollars.” Something like that.
“Wow,” you think, “$10 million.”
But what does that number mean? How was it determined?
As I listened to our class, I learned that methods for “counting dollars” varied.
- Some determine their number by adding the total amount raised from every event they’ve ever worked. If a gala advertises that it raised $500,000, the auctioneer takes credit for the full $500,000.
- A handful of other auctioneers count the total earned from the items they sold.
That can be a big difference!
For instance, my largest client raised ~$2 million at its gala. Of that, ~$415,000 was auction-related revenue (~$315k from the live auction; ~$100k from the silent).
That’s three different numbers I might use:
- $2 million
If I wanted an impressive number, I’d add the $2 million to my total number raised for charity.
And if I wanted to be more specific, I’d only include the auction revenue (or even just the live auction revenue) from the gala.
Do you see as how a larger number might be more easily created to sound impressive? It might sway prospects to buy.
My advice is to focus instead on referrals. What other events has the auctioneer worked that are most like your own event?
For instance, when I worked at GE and hired vendors as part of my event management position, I wanted to know about the other similar events the vendor had worked.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I’d think, “So you worked at the White House. My event isn’t even close to being like a White House event. I want to hear about other corporate events you’ve worked.”
I preferred to work with vendors who could provide references that most closely mimicked my own situation. A corporate holiday party, for instance. Or a corporate sales management meeting.
A vendor could drop impressive names like “the White House,” but I was most interested in hearing about other clients like me.
When chatting with your auctioneer, be savvy. Any vendor can drop impressive numbers, but you might not fully understand how those numbers were calculated.
My suggestion is to form your opinions about the benefit auctioneer after visiting with other groups holding events similar to yours.
What do you think?
Leave your comment below.
Larry Snyder says
You’re spot on Sherry. Referrals from not only similar sized events but also from an audience member. Although most event planners want to hear from a peer, it’s been productive for me to share the comments of an attendee when possible. I admire your thoughtful writing. I hope 2014 is all you wish it to be.
Sherry Truhlar says
Larry, I totally agree with you. Offhand I’d say that at least half of the testimonials that show up in my sidebars and on this page are from attendees — not clients. The attendees are the ones donating; they are the ones forced to “sit through” the performance of whichever auctioneer the nonprofit opts to hire.
I’ve had many, many audience members (and I’m sure you have, too,) say, “Boy, it sure was nice to have you on that stage! Last year the auctioneer was (fill in the blank).” I just wish the nonprofits themselves would always hear the guests share that with me.