By Bob Morrell on September 3, 2018

If you’ve never spent a day at an auction, you should. It’s a lesson in the art of selling at speed. As an observer, you witness real personality and versatility in the auctioneers and their teams.

Raj is a well-known TV auctioneer and presenter and runs our local auction house. To watch him in action for an hour behind the desk with his gavel, is like watching a well-rehearsed performance.

The secret of auctions is to remain enthusiastic about all of the lots, regardless of their quality or provenance. Additionally it’s about timing, measuring the time between considering a bid, or making one, wondering if someone is going to tip their head, or raise their hand, or shake their head in refusal.


As each lot comes up the image appears on the screen, the brief description is read out, and then before bidding commences the auctioneer has the chance for a one or two liner about the item.

‘Nice clean piece, this.’ ‘Lovely little thing.’ ‘Great quality and workmanship.’ ‘Unusual and collectible’ ‘very popular at the moment’ ‘I’ve had a look at this myself and…’ ‘Lots of interest in this and I must start the bidding at…’


So if we accept that 6 things persuade us to buy, here he’s using scarcity (buy it or miss out) expertise, consistency (never letting the bidding drag on) likeability (humour) social proof (knowledge about popularity or trends). The 6th is reciprocity – what is the auctioneer giving us? Enthusiasm – and feeling that even if we’re not interested someone else definitely is. Also they’re giving you FUN. It’s fun to bid on something, and even more fun to get it. It feels better that selecting something in a shop – it’s a more positive and public buying experience – you feel part of the performance.


It’s possible to fall into habits as auctioneers – for one of them, a few too many of the items were ‘nice and clean’ – and at the same time they’re also astute enough to know that with some items a single nod may be enough – no point in lingering. Of course, they benefit from the fact that most have had a look online or at the brochure in advance and have some idea what they’re interested in. But they make their money on those of us who see something come up that we, on the spur of the moment, fancy buying.  


So your task, should you choose to accept it is this:


Look at what you’re selling – if you had a few seconds to describe it, what would you say to make someone interested?

If someone was bidding for your product, what would be your estimate, and who could you see, competing for what you have?

And if that were the case, how high do you think they’d go?