Jennifer E Kent talks with Dene Tucker, Director, RE/MAX Auction Services
Having worked in real estate for over 28 years, Dene Tucker’s knowledge of all things auctions is invaluable. While Dene’s expertise extends beyond auctions, it is his passion that has led him to excel as an auctioneer and become a leader, mentoring up-and-coming auctioneers through his advanced training courses. Along the way Dene has collected many awards including state and national auctioneering championship titles. The down-to-earth and humorous Dene sat down to discuss the notion of what makes an auctioneer. Is it something they are born with; and what exactly is ‘it’?
JEK: ‘It’ can be many different things. Just as no two auctions are the same, no two auctioneers are the same. In your experience Dene, have you found there are certain characteristics that make for a great auctioneer?
Absolutely. First and foremost you need to be able to laugh at yourself, and let go of any ego.
The way in which you speak to others and connect with people is important.
Having personality is a given, but the fast-paced nature of auctions requires an ability to think on your feet and be quick-witted.
It is important to understand that there needs to be a balance in order to be successful. That balance is having a hunger for the deal and a genuine advocacy for the seller.
JEK: How do these characteristics differ to ‘learned skills’ when it comes to auction?
In the art of the auction there are two main skills – the theatre of auction (that is the process of the auction itself) and strong negotiation skills. These are both learned skills and a strong auctioneer must have the ability to ensure they complement each other.
Experience takes time, but understanding the process of an auction and learning from mentors and others’ experiences is incredibly valuable.
JEK: There is more to being an auctioneer than just calling an auction. Aside from the auction itself, what does an auctioneer’s responsibilities involve?
A good auctioneer doesn’t just turn up the day of the auction. Communication with the marketing agent and vendor throughout the property’s marketing campaign is paramount. Establishing this relationship from the beginning, and being available throughout the campaign, including having a presence at the reserve/strategy meeting and through to the auction itself, is important. On the day of auction, being approachable and mingling with buyers to get to know their motivations prior to auction start will prove valuable.
JEK: Again, aside from the auction itself, how important is the relationship between the auctioneer, the vendor and the buyer?
It’s important that an auctioneer gets to the buyer’s level fast. This comes from understanding their motivation to buy, resulting in confidence for both buyer and seller at auction.
Maintaining these relationships is incredibly important. From a seller’s perspective, having communication throughout the auction process, in particular throughout the auction call, is vital.
JEK: How does calling an auction resemble the notion of theatre?
A common misconception with auctions is that it is ‘all for show’. Granted, it is theatre – with the auctioneer taking centre stage – but there’s nothing smoke and mirrors about it. Quite the opposite actually, and it is the auctioneer’s responsibility to ensure transparency throughout the whole process. There’s no time to sit on the fence with an auction so the auctioneer needs to be clear in their direction while engaging and interacting directly with buyers.
For some, being able to read an audience comes naturally. In fact, there is a skill behind it and it is a highly valuable skill to possess. Understanding and being conscious of body language and eye movement will help in understanding when to push and when to back off. Being able to connect with the buyers is important.
JEK: How do you think people’s personalities play a part; and do you need to have a ‘big’ personality to become a successful auctioneer?
There is no doubt that a person’s personality plays a part; but in saying that, there is no one type of personality that best suits the profession of auctioneer. For some, when calling an auction, a certain persona comes out – almost an ‘alter ego’ in some cases. People are drawn to charismatic people. Whether that comes naturally to them or is part of their stage persona, having a strong stage presence and delivering with confidence will undoubtedly lead to a stronger engagement with the crowd/buyers.
A fine example of how different personalities can be successful in auctioneering was put on show when Paul Gaffney, Greg Mulvihill and Yianni Mooney were the finalists in the annual RE/MAX Australia awards, with Paul ultimately taking the 2018 RE/MAX Australia Auctioneer of the Year title. Dene mentored all three professionals through his auctioneer training program.
JEK: You have worked with all three finalists through your Art of Auctioneering course. How did you find working with them?
They are all great to work with, and individually interesting. Greg, who is the auction rookie, has a strong presence and is right at home on stage. Yianni started his real estate traineeship at 15 while at high school and became a licensed auctioneer at 19 years. And Paul creates a big presence on stage, which I think is often underestimated.
They couldn’t be more different personality-wise, each with their own strengths. They all are very skilled and do a fantastic job. All three are a great example that different personalities, with different traits, can become successful in the profession.
What they do have in common, which is paramount to the success of any auctioneer, is that they are all passionate about calling auctions. It is a large part of what individually gives them such a presence up there, and why people are drawn to them.
JEK: With your auctioneer training designed to advance the professional skillset, what would be your advice for someone interested in becoming an auctioneer?
The same advice I would give a client who is buying or selling. Make sure you experience the auction process first-hand (i.e. for the agent, list and sell a number of properties as auctions and if possible, have your own home sold at auction). Listen to other’s experiences and attend as many auctions as possible to get a feel for them. And completely understand and trust the auction process.