While most readers associate Joe Verde with his dynamic training classes on sales and sales management, you probably don’t know that he grew up baling hay, plowing fields and milking cows.
You also may not know that one of his most beloved hobbies is to retreat to his ranch without electricity or phone service and devote his time to mending fences and keeping the property in great shape.
And, most importantly with Veteran’s Day occurring this month, you may not know that he is a decorated war veteran who also harbors a passion for providing service dogs to disabled veterans.
Verde grew up in sparsely populated Brown County in central Texas. At the age of five, he started to work on the family farm. He attended a small high school, with only 25 people in his graduating class. After earning his diploma, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.
“Everybody in my family has been in the service. That’s just something we wanted to do to protect the freedoms we all enjoy,” he said.
Verde chalks up the impetus for his later success in sales and business to his time in the army and what he learned there.
“I would credit the military with giving me some of the most important skills I have now. I learned to take orders, give orders and get the job done, no matter what it was. I learned to do my best in everything I did,” he said.
Verde was in the army for a total of seven years.
Two of those were spent fighting in Vietnam.
The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is one of the most recognizable helicopters of all time. Twin bladed with a low slung belly, its familiar sound and visage appears in the majority of movies and television shows associated with the Vietnam War.
It was that helicopter that became an integral part of Verde’s life for his time in Vietnam.
In Vietnam, Verde worked with and on Chinooks serving in a variety of positions including Mechanic, Crew Chief, Flight Engineer, Door Gunner, Tech Inspector and Maintenance Team Leader in the 228th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Division.
In the last few months of his tour, he was placed in charge of a maintenance team which broke all records for keeping the highest percentage of helicopters flying. As a result of this feat, he received an early promotion and became the youngest person ever promoted to E-6 in the Battalion.
He had just turned 21-years-old.
But it wasn’t just keeping the helicopters airborne Verde was lauded for. He saw action. During his tour, he was honored with 14 Air Medals, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars.
When Verde left the army, he was lured to Anaheim, California by the promise of sunny weather and opportunity. In 1973, he sold his first car at a dealership where he continued to work the next 5 years, but evolved into what he dubbed, ‘The 8-car guy’ he would write about years later.
Not finding the success he sought, Verde departed the auto selling industry and opened Auto Trim; an automotive accessory business servicing auto dealers and the public in Irvine, Calif. It was during that period that Verde discovered the bulk of the genesis for his selling philosophies.
He studied mentors such as Zig Ziglar, W. Clement Stone, Art Linkletter, J. Douglas Edwards, Napoleon Hill, Ben Franklin and even Socrates. Learning from these pros played vital roles as he created and molded a philosophy on how to successfully sell autos.
“While owning that business I luckily found information on professional selling and continued learning through more than 100 books, tapes and seminars. From the greats in sales I got an education in ‘Professional Selling,’” he said. “Auto Trim grew every year, but I eventually closed Auto Trim to start selling cars full time again because of the incredible potential selling cars offers real pros in sales and management.”
So the plan was developed. His philosophies were sound. The leaders he learned from were impeccable. Next? Take the ideas from paper to reality.
Verde launched his new vision and skills on sales at a local dealership and the results were apparent immediately.
“As a professional in sales, I earned more money in my first seven months back selling cars, than in my first five years combined as an untrained amateur,” he said.
By his third month back in the retail auto arena, he was averaging over 30 units a month with the majority of those from repeat and referral customers. After his pay and bonuses were reduced as continually he sold more, he moved on and was hired in management. In that position, he used his management training in the army and implemented his ideas and vision to strong success and to his last dealer’s dismay, Joe and his team sold ALL of the vehicles in inventory while the dealer was on vacation and instead of gratitude, as Joe said, “I got yelled at for making it look like he was out of business because we had no new vehicles.”
He lost his enchantment or as he put it, “The fun wore off of continually improving and being punished.”
Verde left the retail side of the industry and in 1985 launched his own company, Joe Verde Sales & Management Training.
“I gave up on finding a good dealership to work in and created Joe Verde Sales & Management Training to teach others the sales skills I developed and used personally to handle incoming calls and leads, selling, closing, negotiation, follow up, prospecting, and long-term customer retention, and to pass on the management skills I’d learned and used to succeed,” he said.
Venturing into entrepreneurship can be exciting, but, if you talk to enough entrepreneurs, many will tell you it is scary, too. Not with Verde. When asked how confident he was, he responds with a Verde-esque quote.
“I knew that if success was my goal, that I’d be more successful tomorrow than I was yesterday,” he said.
When pressed, he said he was confident because of the training he received in the military and because of the education in sales he gained by reading the hundreds of teachers he mentioned earlier.
“I just learned more stuff than most people bother to learn,” he explained, “so that I could do what was needed to keep growing.”
To say things happened would be an understatement. During the last 33 years, Joe Verde Sales & Management Training has grown and grown exponentially.
He’s refined and grown his courses as the industry has changed which tens of thousands of people have taken. He’s spoken to countless groups and organizations. He’s published and copyrighted over 50 books and other training materials plus over 300 monthly newsletter issues of “Selling Cars Today” and over 300 more of his monthly issues of “For Sales Managers Only.”
And organizations, such as NADA, have sponsored his two-day management course and he and his team have spoken at the annual convention 26 times. He also takes great pride in his company, his employees and how they have all worked to help others through the years.
“I’ve been the highest achiever in virtually every job or position I’ve ever held from plowing fields on school nights to earn gas money, baling hay, and cleaning out box cars for the railroad in the summers, and those are the kinds of people we hire, too,” he said. “Joe Verde Sales & Management Training, Inc. averages 40 employees, with an average tenure of more than 14 years and have had 26 record years of our 32 full years in business.”
Verde is not resting on his laurels. He continues to release new training as the industry changes is enthused about the annual NADA convention coming up January. Though seeing old friends and ‘giving out hugs’ is one of the aspects of the convention Verde always said he is looking forward to, the event also provides him an opportunity to aid veterans.
Since 2013 at the NADA annual convention, Verde has been a primary contributor and has helped inspire others at the convention to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) organization. The nonprofit organization uses funds to train and provide service dogs for disabled veterans.
Though Joe has a passion for CCI, he also sees it as part of his duty.
“People appreciate our veterans and say thank you for your service, but they should say thank you for your sacrifice,” he said. “Our veterans deserve so much more credit for everything they, and their families give up to serve in the military.”
Q & A
We sat down with Joe to get his insight on his personal practices and gain his insight on everything from habits to heroes.
- What is one daily habit of yours? Work! I love showing others how to make the leap from amateur to pro in sales and in business. I love what I do, and I love hearing about the results our dealerships, managers and salespeople have using our training. We have multiple 3rd Generation Dealers and 2nd Generation dealers who started with us years ago, and my most fun days are at the NADA Convention seeing people whose lives we’ve helped to improve over the years.
- How about a fun habit? It’s work! I have 370 acres 45 minutes from my home in Orange County, California. It’s surrounded by wilderness two miles up a dirt road off the Ortega Highway in Riverside County with no electricity or phone service (yeah). We usually have about 18 deer roaming, 3 bob cats as full-time residents who have their own dens, and one mountain lion who just had babies that we don’t try to pet.
I have a couple of tractors and from creeks washing out the roads that have to be repaired (when it actually rains here), to clearing downed brush to help prevent wildfires like the big one that came within a mile of us recently, and just fixing things, there are no dull moments. And like with selling, you immediately see the results of your work. What I enjoy most is the same as being in sales; the challenge of solving problems there, too. No matter what happens and no matter how big your toolbox might be, there’s always something new that needs urgent attention in selling and in maintaining that size property.
- Who are your role models? My management role models were the military leaders I served under and worked with every day. There was always a goal, a plan, preparation (practices & constant drills) and then execution. It’s pretty simple, a clear goal, a good plan, the right preparation, and unwavering execution guarantees success.
On selling, there are so many people who deserve recognition, but key are: Zig Ziglar, W. Clement Stone, Art Linkletter, J. Douglas Edwards, Napoleon Hill, Ben Franklin, and even Socrates. Why? Because they spoke to me in plain and simple English of how to sell on a professional level – no trendy words – no tricks – no shortcuts – just ‘do this’ and ‘say this’ when this happens or to make this happen – and they were right almost every time. My biggest challenge was converting what I learned from all of them into repeatable and effective processes I could apply to selling cars.
- What would you say to the 8-car guy? Get an education in sales so you can turn Pro and double your sales. If you can’t get it at the dealership you’re in, or if you lack the management support there to improve, move now, find a home that will support your goals to improve and stay there forever, set clear goals for sales in the next 12 months, 6 months, and in the next 90 days – and always focus on improving one of your skills or work habits every month.
How do you address disruptors – especially digital – in today’s selling market? How people gather information and why they come into the dealership is just the first step in selling. Too many dealers only focus on driving traffic instead of teaching their salespeople what they need to know so they can make the sale once the customer is on the lot. So salespeople do what I did my first 5 years, and miss 3 out of every 4 sales they could be making.
Every dealership has enough floor traffic right now to double sales, so lack of floor traffic isn’t the problem and more traffic isn’t the solution. Salespeople don’t sell more because they don’t know how to sell more. They just need more effective processes and more skills, and when they have those, selling is easy. And that’s exactly what we teach.
- What is your proudest accomplishment? Every male in my family from my grandfather, my father, my cousins, uncles, my brothers, my son, my grandsons and myself are all veterans and I am 100 percent proud to be in that group. So other than helping dealers, managers and salespeople improve, I feel very fortunate to able to help support our military veterans in need with Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) through their Veterans Initiative. In fact, they recently launched a new pilot program to place service dogs with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Pamela Becker, Joanna Mueller and the entire staff in the Oceanside branch and all of CCI do an awesome job of breeding, raising, training, and supplying service dogs to help our disabled veterans. The total cost to supply just one dog to a Veteran in need requires about 2 years of training and will cost about $50,000 per dog. We’ll be at the NADA convention again this year, and will be at the Adesa auction and hope everyone will attend the auction to help us help another veteran we all depend on to keep us safe.