Auctioneer Gives Crash Course on Fast-Talking Style

It's the familiar, but sometimes unintelligible voice standing out among all the rest: that fast-talking, number-crunching auctioneer. Denise Shearin shares tips and divulges insider info on the world of auction blocks. Shearin was recently named the International Auction Champion.

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Ms. DENISE SHEARIN (2007 Women's International Auctioneer Champion): Here, let's go. Show me all now, would I get $30 bill? Let's go.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

Hear that?

Ms. SHEARIN: $30 bill, would I get $40 bill? Would I get $50 bill? Would I get $60 bill? Would I get $70 bills? Somebody bid now. Make it 80.

MARTIN: That's the sound of auctioneering. And according to our next guest, if you are looking for a fun career that could teach you how to sell, it might just be the next big thing.

Denise Shearin is the 2007 Women's International Auctioneer champion. She started auctioneering in March of 2006, and she now auctions off real estate for a living, and she joins us now from her home in Maryland.

Denise, welcome and happy New Year.

Ms. SHEARIN: Thank you for having me today.

MARTIN: And congratulations.

Ms. SHEARIN: Thank you so much. I appreciate that.

MARTIN: What got you interested in auctioneering in the first place?

Ms. SHEARIN: Well, I came out of the investing forum - real estate investing. And through that, I was introduced to real estate auctions. And so I've spent enough time around them to try and give auctioning a shot. I thought it would be a challenge. I thought it'd be a lot of fun. And fortunately, it's been both.

MARTIN: Well, how do you start? I mean, what do you do? Do you get a book? How do you even start something like that?

Ms. SHEARIN: Becoming an auctioneer?

MARTIN: Yeah.

Ms. SHEARIN: Well…

MARTIN: I mean, do you sing or - how do you actually get your mouth going?

Ms. SHEARIN: I do, actually, sing a little bit so I think that helps me. But for me, as a first-generation auctioneer, what I thought would be best is for me to go to auction school. They teach a little bit about the auction industry in and of itself. And we, of course, did some of the bid calling. But a lot of it is practice. I wasn't born bid calling. Practicing the numbers, the number drills, which is so important to auctioneers as bid callers; just sticking with it.

MARTIN: Auction school. How do you even find an auction school?

Ms. SHEARIN: Well, one place to start, a very good resource is the National Auctioneer Association's Web site and it's at auctioneers.org. And they have a list of some auctioneer schools. I just happened to go to Texas Auction Academy on a recommendation of another auctioneer. You can find auction schools across the country. A lot of them have Web sites so they - you'd at least be able to be introduced to their curriculums so you understand what you'll be learning during that time.

MARTIN: Is it ever sad auctioning something? I don't know - we have these, you know, images. I mean, there's obviously the foreclosure issue is a very big issue in the news right now. And I just wonder, is it ever hard? Is it ever emotionally difficult to run an auction?

Ms. SHEARIN: Absolutely, it can be. And I've experienced that myself as a real estate auctioneer and particularly with the market as we're seeing it now. But even outside of the foreclosures that we're seeing, just estate issues where a loved one has passed away and now selling this last piece of what they had was, you know, very emotional for some families. And some of the - I've talked to owners who have been in tears during the process. And really being an auctioneer is not just about the bid calling. It's about that human contact. And it's about being able to relate to the person that you're selling for as well as to the people who come out to bid on the item.

MARTIN: But your job is to get the highest price, right?

Ms. SHEARIN: Oh, absolutely. We're there representing our clients, whether or not it's a bank-owned property or a private owner, it just - someone who's selling their private residence in the instance of an estate.

MARTIN: So you - and you started competing fairly quickly. What got you the idea for that? You're just a competitive person.

Ms. SHEARIN: I really am not, but I just thought why not give it a shot. I was still new to the industry. One thing it served well for me is that it was an introduction to the auctioning community. So I thought that'd be a great way to introduce myself. And I just - I really wanted the competition. I wanted to see where I was as far as the bid caller goes, and just to get some feedback. And it all served very well for me.

MARTIN: What did the judges grade you on?

Ms. SHEARIN: The initial round, the prelims, a round of bid calling where you would actually sell three items. And they're looking for various aspects of being an effective bid caller. They're looking for clarity.

MARTIN: Is that the - when we hear you calling out the numbers…

Ms. SHEARIN: Yes, it is.

MARTIN: Is what that is?

Ms. SHEARIN: Yes, it is. It's called the bid-calling aspect of it - the clarity, the ability to get the crowd involved, the effectiveness of your selling and what have you.

MARTIN: And the competition you won was an international competition. Now, that must be very interesting. Where are some of the people from that you competed against?

Ms. SHEARIN: Members of the National Auctioneers Association because it's only open up to the membership that are South Africa and Australia and some other countries as well.

MARTIN: Did they all have to be native speakers of English?

Ms. SHEARIN: Yes. The competition is in English, but there aren't any problems there.

MARTIN: Why are there separate men's and women's divisions?

Ms. SHEARIN: I can only imagine that it is just to be able to have the women be able to compete against other women, and they're not quite sure that there's anything beyond that as far as the divisions go. But you'll find that a lot of the people who compete are men. You may have, out of 90 auctioneers, which is what - it took place in San Diego, and out of those I think probably about 27 were the women.

MARTIN: Well, can you teach me something? Can you teach me how to start?

Ms. SHEARIN: Sure, absolutely. What is most…

MARTIN: What should I do?

Ms. SHEARIN: …critical to bid callers is being able to go through the number drill. And that's really where the practice comes into play. And by number drills, you go through different ones whether or not it's by ones. So you just one, two, three, four, five; or by fives - five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30.

MARTIN: So you just get faster and faster?

Ms. SHEARIN: You do. You do. Five, 10, 15, 20 eventually will become five, would you bid 10? Ten, would you bid 15? Fifteen, would you bid 20?

MARTIN: Say it again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Let me - I can't catch up. Go ahead.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHEARIN: That was just an example…

MARTIN: Okay.

Ms. SHEARIN: …as to how you - where you're starting as opposed to where you're going to end.

MARTIN: Okay.

Ms. SHEARIN: One part of the bid calling is - includes sylawords(ph). And that's what I included in the second example that I gave you. What a sylaword serves is it's a way to not have dead space. More importantly, it helps with the rhythm. So in that example, I was saying would you bid. So five, would you bid 10? Would you bid?

MARTIN: Okay. Okay, let me try it.

Ms. SHEARIN: Sure. Go ahead.

MARTIN: Let me try it. Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHEARIN: Take a deep breath.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Okay. Five, would you bid five?

Ms. SHEARIN: Five, would you bid 10?

MARTIN: Five, would you bid 10?

Ms. SHEARIN: Yeah. That's right.

MARTIN: Ten, would you bid 15?

Ms. SHEARIN: There you go. You're doing good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHEARIN: You may want to think about becoming an auctioneer.

MARTIN: I'm trying to think of what I'm auctioning. I don't know. What can I get excited about? I don't know. You only just started auctioning in March of 2006. You've had a pretty fast rise to be the International Women's champion. So what - to what do you attribute your success?

Ms. SHEARIN: I think a lot of it is focus. I thought that I would do well as a bid caller because, quite frankly, I didn't realize that being an auctioneer involved as much as it does. What I initially saw is what anyone sees as a bid calling. And so I just - I stayed focused on it. And particularly after competing in 2006 and making the finals, I just made my goal to do better the following year. And I was very fortunate.

MARTIN: Do you ever find yourself getting sucked in at an auction?

Ms. SHEARIN: Oh, absolutely.

MARTIN: I mean, here you are, you know, you're trying to - it's like you feel yourself sweating like you want, whatever it is, you know?

Ms. SHEARIN: Absolutely. And I control myself. I don't register for the auction.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHEARIN: And I do things like that to try and not to buy things because one of the things is the auctioning creates is excitement. And people come out for that. They want to see the bid calling. They want the excitement of being able to compete and to get a good deal on some items and those are the things that we look to get people out into the auctions.

MARTIN: I'm just trying to think about whether we should try to auction off my microphone or something.

Ms. SHEARIN: You want to auction off your microphone?

MARTIN: Yeah. Let's auction my microphone.

Ms. SHEARIN: Now, are you going to auction it off or would you like me to auction it off?

MARTIN: I think you should auction off.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHEARIN: Okay. Sure. Now, what we look to do is to describe the item first. So we do have a microphone here, Michel's microphone that we're going to start. And I'll just start it off at a number and we'll see where it takes us. Now, are you going to be bidding on your microphone?

MARTIN: I'd have to be bidding against myself? Let's see.

Ms. SHEARIN: Well, I'll tell you what? I'll bid with you. Well…

MARTIN: Okay, great. All right.

Ms. SHEARIN: Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHEARIN: Okay.

MARTIN: Okay.

Ms. SHEARIN: All right. So I'm going to go ahead and start it off. And let's say $2.50, which is one of the increments that we go in as auctioneers, okay?

MARTIN: Okay.

Ms. SHEARIN: So I'm gonna open it up here. How much for the microphone? Start it out. Would you bid $2.50? Let's go. I'm a $2.50, would I get $5 for it? $2.50 bid, would I get $5 bid? I'm a $5 bid, would I get $7.50 bid? Now, would I get 10? 7.50 bid, would I get 10? Would I get 10 minus $7.50? Would you bid $8 for it, Michel?

MARTIN: I would.

Ms. SHEARIN: $8 bid. Thank you, ma'am. Would I get eight and a half? $8 bid, would I get $8.50 bid? 8.50 bid? $8 bid, would I get $8.50? I have sold it to Michel for $8. Congratulations.

MARTIN: Thank you.

Ms. SHEARIN: You're very welcome.

MARTIN: Huh. I was worried there. Thank you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHEARIN: Aren't you excited?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Denise Shearin is the 2007 Women's International Auctioneer champion, and she joined us from her home in Brandywine, Maryland.

Thank you so much, Denise.

Ms. SHEARIN: Thank you so much, Michel. It's been a pleasure talking to you today.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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