"World's Greatest Salesman" Explains How Love and Honesty Lead to Selling Success
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
"Never sell anything to anyone that you know you wouldn't sell your mother."
Talking with Joe Girard quickly moves from a business conversation to what feels like chatting with your dad (or granddad, depending upon your age). He comfortably uses your name, offers sound tips, and exudes a sense of warmth nearly extinct in the corporate world.
Girard isn't a fan of motivational speakers and marketing gurus who are, as he puts it, "ATNA" — "All Talk, No Action." Named as the Guinness Book of World Records’ "World's Greatest Salesman" for 12 years, Girard knows whereof he speaks. Without any prior training, he became an incredible car salesman. One year, he sold 1,425 cars and a career total of 13,001 between 1963 and 1978.
Girard recently shared with Home Business Magazine® a tip he didn't include in the book, Joe Girard’s 13 Essential Rules of Selling, along with a few thoughts on how home business entrepreneurs can find success in selling.
Home Business Magazine (HBM): What is your number-one tip for succeeding in business?
Joe Girard (JG): I never graduated from high school. I was thrown out. I wasn't very nice as a young boy. But I turned around my stinkin' thinkin' and made it positive thinking. One of the first things people should do in business or marriage is what Confucius said, to choose a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life. The majority of people do not like what they're doing, and that's why they're not successful, healthy or happy. If you're working at a business you don't like or married to someone you don't like, it won't be successful.
HBM: What sales techniques helped land you in the Guinness Book of World Records that would also benefit home business owners?
JG: I never sold an automobile in my life. I sold Joe Girard. One thing that's not in Essential Rules is to use the voice that you feel good about, that you use when talking to your mother. It should have love in it. If you do that, people will feel you're a sincere person. When people are looking at me face-to-face, I use my sincere pose. Shakespeare said the world is but a stage, and we are but actors. What part are you playing? Dress the part. You can turn people off with the wrong jewelry or heavy perfume. If you're playing tennis, you don't go out in a baseball outfit. When you're talking with customers, answer a question with a question about what they prefer if they ask something political or religious when you could answer with something they don't like. Before you release any words from your mouth, think, "Are these words good for me and the people who will receive them?" If not, you shouldn't say them. If you turn some people off, you'll lose them. The mouth is the most dangerous part of the body.
HBM: What about facial expressions?
JG: Nobody smiles anymore. I don't just mean smiling in your face, but with your voice. It is very, very important. Without that, there's no sincerity. Don't be phony.
HBM: How is salesmanship different now than 10 years ago?
JG: It's terrible. People don't even know how to communicate and talk anymore. People are always texting. They are so ingrained in this life that they don't talk. They lose the way to communicate. One of the things you want to do is be tough on yourself and give yourself only so much time on that mind-buster. Call people and talk with them. Learn to talk and communicate with people verbally.
HBM: Your writing emphasizes ethics in selling. Beyond its moral importance, why is honesty important in building a successful business?
JG: Never sell anything to anyone that you know you wouldn't sell your mother. If you sell something that isn't good for the person to whom you're selling, you'll get in trouble. Anything I sold, I put my name on it. I was good at servicing people. I would first tell people, "Today, you bought two things: a beautiful product and that was a right choice," so they would feel good about the sale they made. And the second thing I'd say is, "You bought Joe Girard. I will never stand behind this car." Then they'd gasp! "I'll stand in front of it." Most sales people take the money and hide. I'd rather service someone than sell to them. The name of the game is service. You spell it l-o-v-e. More people have said to me, "I've bought a lot of things, but I've never been serviced as well as you serviced me." I get people to love me by showing love. Just treat people well. If you do, look out world, you'll hit the top. HBM
Girard has two grown children. He and his wife, Kitty, live in central Michigan. He travels as a motivational speaker and penned How to Sell Anything to Anybody, How to Sell Yourself, How to Close Every Sale, and Mastering Your Way to the Top.
Deborah Jeanne Sergeant writes from her home in Clyde, N.Y. Her writing includes articles in periodicals, web copy, and marketing materials. Visit her online at www.skilledquill.net.
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