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Mortgage Lessons from Joe Girard

Aug 17, 2007
Joe Girard was a car salesman. During his selling career he sold 13,001 cars, all of them at retail. And, all of them one car at a time...no fleet sales, no multiple sales, and no wholesale sales. He personally sold more cars during his career than most dealerships sell in their lifetime.

During the years 1963 to 1977, Joe Girard sold more cars on a one-on-one basis than anyone else in the world. On his best day he sold 18 automobiles. His best month, he recorded 174 sales. His best year...a total of 1425 vehicles. All in all, he averaged about 6 retail sales per day. An amazing accomplishment!

All of Joe's sales have been certified by "The Guinness Book of World Records" and the accounting firm of Deloitte and Touche. Today, his record remains unbroken. Joe Girard was inducted into the "Automotive Hall of Fame" on August 7, 2001.

Just as a little background, Joe Girard was born in a Detroit ghetto in 1927. He shined shoes, delivered papers for the Detroit Free Press, washed dishes, acted as a delivery boy, and assembled stoves.

Then one day in 1963 at the age of 35, Joe Girard got a job selling automobiles for a Detroit car dealership. With a telephone, a phone book, a lonely desk tucked away in a vacant corner of the dealership, Joe's career began. It was January, a traditionally slow month and the manager was reluctant to hire him. Joe had to actually beg him for the job.

By the end of business his first day, Joe Girard sold his first automobile. He had to borrow $10 from his manager so that he could take some groceries home for his family. During his second month, Joe sold 18 cars and trucks.

Just when Joe was feeling good about himself, he was fired for being too aggressive. Some of the other salesman had complained to the owner of the dealership.

Knowing he could sell cars, and a determination to succeed, Joe had no problem finding employment with Merollis Chevrolet in Eastpointe Michigan, and the most amazing sales record in history had its beginning.

This is the breakdown of what he sold:

1963 - 267 cars and trucks
1964 - 307 cars and trucks
1965 - 343 cars and trucks
1966 - 614 cars
1967 - 667 cars
1968 - 708 cars
1969 - 764 cars
1970 - 843 cars
1971 - 980 cars
1972 - 1208 cars
1973 - 1425 cars (record year)
1974 - 1376 cars
1975 - 1360 cars
1976 - Over 1200 cars
1977 - Over 1200 cars

If you don't think this is significant, remember these were actual sales, not deals or giveaways. Second, Joe was the number one salesman in the country every year from 1967 to 1977. The magnitude of that feat almost defies description. And third, despite the fact that there were two recessions during his first eleven years, he sold more cars every year than he did the previous year.

It's told that on Saturday mornings, a line of people would form at the entrance of Merollis Chevrolet long before the scheduled opening. Everyone was waiting for Joe Girard to come to work and they wanted to talk to him about buying a car. Every one of them rebuffed offers of help from co-workers. They only wanted to talk to Joe, no one else would do. Over a period of fifteen years he averaged over 900 cars each and every year.

On January 1, 1978, Joe Girard retired from selling cars to focus on writing, teaching and motivating. His works include:

"How to Sell Anything to Anybody,"
"How to Sell Yourself,"
"How to Close Every Sale," and
"Mastering Your Way to the Top."

Stories abound about how Joe Girard "originated" his business. One of which details the fact that he was an avid Detroit Lions fan and a season ticket holder. He always opted for a seat in the upper deck so that when the Lions scored, he threw a hand full of business cards over the railing to the football fans below. He used both sides of his business card and always offered some type of "freebie" if they looked him up within the next week.

If you try this, be careful of your local littering laws. However, using both sides of a business card always makes sense.

At this point you're probably asking...OK, how did he really do it? Well, the answer is so simple you'll immediately wonder why you're not doing it too. Then again...maybe you are. Here's the answer:

Joe Girard made it a point to capture and record the contact information of every person he met or talked to. Then over the months ahead, and for each and every month thereafter, he sent each one of them a card. He sent the obvious cards for all of the major holidays. But he also sent birthday and anniversary cards. He sent Fourth of July, Groundhog Day, and Washington and Lincoln Birthday cards. Everyone Joe knew received a card each month and two in December because it was Christmas.

He sent the cards with a simple handwritten note and his signature on the inside. It read:

"I like you - Joe Girard"

I know what you're thinking...if someone did that today, they would probably be arrested for stalking. Yes, things have changed drastically since the 60's and 70's, but the basic idea has not.

Joe Girard simply did what all of us in the Mortgage Business should be doing...building and maintaining a contact list, a database, a mailing list, or whatever you want to call it. Goodness, you can even call it Tom's list if you want...I won't object.

With cards arriving every month, Joe's contacts almost considered him a member of the family. When they thought of a "new car" they immediately thought of Joe Girard.

And, that's exactly what should happen when your contacts think of a mortgage. They should think of you...not the bank at the corner of their street...and, not the mortgage person they heard advertising on their local radio station. They should think of you.

The point is this, if you don't have a list...start one immediately. If you have a list, set up a program to contact them once a month. The old adage that says "It's all in the list" is true regardless of the product or service you are marketing.

In the final few years, Joe Girard had two assistants working for him. The size of his monthly mailings had to be huge...many thousands I'm sure. And, all of it done before the personal computer and "Windows" was even a twinkle in the eye of Bill Gates.

So, here are a couple of the lessons learned from Joe Girard:

1. You absolutely positively need a database. According to national averages, each contact on your mortgage list will make some type of mortgage decision about every five years. When they make that decision, you should be the one they call. Continually add, update and maintain your list.

The result...if your database has 500 contacts, somewhere between 15 and 20%, will make some type of mortgage decision in the next year. That's a total of 75 to 100 potential mortgages just from your list. Now...will you get them all? Of course not! But, if you do your job...you're entitled to your fair share.

2. Design, implement, and maintain a viable program to effectively communicate with your database each and every month. It will be like putting money in the bank. The dividends will be huge.

Send cards, letters, mortgage articles, and mortgage news snippets. Continue to send your contacts good information and implement a good postcard generating kit. You'll be rewarded many times over.
About the Author
Tom Domin is the author of "101 Ways to Originate Mortgages" and publisher of "Tom's Mortgage Tips" a twice monthly Mortgage Newsletter geared for Mortgage Professionals. Increase your pipeline and put your mortgage career on the fast track and sign-up for FREE at http://www.MortgageMarketingToolKit.com.
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