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Bidding Smart

The CEO of DoveBid offers four rules for auction participants who want to bid smart.

It’s no surprise that after a quarter-century at the podium, DoveBid CEO Ross Dove has grown into a sharp observer of bidding strategies both clever and clueless. Here, Dove explains what makes a successful bidder.

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Comparison Shop

The best bidders always know the market value of the items they desire. “You don’t want to buy anything when you’re guessing at the value,” Dove says. “If it’s a Dell laptop, you should go to Dell’s Web site and find out the prices of new and reconditioned laptops, so you know the value without a doubt. You don’t have any assurance that you’re getting the right price unless you’ve done the due diligence beforehand.”

Speak Up

People who are new to bidding often approach an auction with the idea that they’ll stay silent at the beginning and then jump in at the last minute and win the item. Dove says, “Generally speaking, those people wind up not buying anything, because it’s often difficult to identify the end. It’s much easier to make incremental decisions along the way.”

Don’t Underestimate Demand

Don’t assume that, just because the auction catalogue includes 100 servers or 50 desks, the prices will naturally fall as the auction proceeds. “People say, ‘There are a lot of these things, so I’ll wait until the end and it’ll be cheaper,’ ” Dove says. “But the price can increase rather than decrease, because as the auction moves ahead, the supply shrinks. Sometimes the demand stays fixed, and prices go up.”

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Don’t Obsess

What about bidders who succumb to obsession and can’t stop bidding even when the price has exceeded anything reasonable? “Those people are always invited back to the next auction,” Dove quips. “Give an auctioneer a room full of those people, and he’ll be very, very happy.”

Read the main story: Bad Times Are a Growth Business

Scott Kirsner (skirsner@fastcompany.com) is a contributing editor at Fast Company. Learn more about DoveBid on the Web.