For a guy who holds the world record for selling the most cars — 13,001 vehicles over a 12-year span at Merollis Chevrolet in Eastpointe (all retail, no fleet) — it isn’t a stretch to say that the Big Three automakers should be banging down Joe Girard’s door. But that hasn’t been the case.
The Grosse Pointe Shores resident, who’s sold more than 5 million books, including How to Sell Anything to Anybody and How to Close Every Sale, has reached out to General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler LLC in recent years. But after an initial meeting in which Girard offered to help coach dealers on the art of the sale at no cost, no one from the executive ranks showed much interest.
A few years back, Girard was invited to meet with then-GM Chairman Rick Wagoner. Following a 90-minute meeting, he received a one-page letter from GM Group Vice President John F. Smith. “I’m not really keen to add anything new into the [sales] mix at the moment,” Smith wrote. He added that he’d keep Girard’s “offer in follow-up for a few months,” and went on to invite him to a reception for GM dealers at the annual National Automobile Dealers Association in Las Vegas: “A big crowd to be sure, but we could have a moment or two to get acquainted.”
After receiving the letter, Girard was furious. “I offered to show them how they could get each of their salespeople to sell one more car a month. If they have 80,000 dealers, that’s 80,000 cars a month, and spread over 12 months, that’s 960,000 cars,” he says. “Last I checked, they need all the help they can get.” Girard, the only car salesman ever inducted into the Automobile Hall of Fame, has also been cited by The Guinness Book of World Records for selling the most cars in a year — 1,425 in 1973.
Girard received similar treatment from Ford and Chrysler. “There’s a whole science to selling a car, or really, anything,” he says. “You don’t sell a person right away; you get to know them, see what their needs are, and once they begin to talk about themselves and they relax, you move in for the sale. But it’s not the initial sale you’re after; you want repeat business. And you want all their family and friends to know how well they were treated. I mean, I was so busy, people had to make an appointment.”
There’s more. “I always insisted that a prospective customer take a demo ride,” he says. “That way, you get all their senses working, and more times than not, they came back loving that car. After the sale, I’d tell them they accomplished two things: They bought a beautiful car, and they bought Joe Girard. If they had a service problem, I told them to come see me, not the service department. Then either [I] or someone from my team would walk them to service and make sure they were taken care of. They loved that.”