Learn Customer Engagement from the World’s Greatest Salesman

Joe was 38 years old. Unsuccessful, unemployed, a failure in over 40 different jobs he tried from age 9 onwards, from shining shoes to building and selling flats. ‘Total loser’ is how the world described him.

One morning his wife confronted him with the ugly reality he’d avoided facing thus far. “Do something! There is nothing at home. Children are going to starve!” she begged.

Joes was distraught. He decided to approach a car dealership for a job. “I’ll do anything!” he pleaded.

“See Joe, I can’t employ you unless you can bring in incremental sales. We already have enough salesmen to handle walk-ins. Sorry!” the manager informed him with finality.

Joe was persistent, refusing to leave. After much cajoling, the manager suggested ‘I’ll give you a small space at the back with a phone. No salary. You bring walk-ins, sell to them, and I’ll be happy to give you commission.” Desperate, he took the offer.

That very evening, he saw as prospect walk-in. No salesman was around. ‘Most salesmen hit the cafeteria in evening as walk-ins are rare,’ the manager had told him earlier.

Joe approached the man. And as luck would have it, he managed to sell him a truck!  And saved his family from starvation. Even more important, he was in business!

But to make a living, Joe had to generate walk-ins, prospects who walked-in, asked for him, and bought from him.

He decided to create a prospect list. He tore 2-pages each from the telephone directory and the yellow pages.  And began calling every listed number. His pitch was something like this:

“Hello! Am I speaking to Mrs. Kowlasky?” (Most of the time it was the wife who picked up the phone as he called during the day).

“Yes Mrs. Kowalski on the line. Who is calling?”

“Good afternoon Ma’me! I’m Joe Girard calling from Chevrelot showroom. I wanted to inform you that the car you ordered is ready for delivery.”

“Car? I ordered? Sorry, I don’t recall. I think you have a wrong number.”

“A moment please,” he’d pause, pretend to look through his records. “Ma’me is your husband’s name Robert Kowlaski?”

“No, he’s Steven.”

“I’m very sorry to have bothered you,” Joe would apologise, but continue to chat. “If not too much of a bother, could you tell me if your husband is in the market for a new car?”

And so on, managing to extract a lot of other useful information about his prospects. Like, their phone number, profession, companies they worked or owned, cars they drive, how many cars they had, how old were these cars, was there a lease on them, etc.

Joe bought 5’x3′ white cards. He recorded on these cards the details he gathered from each call. He filed the cards for easy retrieval and reference, so he could could follow-up appropriately.

5″ by 3″ library books cataloguing cards

Very quickly, Joe built a database of prospects.

He developed a unique way to engage with everyone in his prospect list. He designed and printed 12 greetings cards, each with a different message. He bought colored envelopes to insert the cards into. He would send one card every month to each of his prospect. The envelopes didn’t have sender’s details, just the name and address of the prospect and the postage stamp pasted on it. This improved their chances of getting opened and seen.

He sent each of his prospect one greeting card every month. Yes, one a month!

What did the greeting card say?

In January, it said: ‘Dear Mr. Smith. Wish you a Happy New Year! I like you. Joe Girard’.

In Feb, the message read: ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’.

In July it said ‘Happy Independence Day’.

In Oct, Happy Halloween. And so on.

One of the months, it said, ‘Happy Birthday’. Sometimes he had information about the birthday, most of the time he didn’t; he just went ahead and wished happy birthday to each of his prospect at least once a year.

‘Stupid’, many will say.  ‘Shot in the dark’, will quip others.

But this simple technique made Joe – Joe Girard – the World’s Greatest Salesman!


Recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. Not once, but for 13 successive years!  For single-handedly selling more cars and trucks than any other individual in the world. In fact, even more than some of the dealerships sold.
Why did this technique work? What else did Joe Girard do to sell better than anyone else?

His story is about the power of engaging with prospects and customers. I’ll tell you more in next installment.

In case you missed my previous post Does Saying Hello Improve Your Chances of Selling? please click to read.

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