Breaking barriers

4 August 2021

By TINA LIPTAI

Facing a fork in the road along her career journey, Briannan Davis decided to follow a different path – a decision that led her to combine her passion for real estate with a flair for performance to build a strong and thriving career as one of the industry’s leading auctioneers.

Landing her dream job didn’t go quite to plan for Briannan Davis, but what seemed like a setback at the time was actually a defining career moment.

“I wanted to work in television and, after completing my Bachelor of Media and Communications, landed a job at SBS,” Briannan recalled. “My goal was to become a TV presenter. However, after working in the industry for six months, I realised that it really wasn’t for me.”

While real estate may not have seemed like an obvious choice for an ambitious media graduate, it was an industry that had always been of interest to Briannan.

“I’ve always been keenly interested in real estate and decided that it was the right time for me to give it a go,” she said.

It wasn’t long before this new career path offered up the perfect opportunity to combine her passion for real estate with her love of theatrics.

“I was working as a PA at the time and my boss encouraged me to complete my Real Estate Licence, including the auctioneering module,” she said. “Then I entered the REINSW Novice Auctioneers Competition. I won my heat and went on to compete in the State Final, which is where I met leading auctioneer Damien Cooley.”

Not as easy as it looks

Briannan has been calling auctions since 2013, but she still has vivid memories of her first auction.

“Your first auction is always memorable,” she said. “As soon as I started to speak, my mouth went dry. It was exciting, but I remember being very happy when it was over because it was also completely nerve-racking.”

Since that first time wielding a gavel, there have been many thrilling moments, but Briannan noted that it’s often the times when things don’t quite go according to plan that really show an auctioneer’s true skill.

“When an auction goes well, it’s not uncommon for people to think it’s an easy job,” she said. “Yes, there have been times where I’ve brought the hammer down on a property for a price way over the reserve – and that’s really exciting.

“However, the true test of your skill as an auctioneer is how you manage those instances where a property doesn’t sell and is passed in, or when there’s only a single potential buyer or no one wants to bid. That’s when it’s so much tougher and is when a good auctioneer really comes into their own.

“You still need to handle the crowd and put on a show, however you can’t help but feel it’s a disappointing result. You know in the back of your mind that you’re going to have to help the vendor navigate the process of what happens next.

“It’s these tricky moments that separate the good auctioneers from the great ones.”

“The true test of your skill as an auctioneer is how you manage those instances where a property doesn’t sell and is passed in, or when there’s only a single potential buyer or no one wants to bid. That’s when it’s so much tougher and is when a good auctioneer really comes into their own.”

Friendly, but firm

As the first woman to ever be a finalist in the Auctioneer category of the REINSW Awards for Excellence in 2017, Briannan is no stranger to making her mark in what some would consider a male dominated section of the industry.

“People often say to me: ‘It’s great to see a female auctioneer’,” she said. “It’s a reminder that auctioneering has traditionally been perceived by the public – and also within the industry – as more 

of a male role. But I’ve seen this perception change over the time I’ve been an auctioneer and I believe women are realising the benefits the role can offer. It’s fun and rewarding, and offers a lot of flexibility, which is really helpful if you are also juggling a family.”

Briannan also pointed out that there are also some advantages that women bring to auctioneering.

“Women are often the key decision-makers when it comes to buying the property, so having a woman calling the auction can help build rapport and put everyone at ease more quickly,” she said.

Briannan added that many people don’t quite know what to expect from her when she steps up to start an auction, because they’re expecting a man.

“My speech and drama training mean I have a strong voice and presence, so I do get people’s attention quickly,” she said. “I’m known for being a ‘friendly but firm’ auctioneer. My clients like the fact that I’m able to create a warm, welcoming mood and also get the job done effectively.

“There are lots of personalities in auctioneering and everyone – men and women – bring something different to calling an auction. It’s really important that you find your own voice and a style that’s authentic to you.”

Giving back

Like many auctioneers, Briannan is passionate about giving her time and expertise to raise money at charity auctions.

“I do love doing them – though, to be honest, I get more nervous doing a charity auction than a property auction,” she laughed. “With property, you know the reserve price and what you’re aiming for, and most of the time people are there to buy. But, in the case of a charity auction, it can often be a big event and it takes a lot to warm the crowd up and get people bidding. Plus, I really want to get a great result for the charity, so I add a bit of extra pressure on myself.

“Charity auctions are a big thing for me and it’s always inspiring to hear the stories of the people that the charities are helping. There are so many people who face challenges in life, it’s rewarding for me to give my time to do what I can to help.”

Striving for success

In a job where no two days are ever the same, Briannan knows the importance of remembering the true impact of her role in people’s lives.

“There are so many things I enjoy about being an auctioneer,” she said. “But I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s easy to become complacent when things are going well and you’re consistently achieving great results. This is when you need to remember what the sale means to the people involved – both the vendors and the purchasers. It’s changing their lives. It’s a dream come true and a huge moment for them – and, as an auctioneer, I get to be part of that.”

Even in the challenging moments, Briannan knows sharing her expertise can make a positive difference.

“Like any job, there are always going to be some challenges,” she explained. “My job is much easier when the agent has prepared the vendor for all the possible outcomes that might eventuate.

“It’s easy to be prepared for everything going well, but vendors should also be told about what might happen if there’s only one potential buyer, or perhaps even no buyers, so they have some understanding of how that might play out. If agents haven’t done this ahead of the auction, it can be a bit of a shock for the vendors because they think something unexpected is happening, which understandably makes them quite nervous.

“When this happens, as the auctioneer you need to be ready to step in and help the agent, who is your client, manage the vendor’s expectations.”

The right path

Although it’s easy to assume Briannan was always destined for greatness as an auctioneer, she credits hard work and the support of others early in her career for putting her on the path to success.

“I’m fortunate to have had my start with one of the leading auctioneering companies, Cooley Auctions,” she said. “Damien was – and continues to be – a huge supporter. His belief in me early in my career really made a huge difference. When I was first starting out, no one really wanted to give me a chance – but Damien saw my potential and encouraged others to give me a go. Clients respected his opinion and that’s what really helped early on to set me up for success.”

Why I love auctioneering

“I do love the theatrical side of auctioneering,” Briannan said. “I always loved speech and drama at school, so it’s great to be able to tap into that and give people a great show, as well as doing the job of selling property.

“It’s certainly not a mundane job. No two days are ever the same and I really thrive on that.

“I also enjoy the social side of being an auctioneer. You’re always meeting and interacting with new people like the vendors and purchasers, and, of course, your real estate agent clients. I really enjoy building these relationships.”

Career tips

Briannan shares her tips about how to build a strong and thriving career as an auctioneer.

  1. Be confident
    You need to be personable and confident in front of a crowd. Standing up in front of a group isn’t always the most comfortable thing to do, but if you aren’t confident in yourself, the crowd won’t be either. It’s up to you to control the room and lead the auction, and that takes confidence and self-belief.
  1. Read the room
    It’s important to develop the skills to quickly build rapport and also read body language. You need to be able to tell when you can nudge a buyer to put in another bid and when you need to leave it.
  1. Build relationships
    Having good relationships and strong networks is really important for success. Agents book auctioneers, they are your clients, so you need to have great relationships with them. Be helpful to your clients as much as you can and be prepared to go above and beyond when needed.

Leadership insights

“In the real estate industry, you’re always meeting new people and are always on show. I think that means that we’re all leaders, whether that’s your official title or not. There are always new agents starting out in the industry, which means someone is always looking up to you and seeing how you operate.

“As an auctioneer, I’m not only representing myself and my agency. I’m also an extension of my client’s agency. Personally, I think it’s important that I set a great example at all times.

“I think to be a good leader means that you need clear goals and be able to communicate these to your team. It’s important that people understand what you’re trying to achieve. Effective leadership means leading by example, having empathy and being approachable, so that your team look to you for advice and want to listen to your perspective.”

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