When the bidding at an auction gets furious, and you think you can’t bid any higher, what do you do? You might look away or focus on the floor, anything to make it clear that you’re out of the game. Plenty of auctioneers might take that as a sign to back off. But not Bryan Knox.
“My job is to then entice them to bid one more time. So I will look them in the eye, look intently. Not sternly, but invitingly, and try to make them feel comfortable, and to let them know that one more bid would be in their best interest.”
He’s so convincing, that last summer , Knox won the 2007 International Auctioneers Championship, beating participants from as far away as New Zealand. The 6 foot tall, 275-pound Knox knocked out his competition on body language, voice and with a chant that, to the untrained ear, sounds like a fast-paced jumble of numbers and bopety bops. But there’s more to it than fast-talking. Knox says sneaking in filler words makes it sound, well … musical.
“What you do is you put the filler word in and a filler word can be anything. You slur that filler word, and it gives the illusion that you’re talking fast. I’m not really saying it any faster, but with the melody and the filler word, it gives the illusion…It’s like singing a song..you just want to make it as beautiful as possible.”
He’s been at this for 10 years. But even for someone so seasoned, a beautiful chant takes lots of practice.
“One little exercise that I do I learned way back in auction school is I’ll be going down the road calling bids, and every time that I pass a telephone pole or something, iI’ll take that as a bid, and so depending on how fast or slow you’re going down the interstate, the bidding can get pretty furious. ”
Exactly how fast depends on what’s being sold. Knox says art auction bidding typically is very slow. But at a recent land auction at the Moulton Recreation Center, Knox sold more than $1 million dollars worth of property in about an hour. Auction novice Brad Sutton bid on an 81 acre parcel. But in In four minutes, the price climbed from $250,000 to more than $700,000.
“I guess it’s kinda like gambling. You just have to be a smart gambler. You just get your amount set, and when it comes that time, you’re out. That’s basically the way it was with me today.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the adrenaline of auctions, to buy something you regret later, or to spend more money than you’d planned. This won’t come as a surprise, but auctioneers do have tricks to drive up the price and entice people to bid. That’s why Knox’s other job is intriguing.
On Sundays, Bryan Knox is pastor of a small independent church in Mt. Olive. The congregation seems taken with Knox’s style. He preaches with the same intensity he brings to an auction. He sweats and shouts and laughs and glares. He says he’s got gift for reading people – in the auction house and the church house.
“What I see is almost like a glimmer or the, the shape of the eye will change. You can tell they’re thinking. They get in deep thought. You know when you dream and you get into the Rapid Eye Mvmt your eyes dance back and forth? I guess in a crude similar way when they’re getting ready to bid, I can see their eyes and their brow will furrow just a little bit.”
It’s the same in the church, he says , only deeper.
“Normally during the sermon you’ll see maybe a little bit of an uncomfortable feeling and you can tell that they’re really troubled, and they’re looking. and then when you see that peace come over them you realize they’ve received that message that you’ve preached.”
That’s the kind of saving you can’t find at an auction.