The hammer diaries #2
It’s a paradox that the most important decisions of our lives are made in the heat of the moment. Yet one man who really lives and breathes the emotion of inner-city exchanges is Gavin Croft, of BresicWhitney Auctions. This month in the Hammer Diaries, Gavin takes us deep inside the auction room, to look at the way people bid to buy houses. We explore some key archetypes and examine how a good auctioneer stimulates the flow.
Archetypes exist in fairytales, just like they do on racetracks and in Sydney auction rooms – I see them every week. But what’s the true psychology of auctions? Does the underdog really come out swinging when backed into a corner? Do hot-headed males dominate the race? To my mind, there are two ways people bid; with strategy or with emotion.
I’ve learned to put most weight in someone’s body language. A person’s tone of voice and how they display emotion is absolutely key to understanding where they’re at.
At auctions I see three main archetypes. There’s always the Favourite; the Pedigree, and the Challenger.
Let me explain. The Favourite is typically the wife; the Queen, the perfectionist, the financé or the precious prince. They’re highly strung, emotional and prone to high blood pressure. Yes of course, it’s a generalisation, but it’s true of men and women.
Then there’s the Pedigree. This horse has a good trainer and a few recent wins. They use strategy. They play to win. It could be a successful stock broker, a tradie, a shrewd salesman or a self-made millionaire. They are focused and serious. Buyer’s agents fall into this category.
Finally there’s the Underdog. They’re rational, but highly motivated. They’ve got a bit of a chip on their shoulder and might take the form of a wise old owl, a ‘blow in’ from the country, the newly minted single mum or a recently retired couple. This dark horse provides an ‘unknown’ factor in the race.
So who wins?
Well, it pays to remember one thing. Many bidders who come into an auction with a plan, abandon logic in the heat of the moment! This is because, what unites us all, is the strong desire NOT to lose. Regret is real. And regret is an emotion buyers have to deal with all the time. Typically bidders start with a top price in mind, but when he or she becomes the highest bidder, there is an “endowment effect”.
Yes, it’s the males who tend to take the paddle to place the bids, but as an auctioneer, I sense it’s the woman who almost always allows the man to bid to a spoken level. Once again, it’s there in the body language. I will take bids from the man, but will often direct any comments to the woman.
Auctions unfold like a 15 minute story. I set the scene and let the competing characters do the rest. The narrative pulls in vibrant elements such as competition, emotion, hope, greed, tension and ego to control the flow. But it’s competition that brings out the best in people.
And the rhythm and momentum is crucial. When I speak of the rhythm, I’m talking about patter and language. The patter’s function is to orchestrate the rhythm, and the words I speak to the players are designed to jostle competing parties into position. I conduct proceedings, help to fire things up when they slow down and, mostly, get to illuminate the risk of losing!