[silence from 00:00:40 to 00:00:50] this afternoon and as you are listening today, please feel to send questions our way via the chat box right there on your screen.
We’ll both see those and we’ll be able to answer just as many questions as we can before the 2:00 Eastern hour. So don’t be shy at all. We’ll get to as many questions as we can. So I’m going to go ahead and introduce our guest: Sherry Truhlar. She is from Red Apple Auctions. Hey there, Sherry, how’s it going?
Sherry Truhlar: I’m fine, thank you for having me.
Steven Shattuck: And this is fun for you to be on the video chat. We don’t usually this, but you were good to offer to do it. So good to see you, as well as, hear you. And I’m just going to break on Sherry for a little bit before we get to get started. Sherry works with a charity auctioneer and as an onstage auctioneer. She helps schools and nonprofits across the country plan more profitable benefit options.
In fact, her galas have raised anywhere between [silence from 00:01:45 to 00:01:50] 15, over a few million dollars she sold at events with crowds of over 1000 people. She’s also a prolific writer for her own blog and other fundraising sites. And her advice is tapped by thousands option planners seeking to improve their benefit auctions. And she’s been covered by Northern Virginia Magazine, Town & Country Magazine, and lots of other places.
So Sherry, this is really awesome to have you. I’m not going to take any more time away from you. Why don’t you go ahead and get us started.
Sherry Truhlar: All right, thank you so much, Steven. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome, thank you for coming out today and carving out an hour right here to improve your auction. It’s one of the areas of an auction gala that needs improvement in most cases. We’re going to cover some of that today and give you some real strategies that you can use to get [inaudible 00:02:40] on improving your return on investment. We’ll cover that in a second.
But I just wanted to say, you know, welcome to the silent auction strategies. If you’ve got questions and Steve already covered this, but I want to reemphasize it. I know that when I take webinars, I like to go ahead and ask the question when I remember it, because otherwise I will forget it.
So when you think of that question, if you want to pop it over there in the left-hand side, we’ll get through as many as we can regardless of whether there related to silent auctions strategies or not. We oftentimes that we think about an auction being just items that you’re selling, but the truth of the matter is, is that anymore, auction galas or fashion show auctions or golf tournament options, any event that’s got an auction component to it, they’ve got a lot of different components of it than just items.
You’re talking about funding needs and raffles and games it’s unbelievable, everything that’s being put into them now. So we’re going to go ahead and get started here. My understanding is that we’ve got in about an hour to go through the content, okay . . . Maybe Steve was breaking in there for a second.
Steven Shattuck: Yes, that is true.
Sherry Truhlar: Oh, okay, go ahead. What did you say?
Steven Shattuck: Yeah, that’s about right, about an hour, that’s right.
Sherry Truhlar: Okay, oh, okay, got it, got it. So a little bit of background on myself and some of you may be joining me from the Red Apple Auctions campus, other of you might have been over there yet, but I had started my life in the corporate world and before was working at my own company.
My most recent corporate position was working for General Capital Electric and I was doing their events. I was in the marketing department, eventually got moved into doing their corporate events, holiday parties, trade shows, management meetings, special incentive trips, the whole nine yards.
And I had a, I don’t know, I had an interest in learning how to do the fast talk that auctioneers [inaudible 00:04:23] which is called the chant.
I don’t know where this came from, but I was interested in that. So I did a Google search one day, lo and behold, I found out there are such a thing as auctioneer schools and, lo and behold, there is one called the Missouri Auction School that’s located in Kansas City.
Perfect, I thought, I am from Kansas originally, but I’ve got tons of friends living in Kansas City. I thought, I’m going to head back there, go to a week of auctioneering school, learn how to do the chant during the day, and at night I’m going to have drinks with my sorority sisters. I had the whole vacation planned out. Well, they don’t hold their training in Kansas City. They hold it in St. Louis.
So I spent a very cold March in St. Louis, learning about auctions and we had very many speakers come through, online stock, and auto auctions, and real estate auctions. And we had a gentleman come through and talk about benefit auctions and as he was talking, I thought, this guy knows a lot about auctions, but you know, he doesn’t necessarily know a lot about events. And that was something that I was entrenched in because of my position at GE.
When I came back to Virginia, I thought I would learn a little bit more, started to volunteer at a ton of different events. Usually you are put into the registration area or the procurement house, one of the two, when you are starting to volunteer like that. So I did a lot of that.
First thing I noticed is we have a lot of volunteers that are running benefit auctions. Now you may be a professional on the phone here today, but even if you are responsible for running your auction, I would be astounded if you didn’t have a committee that was helping you that were volunteer-based.
It, sort of, depends, some associations are little bit more different in that way, but boards of directors usually get involved. They tend to be volunteer driven. [inaudible 00:06:04] they’re passionate, but bless their hearts, they’re doing this once a year and they just, kind of, forget how to do things. And you can’t blame them, because if you are only doing something once a year, how can you get really good at it?
I always think back to being in 4-H when I was growing up and at that time I was an expert at baking bread because I had to bake bread all the time. I got a champion ribbon in a bread making, but I couldn’t make bread today if my life depended on it, because I’m not making it every day.
That’s, kind of, how auctions are. When you are doing them once a year, we tend to forget, well, did this work, or did it not work? Did it work because we had more people there or did it worked because we changed the items? Did it work because we had a different venue? It’s hard to understand why certain things are happening in your auction and that’s one of the things that I started to pull together for all these volunteers, were processes that would work.
So it’s flash forward nine years here to, kind of, make a short story long there, but to flash forward nine years here then with all of these processes and different things that I teach, it’s been really good. We’ve got a lot of publicity. I’ve been on a couple of television shows. One with Isaac Mizrahi, got some nice outfits out of that lady.
On the print side, I’ve been featured in a lot of different magazines. That was, kind of, highlighted by Steve. And now I’m doing about 50 options right now across the country from California to Texas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Florida, all on the East Coast and so forth.
What I teach in my classes [inaudible 00:07:34] everything works. People don’t change that much regardless of the states that you’re in. There are certain psychology that can be used to help boost your revenues and you’ll learn some of those today.
It’s my belief that any time you are having an auction, if that auction, whether it’s part of a fashion show or whether it’s part of a traditional sit-down dinner gala, whether it’s a chef tasting event, or a wine of . . . There’s three components that are going to go into making that event rock. It’s going to have to forecast item acquisition. That’s the first leg of my three legged stool analogy that I like to use.
Just like if you have a four, if you have a chair that’s got four legs, you can, kind of, balance on all three and make it work throughout the course of your dinner, but if you’ve got a three legged stool, by golly, all three legs need to support their weight.
Item acquisition is one of those three legs that needs to be strong. Looking in realms of this area, we’re looking at things like items should we get, what kinds of items should we get, who should we ask, how should we package things, does it make sense to put these two things together or should we keep them [inaudible 00:08:43] because we’ll make more money if we keep them separate.
Gosh, we’ve got this donation, should it be a raffle, should it be a silent, should it be something that we put into the live auction, how do I turn down items graciously, how do I get my boards focused on the stuff that I want to go get for our auction? All of those fall into item acquisition. The second leg of the three legged stool is audience development.
This is, at GE we used to say, “How to get your butts in the seat?” How do you get the right people there though for your auction, is a bit more critical, because you want people who have disposable income and who, if they’re not already passionate for the cause, can become passionate to the cause.
So when we look at topics in this realm, we’re looking at things like honorees. We’re looking at things like sponsorship programs and underwriting programs. I’ve got a client right now in Milwaukee. Their big thing is sponsorship. We are spending a lot of time talking about their sponsorship program, because that’s the area of growth for them.
We might be talking about seating charts, because I know you’re spending a lot of time on seating charts, if you doing a traditional sit-down dinner gala where people get to choose where they want to sit and so forth. We talked about changing the mindset so that instead of being in this mindset of I’m coming to get a deal which is incredibly prevalent at silent auctions, we change that to coming to support the cause. Those are audience development.
The third leg of the three legged stool which just blew right past us, we’re going to jump back up there. I don’t know what happened there. Why did that go so fast? Operations is the third leg of the three legged stool.
This is where we get into processes like registration and check out, technology, if you’re using any, sort of, technology whether that’s credit, at the very basic credit card swiping technology, to mobile bidding for instance. We talk about themes to core, how you are marketing your . . . All of that falls into operations and wouldn’t you know that today, most of the focus is right here. It’s in that marketing segment, drilled down, into the silent auction and specifically five key features.
I was up in Philadelphia, this is probably a couple of years ago, running and on-site workshop and before we got started with the content, we went around the room and asked people about their auction and what they were struggling with.
And this one woman said something that I’m going to share with you in a moment, but the obvious point in fact, maybe I want to, just ahead, I’ll go back. What she said is, “Every spend takes away from our bottom line.” And this is not the mindset that I encourage my auction chairs to have.
If you start to treat your gala like a business, you start to make investments here and expects payoffs. You start to run it like a store, like Macy’s is a store. You are going to have greater success. If your gala is a business, your silent auction is your high-end, not your high-end, it’s more of a traditional boutique.
So if you think about anything from a store that you like to shop in, ladies, a dress shop, it could be something as massive as Macy’s, or Lord and Taylor, or even Marcus, if you are, depending on where you like to shop.
But when you’re looking at those stores, there’s not much difference between you and them. You’ve got opening times, closing times, so do they. You’ve got items that you’ve got to sell, so do they. You’ve got to merchandise, so do they. You’ve got to figure out how to [inaudible 00:12:01] get credit cards and checks, so do they.
The big difference between you and them is that they’re open 364 days a year. You’re open one night for four hours. Even if you are using technology, maybe that’s two weeks out of the year. You can’t put things on sale, you’re not sending out coupons if something doesn’t sell.
So the way I see it, is your marketing needs to be extraordinary, because you’re expecting people to march into your store, buy everything above value, if possible, and leave all in one night.
So if we can borrow some of these marketing tactics from the corporate world, you’re going to see a lot more success. And you know what, they spend millions of dollars trying to figure out how to get people to buy more. All we need to do is steal a few of those and we’re going to start to see better gains at our silent auction.
This woman, as we are going around the room, had said everything we spend takes away from our bottom line, this is not a business mentality. As you start to make [inaudible 00:12:58] in your auction and you don’t see a payoffs, then don’t do it again. But if you see the payoff, that’s where you’re going to start to appreciate better returns. Case in point, this is Kathy Klotz [SP].
She is in a little, tiny, nonprofit in the southeast corner of Minnesota and Kathy, I swear, I believe it’s 18 years, they would make $3-$5000 in their little silent auction that they did every year. And she was getting frustrated, because after 18 years you’re thinking this was a lot of work for 3 to 5 grand.
So she went to her CEO, she said, “You know, I heard about this class that’s taking place on silent auctions. I’m really frustrated. I think that we could benefit from this.” She took the class. She’s done some other things. In two years, she went to over $41,000, for the first time ever they have a surplus in their scholarship program which is what they raise money for in their gala. Learned techniques in a little, tiny town that you have trouble finding in southeast Minnesota.
If you want to hear her case study, it’s about a 15 minute interview where I talked to her about what she did to make a difference, you can do that underneath the free resources tab on my website.
Second group, this particular one is a school. Usually we have some schools that dial in here as well. I see hands in here, thank you, Jared. Thanks for weighing in there.
This particular woman on the left, her name is Robin [SP]. Robin was an auction chair a couple of years ago. I started working with her at a smaller school in Richmond, Virginia. They have 130 girls, I think, that go to that school. My details might be a little off on that, but they may say it in the testimonial there. They have girls that are six, seven, and eighth grade.
For 10 years, they would do an auction and they would raise about $17-$19,000, in that realm. Robin is in there. She helps her husband in his business so she’s got a business mind. She’s like, “You know, this just seems like a lot of work for 17 to 19,000.” And she’s got such a nice, southern accent, because here in Virginia, the further south you go, you start to hear that nice drawl. She is like, “I just can’t believe we don’t make more than that.”
So she went online, she bought a book on benefit auctions. She read it cover to cover. She then went online, she saw that I happen to be speaking three hours away. She put her best friend Janie [SP] in the car. This is Janie over here on the right. Her best friend Janie in the car, they drove up and [inaudible 00:15:22].
On the way back, Janie said, “Well, Robin, what did you think?” And Robin said, “I’m going to make three big changes, because I see we need to improve.” First thing she did, she bought software to help registration and check out.
Second thing she said is, “We shouldn’t be doing a potluck dinner. I’m going to talk to somebody and see if we can do a proper sit-down dinner.”
And she says, “The third thing we’re going to do, is” . . . In that case, they were hiring an auctioneer. Janie said, “They’re never going to approve it and you’re never going to get approval for it.”
Well, she found a mom to be the caterer. She went and talked to the committee will approve the software. Robin ended up paying for me out of her own pocket.
At the end of the night, they hit $68,000. It was a $50,000 gain after 10 years of making $17-$19,000. And if you go online to this particular link down here, you’ll get to be able to hear Robin talk about that. You’ll hear her best friend, Janie.
And this woman raised here, bless her heart, she was one of the people who said, “We should not be spending money on our auction.” It’s a mindset shift. It’s perhaps the biggest shift that I’m going to share with you today. It’s changing your mindset, but if you make the smart investments, it will come back to you.
So what are the smart investments? There’s five that I’m going to share with you today. There are many others that you can employ, but the truth of the matter is that at least, if you can get started I feel you’ll start to figure out what’s going to work best for you.
Silent auctions nationally are making 50-65 percent return, meaning that for every dollar donation that’s given to you, you are turning it around on the table and making $.50-$.65. That’s horrible.
I think that’s a pathetic return, but if you start to employ some of these techniques and others, you can start to get that up. I’ve got a couple of clients who make 100 plus in their silent auction. That means they get something donated that’s worth 40 bucks, they’re able to turn that around and they make more than $40 in the end result.
So if you can start to get better returns on the same donations, my gosh, it’s less work for you and you’re making more for your nonprofit.
So as we look at sound here, we’ve got, let’s think like a business. Do stores use sound? Heck, yes, stores use sound. I was just doing this, talking about this concept somewhere else, I’m like, “Does Kmart you sound?” I grew up in the ’80s. Kmart was very big on Blue-Light specials, Attention Kmart Shoppers. It was a very well-known phrase.
Well, let me give you an example that’s a bit more current here at Safeway which is the big supermarket chain in my area. I live in the Washington, DC, metro area. Safeway does a special on Thursday nights.
They have $5 meatloaf and on Friday nights they do $5 rotisserie chicken which, normally, at Safeway is like nine bucks. So that’s a good deal.
So I’m going down through the deli department on a Friday night and there’s a few rotisserie chickens sitting over there and I see the sign. The Friday special is $5. I’m like, “Ooh, that’s a good deal.” So I take one of those and I put that into my car and I continue moving.
The deli manager gets on the mic and he’s like, “Attention Safeway shoppers, this is Jason in the deli department. We have five rotisserie chickens left over here in the deli department. Take home a hot meal today. Five dollars instead of nine, come on over, only five are left.”
Pushing my card around the end cap and I am almost mowed over by a 30-something year old guy who heard the announcement and he’s coming over to get one of those five rotisserie chickens that’s left. That’s how sound can sell.
So what are you doing in your silent auction to ensure that people know where the deals are, that they know where the specials are? And by specials, I mean, whatever’s not bid on yet.
So this is how you can start to promote that. We look here in one of the, this is one of the auctions I did. I think this is up in Pennsylvania actually. It was in Pennsylvania. There are overhead speakers up here that you can see and I get a close-up of it down here. Those do not work for a silent auction.
The fact is, is that in a hotel sound systems are meant to be used for when a group is quiet. Right? If you think about, I don’t have a glass up here, but if you think about during a wedding toast, everybody goes, “Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.” And then there’s supposed to kiss the bride or they’re “Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.” And then they go ahead and [inaudible 00:19:55] about the bride and the groom and wishing them well. Everybody gets quiet.
Or if you’re having a business meeting their, everybody gets quiet because you’re having to listen to the speaker. Auctions aren’t like that; auctions are more like a comedy club where people are heckling. I mean, that’s a better feel for what it auction’s like.
Your volume is considerably different than on something like a hotel sound system. I was able to participate in a seminar where we had a speaker from a top-notch sound company. They make speakers. They produce speakers. He came in and he said, “The speakers we produce for hotels are not near the quality of something that we would produce for something that’s like for an auction [inaudible 00:20:35] or something like that.”
He said, “The hotels aren’t worried about it because they know if anybody is going to be relying heavily on sound, they’ll bring in their own sound system. The stuff that we install into hotels, yeah, you don’t want to use that for an auction.” This is the guy from the company who produces the speakers.
So hotel sound systems aren’t going to cut it. What I’m going to encourage you to do instead is used something like this. We call these speakers on sticks because they are on a stick. That’s about a 7 foot high speaker there and you can see there’s one there. We have one there. We have one there. We have another one down there.
And that, my friends, is half the option. We have a whole line of speakers, because we’ve got a big silent auction that we are promoting. I’m on the microphone and I’m saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, come on down the Sports Arena. Come to Sports Arena. We’ve got three tickets down here to the baseball game that’s a deal at $400 right now. Or we’ve got the golf course. You can get access here at the golf course that you’d never be able to get onto.
Here is a member of congressional, my gosh, that . . .” Well, at any rate, you are promoting. It could even be that you are promoting the raffle. If you’ve got a raffle, if you’ve got a game, anything that needs to be pushed, that’s what you’re putting over the sound system.
If you’re selling 10 items in your silent auction, I probably wouldn’t go to the trouble of putting a sound system in something like this. If you’re all in the same space anyway, heck yeah, you need to be promoting that stuff. It’s not going to sell itself.
There is a sound system console for the silent auction. This is a parish. If you look back here, there is a speaker and over here off the screen is another one that you cannot see. And then if we go to the front of the room, lookie there, aren’t those beauties right there on a stick about 7 feet tall that project. We love to project.
We love to say it’s multi-store sound. You’ve got speakers in each corner of the room projecting inward, not too big speakers at the front that are just blasting the heck out of everybody and hoping those, that in the back, can hear. Meanwhile, the people at the front are now deaf.
No, we’re doing around the sound, this multi-source of sound around the room so everybody can hear comfortably and articulation is not a problem from the auctioneer’s standpoint. People will not bid unless they can understand what’s going on.
Here we have got, oh that’s another shot from the speakers. Here is Buell speakers. If you’re an event planner who really likes to have attractive speakers and you’re like, “Oh, those black things.” They’re on the stands, they’re so ugly, I don’t want them.
Check around, they’ve got AV companies, this guy works a lot in the museums here in Washington, DC. They are gorgeous. You can see why he’s made an investment in some attractive speakers. They use him at the museum, smart man.
If you’re in a [inaudible 00:23:33], right up there, baby, there they are. In fact, we’ve added another two speakers up there. If you’ve got a tent that doesn’t have a wall, see how this doesn’t have a wall here, if it’s sideless, you’re going to have a greater problem getting that sound distributed than if they have sides.
Sound contains better, in this case, it tends estate underneath it. Number two, we have the right lighting. I’m going to answer some of these questions over here.
Number two is the right lighting. So do stores used [inaudible 00:24:09] the right lighting to sell things? Yeah, I think they do.
What I did to show you an example of what I’m talking about is I went down, this is in a neighborhood near me, this was after hours as you can see, stores are starting to close. How do we know that? Because if I look here, do you think this store is open? No, it’s dark, no enter going on. It’s dead.
What about over here? No, nothing going on. But look over here, light, people, activity, so in our silent auction, do we want to have it romantic and dark or do we want to have light and energy? We want lights and energy. That’s the hint. So let’s go ahead and make sure that our silent auctions look bright. This is an example of a silent auction in, I don’t know, maybe 1776, pre-Revolutionary war days. This is how we did silent auctions.
Why it’s happening nowadays at the Four Seasons Hotel? I don’t know. [Silence from 00:25:06 to 00:25:11] Read those descriptions that you’ve put on the table. So candlelight doesn’t cut it. Bad. How about this? [Inaudible 00:25:27]
Here’s the story on this. We have a hospice group. Do you see this back here? This was their most expensive item in the silent auction. It was a fur coat. It was tucked back there in the corner.
Now, at the time that this was shot, you know I get there a couple of hours before the guests arrive, so this is probably around 4:00 before the guests got there. It’s still light. Light is coming in, but as it’s going to get darker throughout the evening, the only like they were going to use were these sconces.
Now, not all, but many will set it up so that there is an auction chair. The auction chair’s responsibility is to get items. The gala chairs’ responsibility is to get bodies in the room, so the gala [inaudible 00:26:10] overarching responsibility for the event, her focus is people. And then the auction chair is, capped really for her connection in getting stuff.
So I’m sitting there with the auction chair, I said, “Well, you know, it looks beautiful, it really looks beautiful, Trudy [SP]. You’ve done a nice job out here.” And she says, “Yeah, you know though, the gala chair said that she didn’t want it to be all bright in here, because it would be uncomfortable and she was to create this nice environment.
So she said she’s only wanting us to use the sconces back here and she says, you know, I just think it’s, kind of, dark, because when that light goes down, when the sun sets, it’s going to be hard to see and I’m not sure people are even going to be able to see that coat back there.”
She says, “What do you think?” I said, “I don’t know, I thought we were here to raise money.” And she looked and she said, “We are here to raise money.” And she stomped right off and three minutes later, whish, the lights came on. We had light in the silent auction all night. And I will tell you that that coat did sell. So that is an example of the auction chair and the gala chair, kind of, having it out there, but rightfully so.
So what happens if you’re in a situation and you’re trying to figure out here, where to, what’s going to happen when the sun goes down? This is a terminal. You can see the planes are out here taking off and landing. It’s going to get dark. So they put in canned light. These canned lights then shine down on the tables.
Here’s a school in a gymnasium. Those of you that are school participating today and you have a gymnasium auction, you know that these lights are nightmares to work with. They take a long time to warm up. They were doing an astronaut theme. They wanted to have constellations on the ceiling. They didn’t want to have the lights on. But what are you going to do when you’ve got all these fabulous going to sell? You’ve got to do something.
So they put in the canned lights. There you see one of those right down, they are shining down on all of the displays. They also have these, these all caps. The lights, they attach to a ball cap, so that way someone can read something without having to, like, hold the flashlight.
We bought a bunch of these and clamp them down on their outer space type the core. They also then invested in these which are little lights. They bought these online somewhere. They share these with another school, so they use them for their gala and then they box them up and take them over to another school who uses them for their gala. But it’s just additional lighting on that silent auction table to highlight and make sure people could see. Good ideas.
Number three is adequate space. See that we’ve got a lot of people here that are weighing in. I appreciate you saying where you’re from. That’s, kind of, helpful because it’s not easy for us to see it offhand when we’re glancing over there. I just want to see if there’s anything that came in that I should answer now. Lots of people.
Okay, Gail [SP] asked the question. She said, “When you say return on a donation, are you talking about the amount the item is worth and the price it sold or overall, the percentage of what is spent on auction items and what is made?”
Gail, I’m talking about for individual ROI and that’s a good question we want to clear up. If somebody donated an item to you worth $100, and you take [silence from 00:29:34 to 00:29:39] that [inaudible 00:29:40] but they are telling you that the fair market value is $100.
Maybe it’s Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse has donated, so when you turn around and sell that in your auction, what are you getting for that? Are you getting 50 bucks, 75? Are you getting full value? Are you selling a $100? Maybe you are selling it [inaudible 00:30:01]
That’s where I was saying earlier, I’ve got a couple of clients who do better. They’ll get a donation. They turn it into more money than what the guy told them it was worth to begin with.
Most groups though, nationally, in their silent auction are making 50 to 65%, so when they’re given a donation that’s worth $1000, they’re usually making $500-$650 on that donation. So if we want to move the needle in your auction, how can we start moving that needle?
You could, theoretically, have the same 100 items in your silent auction and start to make more money on each of those, even the number of items in your auction, just by doing a better job of marketing them and selling them for more money. You are making more money, you’re raising more money, because you’re selling them for more, you’re selling them for more.
So, hopefully, that cleared it up. If it didn’t, go back down there, posted again, and say, “I’m even more confused and you need to explain this again.” Okay? I think everybody else is, kind of, talking about, kind of, jumping in and, kind of, introducing still. Okay, yes. All right, let’s carry on.
Adequate space is number three. In our culture, and I spent some time in Canada, not a lot, but I will assume that it’s, kind of, the same, we often times have Canadians on these calls as well, but certainly in the United States, we have a certain mindset of how we are approaching our buying. How we’re marketed to, how businesses show us and present us items.
If it’s cheap, there’s not a lot of effort put into the display. If it’s expensive, there is. Case in point, I went down to Target. I took a photograph of underwear. This is five pairs of panties for $20. See how they are displayed, we throw them on the rack, it’s not a big deal, get down on there.
In contrast, Nordstrom’s, for those of you who are not familiar, Nordstrom’s is a little bit nicer department store, not the same as Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman Marcus, but kind of, better than Macy’s. So at Nordstrom’s the underwear is hanging up and the price is different, three for $45. We start to see this whole metric even in our underwear.
So what do we think what happens to our buyers when they walk into this? When they walk into a silent auction that looks like this, have they been conditioned that this is cheap? Or that this is expensive? I’m going to argue that’s cheap. This is a place to get a deal. We don’t need to spend a lot of money here. Look at everything they’ve got; my gosh, we can just go ahead and get all kinds of stuff for dirt cheap. It’s a garage sale.
That’s the mentality, look at all that. I’d be willing to bet, too, if we went back and did the numbers which we didn’t so I don’t have it, I’m just hypothesizing here, but I’d be willing to bet that on this first row here, on this first row I’d be willing to bet the ROI was higher than on the second row.
Because people just get overwhelmed, so they’ll start paying attention to what’s close to them and they, kind of, ignore the rest. Not cool. This is not what we want.
Look at this. Seriously, ladies, when’s the last time you had 8 1/2 inches, is that right? 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, yeah, look at that. Can you stand there side-by-side with someone else and look at this and read these carefully? No, this is five for $20 underwear right here that were looking at.
Now, in contrast, we start to see some space. It’s like were walking into Tiffany’s and the bracelet that’s $40,000 is on a pedestal and the light is shining down on it. That’s what we start to see here. So we have what, one, two, three items per eight-foot table, nice big displays, beautiful.
Check this one out. Looking pretty good too. I see the table here; it looks like they’ve got to items on that table. Looks like one, two, three, four, they’re averaging about three items per eight-foot table as well. Showing some space, allowing people to come up and look at the things. Spend some time.
This one’s nice too, looking good. These are those skinny tables; they look like they are, maybe, 12 tables. Nice.
Change number four is props. You want guests to be able to experience the item here.
You want them to be able to taste it, touch it, to smell it, the more you can get experiential, the better it’s going to sell. Pulsed through though, before you buy, you get to try. They’ve got samples out there, the apple strudel. I feel like I’m in Costco or Walmart, you know, they’re handing out the samples. Here, give it a shot.
Here we’ve got a baseball bat. We’ve got a picture of the Stadium. Now we are not selling the baseball bat here, we are selling theme. But what this is serving as is a prop. It’s enticing, it brings people in. They see it, it’s fetching. They’ll go in and they’ll look at more depth to understand whether or not they wanted. This is, kind of, what we’re going for here. What can we do?
Some people will just stick [silence from 00:35:15 to 00:35:25] out like [silence from 00:35:25 to 00:35:28] Here is a Latin American theme, it looks nice. This is our merchandising. If any of you are in cities where Anthropologie is a store, I love that store. There’s not much in there that fits me, but I love going into that store. I like looking at their merchandising. They have excellent window displays.
In fact, I’ll tell you something, I have a free download on my website called auction item ideas. It’s something I produced every year and one of the ideas in there came from last year’s auction, well all of the ideas in there came from last year’s auction, because it’s updated every year.
But one of the ideas in there was that we had a woman who worked at Anthropologie, or she knew someone who worked at Anthropologie, and so what we sold in the auction was the chance that you got to go in and do a window display with Anthropologie.
If you don’t know the store, this isn’t going to mean anything to you, but if you spent any time in Anthropologie and know what a great job they do of merchandising, you are going to understand that for some people, this would be totally cool. It’s crafty, it’s hands on, you’re getting to help design stuff. They do these fabulous things with fruit and tissue that we sold in our auction with a chance that you got to go in and help design a window display for Anthropologie.
So this item will speak more to those of you who that our schools on the line. We have first position in the carpool lane. What do we have with the display? Is this not cute? Matchbox cars. Does this get the point across, number one, two, and three? I think it does. I think it does.
Please check your Internet connection. Press OK to load the application. Hey, Steve, this is what happened before we started too and when [silence from 00:37:15 to 00:37:25] I did that.
Steve Shattuck: Here presenter, okay, you got, you did the peer thing, graduate here, you, okay here, there you go.
Sherry Truhlar: Okay.
Steven Shattuck: Are you back in now?
Sherry Truhlar: I am back in and I’m just popping over to, kind of, get everything else set up here.
Steven Shattuck: Cool.
Sherry Truhlar: [silence from 00:37:50 to 00:38:00] and, oop, there it is.
Steven Shattuck: There I see it.
Sherry Truhlar: All right, I’m back. Are, very good, let me grow back down to where we were. [silence from 00:38:13 to 00:38:25] I included photos because I wanted you to understand that if you’re a high-end gala, maybe you’ve got one of the top events in New York City or Seattle or San Francisco, it wouldn’t be unusual to have $17,000 earrings in your silent auction as this group did.
Now, they had a table that had these higher-end pieces. They were right there on the table. They weren’t hidden away. They were just photos. It was a touchy, feely, you could actually see them. They had a security guard nearby, I won’t deny that. But they had them out so that people could appreciate them.
The other point that I would say, not necessarily on something that’s this expensive, you are selling jewelry of any sort, please include a [silence from 00:39:07 to 00:39:17] hand. Put that on people, show it how it looked, it makes a big difference, because you want, and at a silent auction like we said, we’re on a limited time. We don’t have a lot of time for these people to make a decision.
So we want to be able to ensure that they’ve got all the information they need right them in order to make a buy now decision. They can put that on, they can look at it. We can complement them, “It looks fabulous on you. The color just goes with your hair.”
So here is an auction that I did the first year. I have two other slides from year two and year three. The silent auction looks substantially different, but I wanted you to, at least, see an example of what I don’t consider a good representative of a great silent auction.
In fact, I walked in with my team for this particular event. It had about 500 people who were attending. This is at the Ritz-Carlton, so it wasn’t a bad Zip Code by any means. Walked in with my team and they said, “Uh, Sherry, should we help them set up?” And I said, “Oh, they’re set up.”
This is it. This is decor, it’s not for sale. This, however, is for sale, nothing else had a display. The next year it looked a lot better. We worked with them. They got that taken care of. What about this one, look? Nothing, nothing, this is drawing your guests over to check it out. I think not.
Change number five here, so some of those were more in the merchandising area, on-site merchandising. What we’re going to now is the bid sheet itself. Now the purpose of the bid sheet is to convey the bid, that’s it. There shouldn’t be a description on the bid sheet.
The purpose of the bid sheet is to convey the bid. So what can we do on the bid sheet in order to encourage people to buy? There are several things that we can do, but the one I’m going to share with you today is guaranteed bid. This can be controversial. It’s one of those things that I’ve seen committees debate.
And if you are a volunteer or even if you’re not, if you’re dealing with people and you just know this isn’t worth fighting about, then just given up. Don’t even try it.
But it is something that will make you more money. It will make you more money, but it’s not always [inaudible 00:41:41] the favorite of the committee. If you think like a business, businesses make it exceedingly easy for us to see. Do you want to do a layaway, how about a lease on this car, do you check or credit card, PayPal, we’re taking PayPal now. Bitcoin, we got it. All of these different ways to buy things.
So when we think like a business, we want to make it easy for our guests to spend money as well. One way that we can do that is through, what we call, a guaranteed purchase, a guaranteed bid. It’s called “buy it now” on eBay, but we do not want to use that term on your sheet.
My understanding is that eBay has trademarked that line, so you do not want to use it on your sheet. You’ve got a find a different name, “instant purchase,” “take me home,” lots of different options out there for you.
So guaranteed purchase is an opportunity to buy an item outright and it includes most often a premium. So if we see over here, I got a donation of a gift card to a restaurant and all the bidding could take place here, but then at the bottom, what do you see there, guaranteed bid, $465.
But the value is, it looks like, $306 maybe, let me check here. Yeah, that would be about right. So that $465 represents 150%, 152 technically, of the value. $465 is greater than the value, but if you really want this item, fine, for a premium price, put your big number down there.
You can buy it outright and take the thing home right now. We have ways of implementing it. The rule of thumb is generally about 150 to 200% of value, but this does vary. It varies with your timeline, program, the item itself, it could be 80% of value, it could be 500% of value. You’ll need to figure that out.
Here, at school auction, this was middle school carpool something or the other, the guaranteed purchase price was $2065, it looks like. So that’s what made them happy. They were saying in their committee, “You know, if we sell it for 2065, we should be high-fiving each other.”
If your committee is a glass of half empty, sort of, committee, and you are going to be sitting there going, “We cut [silence 00:44:09] a solid.” If that’s your committee, it ain’t worth it, don’t use it.
You don’t want to sit there and fight your committee and say, “I know we could have made more money. I know we could’ve made more money.” Just say, you know, “We’re not going to use it.” But I will tell you, you get this right, you’re going to make more money. It’s just sometimes a hard sell.
The reasons that I like it are threefold. The first, it attracts bidders through psychology. There’s an enormous amount of psychology and we’re just scratching the surface here today, but if you are walking by the tables, and in this case, you can see there’s still a bid sheet here, there’s still a bid sheet here, but this one, oh my gosh, there’s no bid sheet. That’s because somebody already bought it at the guaranteed purchase price. This looks to be an iPad that was purchased.
So when people walk by something like this, the first thing they do is they stop and they look at what they missed. And I will walk up to people and I’ll say, “Oh, ma’am, I’m so sorry, but that one is already sold.” And she’ll say, “I know, I just want to see what I missed.”
Okay, so she reads through it and then she starts paying attention to everything else that’s selling on the silent auction table. I’m using the pronoun “she” as well, because women are our bigger bidders in the silent auction. Men, traditionally, tend to be our bigger bidders in the whole auction.
I’m going to cover that in this next subject here. But the “buy me now,” it’s a visual way to start refocusing people back on the table so that they can see what [inaudible 00:45:47].
Number two, guys like it. If you want to get the men out of your bar and into your bid sheets, this is what you do.
You put on guaranteed purchase, because they are going to be interested [silence from 00:45:57 to 00:46:07] in buying. Women, I’m just going to go with the stereo, generally speaking, a lot of men are not going to be big fans of shopping.
If they need a white shirt to wear with their suit, they’re going to walk into, pick a store, Macy’s, and they’re going to buy the white shirt. They’re not going to walk in there and go, “Oh, man, they’re kind of expensive. I think I got a coupon at home. I’m going to go wait.”
They’re not going to say, “Oh, they’re kind of expensive, you know, maybe in two weeks they’ll go on sale. I’ll just hold off on the white shirt now.” That’s not generally how a lot of guys think. They go in, they need the white shirt, they buy the white shirt.
So if you’re asking them in a silent auction to circle around and get a deal, they’re not so inclined to do that. Here’s an example that was down in Naples, an event I was working, and is centered this, this jewelry tree.
There was a woman that had a jewelry business that she was getting out of, at home based jewelry business and so she had donated the remaining pieces to the nonprofit. The nonprofit had gone out, I thought they said to Costco or Sam’s Club, something like that, and they purchased the jewelry tree to display all of this jewelry and they were selling it all as one package.
The woman walked by, she had bid on this item at least once, maybe even twice, and she kept circling around, just looking at it. I said, “It’s a lot of jewelry, isn’t it? It’s very nice.”
And she said, “Well, you know, it’s not even the jewelry, “she said, “I’ve been looking for a jewelry tree and I really like that one.” I’m like, “Oh, well, what do you know?” And I’m not going to tell her that they bought it at Costco.
So she continues to circle around, this time she brings her husband and standing there with her husband, and I’m behind the table because I’m talking to people and getting them to buy. And so she’s standing back there and she’s pointing and she’s pointing and he, kind of, looked up at the bid sheet and he’s looking down to see what the current bid is and everything.
And he sees, at the bottom, instant purchase and he, kind of, puts his finger there and he says, “Well, if I put my bid number down there, can we just get it?”
And I said, “Yes, sir, you’ll just take it home for that price right there. No one will bid against you. It’s yours.” And he looks at her and he goes, “Well, why wouldn’t we do that?” Just like it’s the most obvious thing in the world, honey. Why would we just go ahead and buy it for twice the value? So that’s what they did, put the number down, he got it. Men like it. Bring them back into your silent auction that way.
Third, it makes it easier for your checkout team. If you’re using volunteers for your checkout and you may not be, you may have a professional team or you’ve got something else going on, but if you are using volunteers, sometimes volunteers can get a little rattled when the items start to come from the silent auction and to be moved into the profit thing.
If you can sell a few items before you close one section and have the items show up at their desk, this starts to acclimate them so they can get it. It can be like one of these things that, you know, it comes to them and they’re like, “Oh, okay, all right, all right, what am I supposed to do? She said to put it over here and I rip off the top copy and then I input this over here.”
It’s just a chance for them to get into the groove before you close the silent auction table that has 40 items on it and suddenly they are deluged with 40 different items. So it’s nice for your checkout team in that sense.
So what have we covered? We have barely scratched the surface, but we’ve given you five juicy ones. Sound, lighting, spacing, props, and use of guaranteed purchase on the bid sheet.
One thing I’m going to point out to you is that if you are doing a silent auction and you’re like, “Sherry, what I have is just manna from heaven. I’m ready for more.” This is a program that I have that’s shipping next week. It’s called Silent Auction Marketing Savvy. It’s a 90 minute program. There’s a DVD of a webinar that’s very similar to this format. You see me talking to you and so forth.
It was a recording that we did about a month ago. And the workbook in it has some additional resources. There’s a private web page that you go to to get downloadable bid sheets that will do increments for you. It also has extra videos in it. It’s a big program. But that’s available to you right now for $79 at the link that I’m showing on the website.
If you want to get it, you can go there and sign up and get it before it actually is, kind of, released. This is the pre-release right now.
But what about items, people say what about [inaudible 00:50:45]? Do you have any help with procurement? About, well, when I launched my business, I realized that one of the things I wanted to do is share some of these cool items that I’m selling every year and specifically help people with items that are going to sell for over value or have a better shot of selling for over value. Higher ROIs.
So I pulled [inaudible 00:51:05], in January of 2009, I pull together the [inaudible 00:51:08] was called “What Sold Great in 2008.” And it was the top 100 items that I sold for over value in the auctions that I worked the previous year.
I have done one of those every year and right now it’s called “What Sold Supreme in 2013.” This is what I alluded to earlier that I was talking about the Anthropologie item. So “What Sold Supreme in 2013” is currently the free gift on my web, head over to redappleauctions.com, in the upper right-hand side is a little video of me talking and so forth. Put in your email there. It’s instantly emailed out to you.
I don’t get involved, so if you didn’t get it, you might’ve mistyped your email, it happens a lot. But you can put your email up there, it’s automatically send out, and then I would encourage you to share that with your team, your procurement team. Go through and highlight things. It’s amazing what you can do, if you put some heads together on some of these items.
It really works very well. And I am wrapping up with just enough time here to answer some questions to you. That’s great. On the page in front of you, you can see some places where you can reach out to me. We’re on a lot of the different social medias and so forth.
And for that matter, I might auction near you in the very near future, so that could be even an in person meeting as well. Steve, I’ll turn it back over to you.
Steven Shattuck: That was great, I’m getting a lot of good tweets. People are actually emailing me, telling me how much they’re enjoying the presentation. Really cool stuff. There’s a lot of things that you talked about that I never heard or read a lot of auction item people talk about, so thanks for all the great information.
Hopefully, everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. I think they did based on some of the chat here, so we’ve got a lot of questions. I’m just going to, kind of, scroll through these and pick out some that I think look good.
Jennifer has got a question about props. Do you run into issues where guests assume that the props go along with the item [inaudible 00:53:01]? What do you tell people about props and not getting that confused?
Sherry Truhlar: That’s a great question, Jennifer. In the one photo that I showed you which had the bat, for instance, that was a prop, and they usually will put a sticker or a tent card on it that is for display only or they will say, “Prop.”
Case in point, one of the options that I was doing in May in Philadelphia, they had a wonderful prop for one of their items. It was a behind the scenes tour of a penitentiary, and they had these handcuffs that were out on the table that has the word prop on them.
But for some reason and we can all hypothesize why, people were playing with those all night long. They come by and they’d pick them up and then I’d walk by the table again and they been flipped over. And so I turn it back over so people could see that it was a prop and, lo and behold, I walked by five minutes later, they were turned over again, so they were getting a lot of action.
What I would say is just make sure that it’s clearly labeled. You might want to use a florescent sticker to make it more visible to make sure it pops, but just put for display only or prop for display only to make it clear that what you are putting out there on the table is not part of the purchase.
Steven Shattuck: Cool, great advice. Interesting question here from Gail [SP]. Gail is wondering what are your thoughts on adding the value to the bid sheet as opposed to omitting it? So actually putting the value of the item right there on the sheet, so a good idea to do?
Sherry Truhlar: Gail, that is an excellent question and I will subscribe to what the IRS says. The IRS says you have to.
Steven Shattuck: Oh, there you go.
Sherry Truhlar: We don’t have an option in that. It needs to be put somewhere before the debtor makes a decision to bid, so if you are only putting it on the receipt [inaudible 00:54:52] cut it. The impact is that it’s later on, the person is audited and that comes to be a point of question, they don’t get to do the tax audit, but you, the nonprofit, pay the interest, the penalty, and the tax.
Steven Shattuck: There you go. Put the value on there.
Sherry Truhlar: Fair market value, it needs to be somewhere and it needs to be somewhere before they make a decision, as they say, to raise their hand, so that silent auction, they would need to understand the fair market value before they make a decision to bid. That’s what you would do it. Yeah, that’s also one of those points of contention in committees. I’ll let you figure that out with your committee, but I sat in a few of those meetings before where people chatter about that one for a while, so we’ll see how you do with it, good luck.
Steven Shattuck: Well, here’s one from James and this is a question that I’ve often wondered myself having been a part of planning, you know, auctions and events and just attending them in general.
So James is saying if you have a silent auction that starts before the program, do you recommend closing the silent auction once the program starts, or leaving it open until after the program and maybe the sit-down dinner, and do you think that would generate some more activity if you left it open a little bit longer than whatever the program actually starts?
Sherry Truhlar: It’s a common question, isn’t it? And there’s some thinking there that, “Well, gosh, if I leave it open longer, will I make more money?” There’s that concern too. The good news is this. Studies have been done that if you close it before, during, or after, people bid at generally two times. They bid right when they get there, when you open the auction if you want to look at it that way. And then they bid right before you close it.
So if you choose to close it at 7:00, they are going to start getting serious about bidding at 6:45. They’re going to go back and check everything, because at 7:00 is the deadline. If you can say it’s midnight, then at 11:45, you can expect guests to get serious about closing.
I’m a big believer that we need to control our crowd. We don’t want our crowd to control us. And we control our crowd through a number of ways. The timeline being one of them. So if we have a schedule and we’re going to close that, we want to close it on time and drive people to the next element.
If the silent auction is your appetizing section to the entree which is the live auction or the program, I believe as he was just, yeah he has a program, maybe he’s got a live auction in that or not, I’m going to encourage you to close it before the live.
There are exceptions where you might not, luncheon auctions oftentimes, will extend it a bit, because they are on a very short timeframe and they need to have a little bit more time. You want to try to have about 90 minute for that silent auction, if something is askew and not allowing you that, you want to try to build that buffer in, so I would close the silent auction, direct people into the ballroom, that’s done.
You can let your volunteers start to process all of that to get it taken care of and meanwhile you are moving entree, both in the food service and in live auction. That’s where your big ticket items are and the more excitement usually is.
Steven Shattuck: Yeah, because you don’t want to cannibalize your live auction. That’s a really good point.
Sherry Truhlar: Yeah, and it doesn’t, I wouldn’t say it even cannibalizes it, but it’s not making you anymore money. I mean, the research has shown, if you’re going to control them, so if you close it later, okay, they’re going to wait later to bid. So why not give your volunteers, help them out by closing it earlier and allowing them the extra time to process it and so forth.
Steven Shattuck: Cool, well, we are about out of time and I know we didn’t get to all of the questions and there’s a few here still in the chat. Sherry, is it fair to say that people can reach out to you, maybe, on Twitter or social media or email to get some more questions answered?
Sherry Truhlar: They could. I see one here I do want to answer though. I apologize, I’m not going through all of this. I’m just, kind of, glancing through, but I saw something that just jumped out here though. The question was is it possible to have too many items in your silent auction, Ogden [SP], is asking that.
There is a formula that you can use. The idea is that auctions are based upon the principle of scarcity. So if you think back to your American economics government courses back in high school, you learned about supply and demand. If you’ve got great demand and limited supply, prices rise.
You got tons of supply [inaudible 00:59:24] the same is . . . Remember we’ve been talking about psychology? It’s this whole same concept here, so if I walk into your auction and it’s a garage sale, because you got so much stuff, prices are already starting to fall. The way that you can get that balance then, is that you want to create two buyers for, you want to create two podiums on the table.
Steven Shattuck: Sure.
Sherry Truhlar: You want to create two podiums on the table, so for instance, let’s say that you have got 400 guests attending your evening function. And this evening function generally people are coming with a spouse, a partner [silence from 00:59:56 to 01:00:08] by two will get down to our bidding units. So 400 divided by 2, 200 units, 200 wallets are in the room, 200 potential buyers are in the room. If we take 200 divided by 2, we’re now at 100 items, 100 is the magic number for you to target for your silent auction.
If you tell me, Sherry, we’re doing a bachelor/bachelorette auction, nobody is coming with a spouse, or if they were doing a golf tournament auction, nobody is coming with a spouse. All the guys play all day or all the women play all day, but their spouses don’t join them at the end of the day.
Should we really have to do that? No, in your case, you don’t divide by that extra 2. What you do is you have 100 golfers, you divide by 2 once, 50 items, that’s your target for the silent auction [inaudible 01:00:58].
And it’s just the number of items in your auction, well you can get more people to attend your event. I just found it’s a lot harder to improve the attendance than it is to control the items. So keep that element of scarcity in play. That’s going to help you a great deal as you start to plan for your functions.
Steven Shattuck: Cool, great advice, Sherry. Thank you so much. You’ve been with us for about an hour or so, it’s a lot of fun.
Sherry Truhlar: Yeah, my pleasure. Julie, hey there. Julie’s on the line here. She’s one of my former auction shares and she has a fabulous chocolate shop out now out in Vienna.
Anyway, we’ll go [inaudible 01:01:32]. I just want to say hello, everybody. And if you’ve just joined me from the Red Apple Auction site, it’s great to see you all as well.
I am over at any of these different sites. You can join me at any of these areas. I’m happy to reach out and connect with you there. And we’ve got a lot going on over at Red Apple Auctions as well. Lots of different webinars and things like that, that will help you out as well, not just on silent, but on other elements. Thank you, Steven.
Steven Shattuck: Yeah, this is fun. Please do check out all of Sherry’s links there. Follow her on Twitter. Check out her blog. Good person to follow for sure as we’re heading into event season here in the last stretch of the year.
So I just want to say a final thanks to everyone for hanging out with us, spending an hour out of your busy day with us. Just so everyone knows, do these webinars once a week here at Bloomerang, so check out our webinar page. Just go to bloomerang.co, you’ll see our resources tab there.
We’ve got some cool webinars coming up in September. They’re all totally free, totally educational, so check those out. You may find a topic that interests you. This is a lot of fun, so just everyone know that will be sending out the recording in the slides a little later on this afternoon, so look for an email from me. So we’ll leave it at that. Sherry, thank you so much.
Sherry Truhlar: Thank you, thanks everybody.
Steven Shattuck: And we will talk to you all next week, hopefully, so have a great weekend.