A top-secret weapon in business

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In this age of digital everything, I recently wondered if my business card was really something from the “good old days” with little importance anymore. After consideration, I concluded that the small piece of card stock can be as important as ever.

At a recent meeting of the Tampa Bay Division of the Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association, I was handing out my card when I realized it didn’t have my new email address. I started scribbling my new address on the back of each card, and wondering if getting new cards was even worth it.

Then I recalled the day I got to hear Joe Girard, an author, motivational speaker and, most of all, a car salesman from Detroit. According to the Automotive Hall of Fame (he was inducted in 2001), Girard sold more than 13,000 vehicles during his career, including 1,425 vehicles in 1973. And, that wasn't a fluke, either, as he reportedly racked up over 1,000 vehicles every year for many years. So, he’s known for his title of world’s best car salesman in the Guinness Book of World Records.

I’ll never forget his opening that day when he walked briskly around the room flipping his business cards to every table. When he got back on stage, he told us to hang onto the cards and “if you pay attention to me, I’ll let you in on a powerful secret hidden in those cards later.”

Girard, who actually changed his name from Girardi after he lost a sale due to his heritage, grew up poor in Detroit. He worked odd jobs, including shoe shining, before landing a spot at a Chevrolet dealership. He was soon fired -- for aggressive sales tactics. He eventually got in at Merollis Chevrolet in Eastpointe, Michigan, and his work ethic and career took off.

Tireless and enthusiastic, Girard became known for never taking breaks, eating lunch or stopping to shoot the breeze with coworkers. He was always on the floor, on the phone or in his closing office with a prospect/customer. Girard won the annual title as the world's No. 1 car salesman from 1966 through 1977, and he sold 13,001 vehicles in 15 years at Merollis.

Girard was unconventional, even speaking of himself in the third person. He often paid for customer referrals. He wined and dined supervisors at big local Detroit-area companies who knew many people and could send them his way.

Girard made sure his customers were his dealership's priority, too. For example, he often picked up the tab himself if a customer's vehicle needed a minor repair. He hosted an annual barbecue at his home for the service department team and their families to ensure his customers were treated right. He even had buttons made with his personal logo, an apple with a bite taken out and the words "I like you.” He liberally passed them out.

At age 49, Girard retired from car sales at Merollis and began writing books, including How to Close Every Sale and How to Sell Yourself. There was also growing demand for him as a speaker who could share a real success story and reveal some of his winning techniques. Sadly, Girard died last February at age 90. But his books and tapes are still available (Amazon).

So, what about the business card lesson he taught? He held up his card and described it as “my best little technique for acquiring new customers.” In every hand-written thank you note he always sent to a customer; in every Holiday Season greeting card he’d mail; and in every situation where he could put his card in someone’s hand, he never gave just one card but always TWO. Then he’d simply say: “Please keep one card for yourself so you can always reach me and give the other card to a family member or a close friend or neighbor, and tell them if they contact me, I will personally take care of them.”

The result was those business cards, coupled with the promise: “I’ll personally take care of them” generated hundreds of referrals and sales over the years, explained Girard. “And, my friends, the cost to you of business cards is zilch. You can’t afford not to do it.”

So, don’t follow my example: Make certain the information on your business card is up to date. Then, decide how you’re going to get lots of your cards out. Always have them at the ready and add value to them by making a statement or offering something that make recipients want to pass on your second card. It sells.  


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