Joe Girard has laid claim to the title “The World’s Greatest Retail Salesman.” In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records bestowed that title on him for twelve consecutive years.
The numbers speak for themselves.
During his 13-year career (1963-1977) he sold more than 13,000 cars…averaging six cars per business day. On his best day, he sold 18 new vehicles, 174 in his best month and 1,425 in his best year.
Making the feat even more remarkable, those totals were achieved one sale at a time. No large fleet orders to boost the totals. At a time when 95% of the new car dealerships in America sold fewer than 1,000 cars annually, Girard sold that many by himself….sort of. Sort of because he had to hire a staff to help him keep up with all his business.
The numbers tell the story. When you are selling, on average, about six cars every business day you are delivering six cars a day, getting financing for six customers a day, having six used cars appraised every day, etc., etc. To accomplish that he established a “dealership within a dealership” at the suburban Detroit Chevrolet franchise where he worked.
Joe would meet with the customers, determine their needs, sell them the car and then let his staff complete the transaction. In the meantime he went on to meet with another customer or, more likely, re-contact a recent buyer to make sure they were happy with their new car, thus cementing a relationship that would ensure them returning to Joe the next time they were in the market for a car.
Constant contact with his customers was the basis of Girard’s way of doing business. Creating a relationship with his customers, one at a time, was important and was driven by another number that Girard had identified. Specifically, by the number 250.
That was the number that Girard determined, through anecdotal research, which represented the number of friends, family and acquaintances a typical car buyer would contact in a year. He arrived at that conclusion by polling funeral directors and wedding planners to see how many people typically attended those events, either by invitation or out of respect to the departed.
With this number he realized that for every 250 customer contacts he had, if two people were not satisfied, they could negatively influence another 500 potential customers. His mission was to make sure he had no unhappy customers.
Mr. Girard retired in 1977 at the age of 49 and at the top of his game. The pace of keeping everything running smoothly and all of his customers happy had taken its toll.
But he didn’t leave the business. Instead, he took his show on the road, writing books, giving speeches and seminars preaching the gospel of ‘Customer Satisfaction” long before it became an industry byword.