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Auctioneers hone their skills at training academy In Phoenix

LISTEN: Auctioneer school

PHOENIX — Eighteen people are taking a class in Phoenix to improve their skills of using their mouths to make a living.

They are already experienced professionals, but are brushing up on how to be auctioneers. They’ve just completed taking advanced auctioneer training at the Auctioneers and Appraisers Academy in Phoenix.

Champion Auctioneer Johnna Wells is one of the instructors. She says being an Auctioneer can be very lucrative.

“It’s not unheard of for auctioneers to make well into the six figures and above,” said Wells. “There’s many auctioneers out there that, depending on their business model, they’re millionaires.”

Shawn Hagler has been working as an auctioneer since 2001, but came to Phoenix to take classes to improve.

“It’s competitive, so if you’re not at the top of your game and always trying to improve, there’s going to be someone else to take your job,” he said.

Hagler already has a hectic schedule as an auctioneer, as he works four auto auctions a week in different cities.

“I work in Albuquerque on Mondays, Denver on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and Salt Lake City on Thursdays,” Hagler said. “And then, I do fundraisers on the weekends.”

He normally sells about 450 cars at each auction.

Hagler said it was working in agriculture that led him to become an auctioneer.

“I started in the barns because I came from the livestock background, and got into car auctions. I kind of found my niche,” he said.

He has also sold real estate.

“I’ll sell anything if they let me,” he joked.

Hagler said he loves to help people, and feels he’s doing it by uniting those who are selling a car with those who want to buy. The highest priced car that he’s sold was around $90,000.

Auctioneers call their style of talking a “chant.” While Wells and Hagler use “Western chants” that have a faster cadence, Deb Weidenhamer sells art, and uses a much slower pace cadence known as a “British chant.”

“Usually the auction begins with the auctioneer speaking slowly, and saying ‘I’m looking for a million. I looking for a million, now, would you bid half a million? I have 500,000 here, now would you bid 600,000 to you sir? I’ve got 600,000 and now 700,000,”said Weidenhamer. “It’s advanced quite slowly because the numbers are so much bigger, and it goes slow because people are making bigger purchasing decisions.”

Weidenhamer runs Auction Systems Auctioneers and Appraisers in Phoenix. In addition to hosting auctions, it also offers advanced and beginners classes in auctioneering.

She said that the first lesson for a beginner starts with a tongue twister.

“The reason we start with tongue twisters is because a lot of us need to get used to using our mouth in a different way than we usually do,” she said. “The first tongue twister that you learn as an auctioneer is ‘The Big Brown Bear Bit The Big Brown Bug.’You do that 10 times in a row real fast. That’s how you get your tongue to start working quickly to be a good auctioneer. ‘The Big Brown Bear Bit the Big Brown Bug.'”

After we made several (unsuccessful) attempts to say it without laughing, Weiderhamer laughed and said “it takes practice!”

We apparently need a lot more of it.