“The World’s Greatest Retail Salesman”
We would like to join the automotive community in remembering the legendary car salesman, motivational speaker, and Automotive Hall of Fame inductee, Joe Girard. Girard passed away on Thursday February 28th after falling in his home in Grosse Pointe Shores, MI. We are sad to see such a prominent figure in the automotive sales industry to go but are happy to remember his amazing life story.
Girard was born in the east side of Detroit on November 1st, 1928 to a very poor family. By the age of nine, Joe was visiting neighborhood bars to offer a shoe shining service to their patrons. When he was 11 he was a news carrier for the Detroit Free Press and did his route before school. By the 11th grade however, Girard had dropped out of school and started moving from job to job to support himself and his family.
It wasn’t until he began something like an apprenticeship as a building contractor under Abraham Saperstein that he found his niche, selling. When Saperstein retired, he handed this business over to Girard, but when he took the wrong advice over sewage in a housing project, he lost the business. Unwilling to let this sway his determination and needing to put food on the table, he begged a dealership owner to give him a job. On his first night he sold his first car, and in his second month he sold 18, making the rest of the salesmen so frustrated at his success they complained, and he was fired.
But that was no worry to Girard now, he knew he could sell cars. So, he went to the next dealership, a Merollis Chevrolet in Eastpointe, MI., and got a new job, and this is where it all began. Girard had laid claim to the title “The World’s Greatest Retail Salesman,” by his third year selling. In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records bestowed that title on him for twelve consecutive years. During his 13-year career that started in 1963, he sold more than 13,001 cars, averaging six cars per business day.
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. On his best day, he sold 18 new vehicles, 174 in his best month and 1,425 in his best year. Girard sold that many by himself, essentially. Although, he had to hire a staff to help him keep up.
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 re-contact a recent buyer to make sure they were happy with their new car. This would cement a relationship that would ensure them returning to Girard the next time they were in the market for a car. His ultimate mission was to make sure he had no unhappy customers.
Mr. Girard retired in 1977 at the age of 49 even though he was at the top of his game. However, he didn’t leave the business completely. 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. In 2001, Girard was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame for his outstanding automotive sales career and has since retained the Guinness World Record of most cars sold in a year.
To learn more about Joe Girard visit his Automotive Hall of Fame induction page.