Is it just semantics or is there a difference? Which do you want to cultivate?

Most people use these two terms interchangeably.  In fact, both terminologies refer to consumers of goods and services. However, the subtle differences in meanings are extremely important in our industry.  Yes, both of these expressions refer to people who pay other entities in exchange for something they need or want. 

Generally speaking, a “customer” is someone you do business with once, or once in a while.  A “client” on the other hand is someone with whom you establish a long-term, on-going relationship.  The term also implies a more significant, professional relationship.  Lawyers and accountants have clients.  Advertising agencies don’t have customers; they service clients.  Real estate agents deal with clients, even though it may result in a one-time sale, because the sale usually depends on a good, medium-term relationship being formed between the parties.

Most car salesmen, on the other hand, deal with customers.  They’re generally of the character to make the effort to build a long-term relationship. Car salesmen have earned a reputation with an approval rating even lower than Congress!   However, the man who earned the reputation of the “best salesman in the world” happened to be a car salesman.  According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Joe Girard set sales records in the 60s and early 70s that have never been equaled, before or since.  Here are his amazing achievements:

Personal achievements of Joe Girard

Sold more retail “big ticket” items “one-at-a-time” than any other sales person in any retail industry including houses, boats motor homes, insurance, automobiles, etc.

  • Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “World’s Greatest Salesman”
  • Averaged six new retail automobile sales a day (no used automobiles)
  • Most new retail sales in one day (18 automobiles)
  • Most new retail sales in one month (174 automobiles)
  • Most new retail sales in one year (1425 automobiles)
  • Most new retail sales in 15 year career (13,001 automobiles)
  • All retail, no fleet or wholesale, never in management

How did Girard manage such an incredible track record in the auto industry?

He was a master at developing client relationships.  He did not treat his clients like the typical car salesman. 

Here are 4 books he has written — all well worth reading.

Author Sharon attributed his success to the following in a 2012 article on Girard:

“His secret weapon? Greeting cards.

Employing two assistants out of his own pocket, “Joe sent out nearly 13,000 greeting cards a month to his customers, celebrating everything from Halloween to Groundhog Day,” according to the Detroit News. Every year he commissioned an artist to draw up 12 cards and then send them out. That’s all he did. He would send out one card every month. Each card had the same message, “I like you.” So on Valentine’s Day, major holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, Joe’s clients received a card. It is said that with Joe’s card coming every month, his clients considered him a part of the family.

Joe Girard proved, without doubt, that greeting cards inspire customer loyalty. Joe proved that greeting cards motivate customers to refer their friends. Of course, it was not the paper or colorful ink that did the trick. It was a man who cared enough to recognize and honor his customers’ birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. The simple act of sending greeting cards aroused a sense of loyalty in his clients.”

 So….are you attracting customers, or building a solid client base? 

With 18 years in the cleaning industry and 45 years of experience building his own businesses, Gary Goranson was one of the first business consultants to serve the residential cleaning industry with real experience and solid credentials. Visit him at