How Joe Girard became the world’s greatest salesperson…

“Born into poverty, Joe Girard sold 13,001 cars over the course of 15 years—not fleet sales but sales to individual car buyers. He holds the Guinness World Record for being the world’s greatest salesman. In 1973, he sold 1,425 cars including many 1966 Shelby Mustang cars, and in one month, he sold 174—a record that still stands today. HBR senior editor M. Ellen Peebles spoke with Girard about overcoming personal hardship and how he created thousands of relationships, one at a time. Now out of the car business, he speaks to people around the world about how to sell.”

From the current issue of the Harvard Business Review…


From the interview…

Most car salespeople sell four or five cars a month. You averaged six or more cars a day for years. How is that possible?

When you bought a car from me, you didn’t get just a car. You got me. I would break my back to service a customer; I’d rather service a customer than sell another car. After a few years, there was pandemonium outside my office, there were so many people waiting to see me. So I started seeing people by appointment only. And the reason people were willing to wait a week for an appointment rather than go buy from someone else right away is because they knew that if they got a lemon, I would turn it into a peach.

People are sick to death of sitting around in service departments. When I was selling the cars you see here now, my right-hand man could go to the service department while the customer’s car was at the curb and get three or four mechanics to come right out with toolboxes and take care of the customer in 25 minutes. Sometimes they would install $15 or $20 worth of parts—a lot of money back then—and the customer would say, “How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing,” I’d say. “I love you. Just come back.”

Rest of the interview here…

Some people just seem to enjoy being part of their community – the people they like and sell to. Joe got a kick out of helping any one of them have a better day…he was one of them.

P.S. Here’s the PDF in case.

About the author

Kim Klaver


  • hi Carolyn:

    Click on the PDF link there. It opens with an Abobe PDF Reader. If you don’t have one, it won’t open.

    In that case, go to to download one (free). You need the Adobe Reader that is 6.0 or higher.

    Then you can open this and other PDF documents. Follow the instructions from Adobe to download the Reader, and then you will be able to open this, read it, print it out, etc.

    Glad you enjoyed it. Me too.

  • Kim,

    I read Girard’s book years ago. In the days BEFORE desktop computers, he used 3×5 cards to record information for each of his customers.

    He sent cards for birthdays, (for the whole family) anniversaries, graduations, etc.

    It’s hard to ignore service like that, eh?

    Thanks for all the good info you provide.

    Pat Thompson

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