Joe Giard is an American salesman, given the title as best salesman for twelve consecutive years by the Guinness Book of World Records. Between 1963 and 1978, Giard sold 13,001 vehicles at the Chevrolet dealership he worked for. Giard is also one of the world’s greatest speakers, appearing in behalf of major companies, including Hewlett-Packard, General Motors, and Kmart. Giard was awarded The Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement, and in 2001, was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. Although Giard felt discouraged from an early age, he strived to make something of himself using the amazing salesman skills he possessed.
Joseph Samuel Gerard, also known as Joe Giard, was born in Detroit, Michigan on November 1, 1928. He lived in one of the city’s most run-down ghettos, only a mile away from Joe Louis, one of Giard’s childhood heroes. He looked up to Louis, as he had escaped from the same poverty, and went on to become a well-known heavyweight champion boxer. Giard used this as an inspiration to do big things in his own life.
As a child, Giard struggled with both physical and emotional bitterness from his father. Antonio Gerard was a poor Sicilian man who did not find the success he had hoped for when moving to his new country. The senior Gerard constantly scolded his son with the message that he would never amount to anything. This gave Giard the determination to prove his father wrong. Giard’s mother was the exact opposite; giving him the constant love and encouragement he needed to be successful in life.
Giard found work as a shoe-shine boy at the age of 9. He would find customers in local bars, as they were warm when bad weather hit. From his experience in bars as an adolescent, Giard gained a fear of alcohol. While he will have the occasional drink, he never drinks too much after seeing the sights in the bars as a child.
At the age of 11, he took a second job for the Detroit Free Press as a newscarrier. The company offered bonuses to newsboys who were willing to solicit to obtain new customers. For each new customer Giard found, he was rewarded a case of Pepsi-Cola. He stocked his products in a barn behind his house, which provided soda to his three siblings as his parents could not afford to buy it. With such a growing inventory, Giard took on a third business, selling the soda to the neighborhood children at a great discount no vendor could match. He gave his earnings to his mother to help put food on the Gerard table.
Giard’s teen years were difficult, especially at home where he had constant conflict with his father. He was regularly ordered away from his home and spent many nights sleeping in boxcars on the Grand Trunk Railroad yards, at the age of only 14. He was, however, able to gain better employment as he got older, becoming a dishwasher, dock loader, delivery boy, and eventually a pageboy at the Book-Cadillac Hotel. Giard was forced to bring home sufficient money for the Gerard family, or suffer the consequences at the hands of his father.
After a confrontation with his school principal, Girard was permanently dismissed from his school and became a dropout. He gained full-time employment at the age of 16, for the Michigan Stove Company as a stove assembler. He worked 12-hour days, six days a week to earn $75, his greatest earnings thus far. He later worked alongside a fruit and vegetable vendor who sold his goods from the back of a truck on the east side of Detroit. After realizing that there was no future in that business, he joined the United States Army Infantry at the age of 18. He was given an honorable discharge after injuring his back after falling from a military vehicle.
In 1963, Giard went into a Detroit car dealership and convinced the manager to give him a job as a salesman. He was great at his job, selling a car on his first day of work. He became so good, that other salesmen at the company complained, leading to his dismissal. His next job was in Eastpointe, Michigan at Merollis Chevrolet. Over the years, Giard set consecutive sales records over a fifteen year period. He held his position with the company until his retirement in 1977.
For more information on Joe Girard, visit the following resources:
- Joe Giard – His Inspiring Story
- World’s Best Salesman [PDF]
- Motivational Sales Stories – Joe Giard
- Hachette Book Club – Joe Giard
- Success Circle Monthly Interview – Joe Giard
- Automotive Hall of Fame
- Conversation with Joe Giard [PDF]
- How Did Joe Giard Sell 6 Cars a Day?
- Joe Giard – Author Updates
- How to Sell Anything to Anybody – Presentation