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How to Sell Yourself

by Joe Girard and Robert Casemore
ISBN: 0446385018
Paperback (trade)
Warner Books

Continued from Part 1


Not since Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber who came pounding his way out of the same Detroit ghetto that I did to become heavy-weight champion of the world in 1937, has there been a champ with the guts and drive and class of Muhammad Ali. He changed his name along the way, remember? (I'm going to be telling you some more things about Joe Louis later on, but for now let's consider Ali.) He won the championship first in 1964, when he was Cassius Clay, and he won it again as Muhammad Ali in 1974.

Ali told everyone who would listen-in person, in the locker room, in the ring, in front of radio microphones and TV and movie cameras, in newspapers and magazines-that he was number one. His words became a trademark. I am the greatest!

You better believe it. I've watched Ali before a fight as he starts to sell himself. He tells the press, in poetry yet, "I'm going to knock him down in five/He's going to take a dive/I'm going to sting him like a bee/So he won't see." Ali liked to call the round. What was he really doing? Simply selling himself. He turned on all the valves to get the adrenaline, the juices, flowing. What happened?

His opponent heard this or read this and started unselling himself. To top it off, in the ring, while the referee was citing the rules, Ali would look at his opponent and tell him what he was going to do to him. It's all part of selling himself.

The first time he fought Leon Spinks is the only time he did not go through this normal psyching-up process, and the world saw Muhammad Ali go down to defeat. He failed to sell himself on himself, failed to reaffirm that he was number one. The second time he fought Spinks he didn't forget, and the world saw him regain his title, heavyweight champ of the world. He is the greatest!

You have all kinds of opponents, all kinds of obstacles, in life. You're in the ring every day. You can win or you can go down for the count. Why not be a winner? It's more exciting, it's more rewarding, it's more downright fun!

A fellow I know, John Kennedy, who scouts for the Toronto Argonauts, quotes this to-the-point saying among athletes: "Winning is what counts in a game. Coming in second is like kissing your sister."

You don't have to be on the muscle about it, you don't have to tell your opponents, your obstacles, what you're going to do to them. Just be positive and tell yourself that you are the greatest. Do it right now. Say it out loud as you look up from this book: I am the greatest! Say it again. If you're all alone, shout it a couple of times. Make the walls shake. Sounds good, doesn't it? Now go back to reading this chapter.

All people who sell themselves successfully are first sold on themselves. Selling yourself on you can take a lot of forms, but most of them add up to this: Learn to like yourself. How?


The late George Romney-former president of American Motors, former governor of my state, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and a man widely known for his integrity, his ability and his spirituality-once presented these thoughts, I'm told, in a speech he gave before the members of his Mormon Church.

1. Never do anything, anywhere, that you would be ashamed of.

2. Don't be afraid to give yourself a pat on the back now and then.

3. So live that you'd be glad to have yourself for a friend. I think it's a terrific three-step formula for liking yourself, and Romney surely must have followed his own advice. As I observed him over the years, as I saw him give freely of his skills and experience to his fellow citizens, I can tell that not only was he genuinely sold on others-he was also thoroughly sold on himself.

But don't think he hadn't faced obstacles. I recall when he first decided to run for governor of the State of Michigan and he mentioned honestly that he had prayed in order to reach a decision.

You may or may not know of the jeers, the laughter that he received at the hands of some of the media. Another time, he mentioned just as honestly that he had been "brainwashed" concerning certain aspects of military and foreign affairs. Again, the media and many people hurled the word back in his face. But he went on to use those obstacles as stepping-stones.


If you just keep selling yourself on yourself, you'll have an easier time of getting to be and remaining number one. There will be many obstacles, and you must be prepared for them. Early in life my mother warned me that the years ahead would be full of problems, but she cautioned me never to dwell on them. To do so, she pointed out, is to set yourself up for getting caught in a trap of negativism. This can happen, and it nearly did to me.

The year I first became the Number-One New Car Salesman, I was honored at a banquet given by the automobile company whose cars I sold. It was known as the Legion of Leaders banquet. I received a lot of heady applause that first time, but little did I know or even suspect the image-shattering obstacles that were in store for me.

The next year I was back again-the Legion of Leaders-and the applause lessened. The third year at the banquet I received not applause, but boos.

I stood there at the speaker's table and I was stunned. I was so shocked and dumbfounded that I was literally paralyzed. I looked down toward the end of the table and saw my late wife, June, in tears. I looked out over the audience of other salespeople and I could feel their reactions-of I don't know what-as if they were giant obstacles suddenly shoved in my path toward success.

As I stood there listening to the jeers and catcalls of my fellow salespeople-those who were not number one in selling, but the twos and threes-I suddenly gained some courage by remembering another who had suffered the boos of the crowd. In my book he is one of the greatest ballplayers of his time, a man who batted .406: Ted Williams. I remembered that every time the stadium echoed with boos for Williams, his average went up. At that moment in my life, I learned from him how to turn off the catcalls and get on with the job.

So at the banquet that night, I tossed aside my prepared speech. I asked the people who had booed me to stand up so that I could look at them, see what they were like and thank them. Yes, thank them.

I said, "Thank you. I'll be back again next year." I put a number-one smile on my face. "You have given me the right to come back. You have fueled my tank to keep my motor going." Then I went over to my wife: She sat there with mascara running down her cheeks. I asked her why she was crying, and she told me that she was ashamed and embarrassed by the people booing me. She was shedding tears of sympathy for me and tears of anger for the others.

I took her hand. "June," I said, "the day they quit booing me is the day I'm no longer number one. They've paid me a compliment."

I came back the next year and the next, and the same thing happened each time. And each time I would turn their bad manners, their catcalls, 180 degrees into compliments.

After eight years in which I had consistently remained the number-one car salesman, NBC-TV came out to the Legion of Leaders banquet to tape this phenomenon for a national newscast. NBC had heard how the World's Number-One Salesman was being booed by his peers. They had read about it in the press-Automotive News and Newsweek-and in the wire services, United Press International and Associated Press.

Once again, before the camera and on national TV, the same thing happened. I still smiled and said, "Thanks, I'll be back next year."

During those years, in the quiet of my room at night, I tried to understand why I had been booed. Was it envy? Jealousy? Was it that they did not want to work as hard as I had worked? Maybe they didn't want to meet the price of being number one, didn't want to pay their dues.

I determined then that if I wanted to keep selling myself successfully I would police those things out of my life. Envy, jealousy, a willingness to settle for second best, a willingness to just give up. I suddenly realized what had been happening at all those banquets. Those who are number two and number three in life are not content until they pull the number ones down to their level. That was the trap my mother had warned me about.


There are three kinds of people in this world.

There are the number ones. You can tell them easily. Those are the people who have sold themselves on themselves: Those are the achievers. They are always enthused, they never complain, they wear a number-one smile. They are positive proof that what you get out of life is what you put into it. They are winners. And they have the ability to charge your battery with their enthusiasm.

Those are the people you want to emulate.

Then, there are the number twos. There's one in every office, every department, every shop, every classroom, every locker room. They are the people who are always looking for a shoulder to cry on, for someone to tell their troubles to. They are the gripers in life. They are the losers, the people to stay away from.

They are put-downers and puller-downers. Run from them to avoid any danger of becoming like them.

And there are the number threes. They are the people who have copped-out of life, who have simply given up. Their attitude is "What's the use?" They are the ones who say, "Let George do it." In a way they are even more pitiful losers than the number twos because they've never even made an effort. Shun them.


You can only win in the business of selling yourself by believing you are number one and acting like it. By reminding yourself every day-verbally or by some visible sign-that you are number one. Just as plants need fertilizing, so does your mind. Put a little card up where you can see it every day, a card that says I am Number One. Look in the mirror every morning and tell yourself I am my own best salesperson. As the late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale- minister of the Marble Collegiate Church in New York and bestselling author of The Power of Positive Thinking-counseled, say it and say it and say it again. You are what you think you are.

It's a matter of image. Robert L. Shook, the noted businessman-author, states in his book Winning Images: "If you want a winning image with others, your first concern must be a winning self-image." My friend, the late Lowell Thomas wrote to me once and said, "I wish I could start all over again and follow in your footsteps."

This, coming from a man who was himself the world's number-one adventurer, the world's number-one newscaster, is one of the finest compliments ever paid me. It proved to me that, in my own way, I had sold myself successfully to him.

And, in your own way, you can sell yourself just as successfully to others. The number-one rule is to have faith in yourself, the greatest product in the world, an individual who has no counter-part anywhere.

You are Number One!

Do These Things NOW!

  • Buy a small numeral 1 lapel pin (or ring, necklace or bracelet) and wear it proudly every day.
  • Tape a three-by-five file card with I Am Number One printed on it to your bathroom mirror where you can see it first thing every morning. Read it and smile.
  • Keep a similar card in your office or shop or kitchen or locker. Put another on the sun visor of your car.
  • Repeat this statement ten times every morning upon arising: I Am My Own Best Salesperson.
  • Repeat this statement ten times every night before going to bed: I Am the Number-One Person in My Life.
  • Associate with others who know how to sell themselves, who are winners.
  • Avoid the losers from now on.
  • Put negative thoughts-envy, jealousy, greed, hate-out of your life.
  • Determine that you'll take every "catcall" in life from now on as a compliment and build on it.
  • Give yourself a pat on the back at least once every day.

Copyright 1979, 2003 by Joe Girard


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