It’s a provocative title, n’est-ce pas?
But as we are nearing Valentine’s Day, it is oh-so-appropriate for us to be frank about this subject.
Here’s a dirty little secret: As you’re calling different auctioneers, trying to find one for your benefit auction, you should know that most of them are secretly hoping for a one-night stand with you.
In and out.
Perform, collect the check, and leave.
These types of benefit auctioneers are not seeking a long-term relationship. They hope that you’ll book them for that one glorious night, and require nothing more than that they be onsite for a big performance so they can “do their thing.”
And for next year?
“Sure, darlin’. Call me. Same time and place.”
For these auctioneers, your gala is just another night. If you let him (and “him” can just as easily be “her”), he’ll show up 30 minutes before he’s required to work the live auction.
Or if he’s got nothing else going on, he’ll come in during your silent auction to ogle your guests.
At a training, one auctioneer explained how it was done. “My record is conducting five auctions in one Saturday. We made the timing just right so I could arrive for the live auction and move on to the next.”
(Beat your chest and listen to Tarzan yell here.)
He might even make a few announcements, if you tell him to. But don’t bother him too much with such petty things. He needs to save his energy for his show.
You think I’m joking about this.
Benefit auctions have traditionally been the step-child of the auction industry.
Auctioneers viewed them as something that required little effort on their part because those people (i.e. you and your bidders) were uneducated about auctions.
And historically, an auctioneer was paid (or donated his time) to use his brawn (his voice). Not his brain.
He wasn’t prepared to TEACH you about how to conduct a better auction because – hey, it’s JUST a benefit auction.
He was participating for the show … the bid calling.
If he was lucky, he might book a “real” auction – a commercial auction – from his performance.
Case in point, when I attended auction school in 2003, a number of instructors advocated selling at benefit auctions as a way to improve personal skills.
“Use them as practice auctions,” we were told, “You can develop your confidence on the microphone.”
In other words, the auction you’ve spent 6 months planning wasn’t perceived as terribly important.
It’s a chance for the auctioneer to practice for a “real” auction.
Now beyond this belief that benefit auctions are merely meant to develop one’s personal skills, there is this issue regarding a transfer of knowledge.
Because benefit auctions aren’t run like commercial auctions, most auctioneers have nothing to teach you anyway.
The auctioneer doesn’t have time to understand the nuances of your event or teach you how to improve. He’s too busy selling antiques, real estate, storage units, and cattle.
One auctioneer explained he shares a standard 60 webinar to “train” his clients.
“If it works for THAT gal,” the thinking goes, “it’ll work for HER, too.”
(Because we women all have the same needs…)
Actually, it could even be worse.
You might ask his advice on some element prior to the auction … something that could profoundly impact your event’s profitability … and he might make up an answer in his efforts to be helpful.
(I won’t name names…)
Truth be told, he’s never stopped to think about why a raffle widely succeeded in Kentucky but bombed at a gala in Minnesota.
He’s never pondered how to re-design a silent auction bid sheet to generate higher sales.
And giving you packaging advice in the silent auction? Honey, he’s got a different definition entirely for the word “package.”
Not. His. Thing.
Again, he doesn’t want you to use him for his advice (his brains).
He wants you to use him for his body … his voice … his bid calling.
For him, this arrangement is much easier. Teaching the “how-to” part of a gala requires time and commitment. His work isn’t to educate you; his work is to PERFORM.
This is what I call a one-night stand.
There’s no thought and little planning on his part. He inks it on his calendar and shows up.
Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.
So as I wrap this up, let me be clear: WHATEVER your preference, there’s no judgment coming from me!
Depending on what stage of life you’re enjoying with your auction right now, you might prefer his one-night stand approach.
If so, have fun! Enjoy the ride. Figure out how to run a benefit auction yourself and live with the consequences.
But if you’re ready for something more meaningful that allows you to GROW your auction with thought and consideration, don’t be so quick to jump in and out of bed with these guys.
Look for an auctioneer with some depth. Invest some time.
Some auctioneers have more to offer than just rapid-fire mouth skills.
Graham Crow says
I ask all potential clients to contact my current clients and ask, “Did he help you more than simply the night of the auction?” I feel the actual night of the auction is “game time” but, in order to be successful,you need to put in the necessary preparation the weeks and months leading up to the event. One other thing, I never agree to do an auction unless I truly beleive in the cause. I won’t ask someone to donate his/her money to something I don’t beleive in and wouldn’t support myself. A good benefit auctioneer not only does the event, but becomes involved with the organization in some level.
Sherry Truhlar says
Thanks for sharing, Graham! I can see as why it’s important for some auctioneers to personally believe in the cause.
Personally, I can’t say that I always “believe in the cause,” but I do believe in the people. Case in point, I’m not Catholic, but I work dozens of galas each year to promote a Catholic education … and a Jewish education … or a Mormon faith … or conservative ideas… or liberal ones. Instead, I’d say that I believe in supporting Auction Chairs who have the gumption to make a difference in something they personally believe in.
I enjoy helping passionate people, so I’m less concerned about whether I personally believe in their chosen causes. I’m more of a “live and let live” gal. But I can see as where your point might be important to some.