If you’re in the auto industry or really any industry, as a salesperson, you should probably know the name Joe Girard. But in the off chance you do not, let me give you a quick background on him. He sold cars for a Chevrolet dealership for 14 years, and in that time he sold over 13,000 cars and averaged 6 vehicle sales per day. In his best month sold 174 cars. The average car salesperson sells about 10 vehicles a month.

This success landed him a spot in the Guinness Book of World records as “The Greatest Salesman.” Now let me ask you a question: if you’re reading this, and you are a salesperson, have you ever thought to yourself “I’m going to be so great that one day, I’ll be in the Guinness Book of World Records as the greatest salesmen who ever lived”. I’m assuming the answer is no… but why not? You can utilize the same strategy that Joe Girard did and be on your way to becoming one of the most effective and astounding salespeople in history. Do you want to know what the greatest salesperson’s secret strategy was?


So how did Joe capture so many referrals? He mastered the art of the personalization, follow-ups, and customer appreciation. And you can too with these 7 tips on growing your referral business.

  1. Follow up

    Within a few weeks of selling a car to someone, he would call them up and ask how the car was running. If things were going well, he’d ask for a referral. If they weren’t, he’d fix the problem – then ask for a referral.

  2. Personalize

    He kept a file listing personal information about each customer – such as the names of their children, what they did for a living, their birthdays, their kids’ birthdays, etc. He’d use that information to personalize his conversations with them. He sincerely cared about people, and reminded them that they were special. This created a relationship that motivated them to recommend him to a friend or relative.

  3. Remind them

    Every month, year after year, Girard would send a greeting card to every customer on his list. Inside would be a simple message. He knew they’d need a new car one day, and he wanted to keep himself at the top of his customer’s minds. He was careful not to include anything that might sound like a sales pitch. Just an anecdote, a new idea, a news story, a book review, a birthday greeting, or a tip he knew they’d be interested in.

  4. Make sure your customers know about every service you provide.

    If you sell Product A to someone, make sure they also know you carry Products B, C, and D. The more solutions your customers know you provide, the more likely it is that they’ll know someone who will benefit from getting a call from you.

  5. Ask for a referral

    When the time is right (post-purchase or on the follow), express your gratitude to your customer as well as your hope to help more customers just like them. A line as simple as  “I am so happy I was able to help you out and if you know of anyone else in need of assistance i’d love to give them the same attention and services that I gave you.” can help jog your customer’s memory on someone they know that would be in need of your services.

  6. Program it

    Setting up a referral program can help you organize and optimize your referral business. Excel sheets and emails can get lost in the shuffle but a dedicated system allows for easy tracking and the chance to discover your brand advocates. Joe Girard programmed his entire sales process (BEFORE COMPUTERS) and when it became too much for him he hired employees on to help him write his thank you letters and follow ups.

  7. Incentivize

    An incentivize offer pushes you brand to the top of your customers mind when their friend or family member mentions needing a new service or product. And showing your appreciation with a reward for a customer referral allows your customers to understand just how much you appreciate their trust and support in your business.

Girard’s dedication to keeping in touch with his customers instilled in them a psychological obligation to do business with him creating long-lasting and enjoyable relationships, a hard find the auto industry today. Girard has often said he doesn’t believe in hard work. That what he does believe in is working smart. And no one approached selling cars any smarter than Joe Girard did. No matter what product or service you sell, if you don’t have a referral and repeat-business strategy in place, you’re working too hard. I hope these quick tips got you ready to start capitalizing on your most underutilized yet most effective sales channel!