Getting to know your client

Auction professionals can take steps to turn a regular client into a long-lasting one.

By Emma Dougherty, NAA Content Developer

How do auction professionals get to know their clients?

“Each prospect is like a Rubik’s cube and each one of them you have to solve,” says Dean Crownover, BAS. As Auctioneers, we must figure out what our clients true needs are and come up with solutions to solve those.”

Auction professionals have to understand that clients may be stressed and have a lot on the line. Because of that, it is the auction professional’s job to make this transition as seamless as possible for their clients. This means more than just raising the most money possible. It means making moving on easy through solving problems even they can’t verbalize. Do that, and you stand a good chance of developing a lifelong client.

Your client: It all starts with communication
Learning how to communicate with a client can completely change how they work with you.

The number one way to solve a problem is to listen, and there are several deeper ways to do so other than just “not talking.”

– Listen first and then talk.

– Don’t listen just to respond, listen to understand.

– As you hear information, reiterate what they just said.

– Ask questions based on what they say.

– Take notes to show you are paying full attention.

– Listening doesn’t have to be just verbal, either.

Find out what works best for your client, whether it be positive language, humor, in-person or written correspondence, or collateral materials. From the very first exchange, you have to listen and respond in a way that connects with each client. As you listen and/or read, and you begin to understand the core challenges or issues your client faces, address the problems they share and show what services or products you have that could help solve those problems.

Let’s look at several communication methods and how this applies:

Your client: In-person or on the phone communication
At the first point of communication, always identify yourself. Answer phones with your name, or if you’re in person, introduce yourself with a firm handshake and leave them with a business card.

Speak in a pleasant and upbeat tone when talking to clients and take the time to know your client’s name. When interacting, don’t try to multitask while trying to listen. Instead, take notes to show that you are paying attention and care about what they have to say.             `

When it’s your turn to talk, keep it under 45 seconds so you don’t dominate the conversation. Why is that important? Remember, this is about the client, not you.

Your client: Written correspondence
During written correspondence, always use proper English. Also, keep messages short in length and easy to read. If you think that your message seems too long, it’s probably a better idea to call.

If you miss an attempted contact, always respond within 12 hours. (Also, always remember to thank your clients with notes, small gifts, etc., after the auction in order to continue the relationship.)

Your client: Collateral materials
Never assume that clients understand your jargon or business.

“Twenty-five percent of the people you will work with don’t know how auctions work,” Crownover says.

To avoid information falling through the gaps or miscommunications, provide clients with easy-to-follow collateral materials that will help them gain an understanding of the industry.

Build a basic guidebook for your clients to refer to throughout their business with you. This is an easy way to communicate things such as client lists, statistics on the state of your business, how you work, referral lists, and basic auction information.

When dealing with a client who has little to no knowledge about auctions, be patient and never be condescending or judgmental. Being sincere about teaching your clients and helping them through the process with help ensure a long professional relationship.

Find areas of commonality with the prospect and learn about them and their industry as well. Survey your clients on what they want to get out of this relationship, so you can best support them. Just like personal relationships, communication and understanding of each other is key to the success of this business relationship.

This article was an excerpt from a presentation given at the 2018 NAA International Auctioneers Conference and Show. Want even more tips regarding this topic? NAA members can access the full audio of this presentation and many others in the NAA Knowledge Center.