It Starts with a Handshake

Originally published in the 2012 Winter issue of the MN Auctioneer magazine.

As many a marketing industry professional can tell you, it is often the little things that can make a sale. This technique is the same for the auction industry as well. Great marketing can be splashy billboards, fancy websites and great brochure design, but it can also be as important as a simple handshake or word of mouth. EVERYTHING you do to promote yourself including introducing yourself to someone else when you meet them is part of how you market yourself and your company.

At the end of September I had the opportunity to attend the Benefit Auction Summit in Denver Colorado. As in past years, this seminar brought together some of the top benefit auctioneers in the country to discuss and share great ideas and learn new techniques. The two day seminar dug deep into a variety of topics and the networking was second to none.

During one of the seminars the speaker, a professional event planner/coordinator, spoke on why her clients and other nonprofits hire professional benefit auctioneers. Sometimes the answers surprised us and other times they did not, but one piece of knowledge became abundantly clear. People outside the NAA have never heard of the “Benefit Auctioneer Specialist” designation. Nonprofit clients don’t realize there is a difference between two benefit auctioneers if one has “BAS” behind their name.

This revelation got me thinking. The NAA has many wonderful designations that include, CAI, AARE, GPPA, BAS, ATS, CES, but clients outside the NAA don’t know or even care what they mean. If we are honest with ourselves, many of us as MSAA members don’t even know what all those designations mean or why we should get them, do we? The same could be said for the initials MSAA.

As a past president, the MSAA initials mean a great deal to me, but I can’t expect a prospective client to care what they mean. That client is coming to me in need of my skills and service, not because they like to hire members of professional organizations. By this point you are probably wondering what all this has to do with marketing. If you take a minute to put yourself in the shoes of your possible client you may be able to see it.

Using an event planner for a possible benefit auction as an example, I may see the initials CSEP behind their name. Does that mean anything to you? Probably not, but to them is means a great deal. CSEP stands for Certified Special Events Planner. To be certified you have study and take a $600 exam that is only available 4 times a year. Plus there are a great number of fees and study/exam instruction as well. I think it is safe to say that someone with the initials CSEP behind their name, is a professional and knows how to plan events.

Instead of trying to sell a client on how great your certifications, are talk to them about how well you are able to work with THEM, a certified professional. That type of homework can go a long way to opening doors with prospective clients.

Imagine if someone came up to you and said, “I see you are a member of the Minnesota State Auctioneers Association. That’s wonderful, I am looking for an auctioneer who is connected with their industry through education and professional networking.” Not only would I meet that person for lunch to talk about their possible auction, but I would probably pick up the tab as well.

All of this is part of marketing yourself. It can take a little time and preparation, but it will pay off in the end. Incidentally, it only took me 3 minutes on Google to do all the research I needed regarding the CSEP certification. The time you spend preparing to meet a possible client is time you will be thankful for on the day of your auction!