?Would You Like to Meet a Legend?
“”Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”” -Henry David Thoreau
In July I had the privilege of digitally recording a piece of history – a 3 1/2-hour conversation between two icons in the retail automotive sales industry, Mr. James A. Ziegler and a true living legend, Mr. Irving Silver.
Irving Silver is now 89 years old, going on 35. He rescued over 100 U.S. Soldiers during WWII. He sold 837 Jaguars in less than 3 years. In 1949 he was the first salesperson in his industry to earn almost $50,000 in 1 year. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal by General Douglas MacArthur, personally.
Jim and Irving discussed many topics, including the attitude, sales techniques, processes and work ethic that both men utilized to reach the level of success that they have in their careers and in their lives. When the shoot ended I had no clue that 3 1/2 hours had passed.
If sales professionals will simply listen to what these two men have to say, this content has the potential to change lives forever. It has mine.
It is my sincere honor to introduce you to:
Mr. Irving Silver
Living in Sullivan County, NY, Irving Silver sold his first automobile in 1934 at the age of 16. Earlier he had purchased a Model T pick-up truck for 8.00. He restored the old truck and drove it for a while, then sold it for 16.00. Mr. Silver stated, “”That’s when I knew it. I told myself that when I grew up I was going to sell cars.””
On December 7th, 1941, a young Irving Silver heard over the radio that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. On April 6th, 1942 he arrived at Fort Dix, New Jersey and enlisted in the United States Army. He then proceeded to Fort Bragg, NC for Basic Training and received the rank of Corporal due to his knowledge of diesel engines. He trained exclusively on landing craft and during combat operations he operated an LCM, (landing craft medium).
Mr. Silver was involved in military operations in New Guinea, Guadalcanal, Okinawa, Iwo Gima and the Philippine Islands.
In October of 1944 he took part in the largest Naval battle that the world has ever seen, The Battle of Leyte Gulf.
One day as the Allied Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy were engaged in heavy naval combat, Mr. Silver and his crew members observed two disabled U.S. PT Boats.
He and his crew navigated their Landing Craft Medium, (joined by another LCM), out to the disabled vessels and the battle, ran cables underneath the two vessels and successfully towed both vessels out of harms way.
Mr. Silver landed on the Philippine Islands ten days before General MacArthur did. His mission was to assist the Filipino Guerillas in establishing listening posts in Mindanao in preparation for the impending troop landings. Mindanao was fully occupied by the Japanese.
On December 30th, while preparing for a planned landing at Mindoro on the Western end of the Philippine Islands, Mr. Silver and his crew observed a 200′ long “”PT Tender””, (munitions supply ship for PT Boats), that had been struck by a Japanese Kamikaze aircraft. The ship was on fire and was adrift approximately 300 yards off-shore. The craft was also fully stocked with torpedoes and other highly explosive munitions. Mr. Silver and his crew navigated their LCM, (joined by another LCM), out to the burning ship. He and his crew boarded the highly volatile vessel and rescued over 100 injured Sailors.
In early 1945 General Douglas MacArthur personally awarded Irving Silver with The Bronze Star Medal for “”Heroic achievement in connection with military operations against the enemy.”” General MacArthur also gave Mr. Silver a Battlefield Commission from the rank of Corporal to the rank of Captain.
Also in early 1945 after returning from WWII, Mr. Silver took out a bank loan for 3500.00, purchased a business license in Albany, NY and opened Hasbrouck Tavern in Woodburn, NY.
It was a small building that he built by hand and was located out in the woods in Sullivan County, NY. He purchased an old Chevy for 35.00, painted “”Hasbrouck Tavern – Dine and Dance”” across the back and parked it in front of the tavern.
Mr. Silver stated, “”The Tavern was my first experience with successful marketing. We hung posters and handed out flyers all over the place that read, ‘Hasbrouck Tavern – Come and see the Hillbillies Square Dance.’ New York people from the Bronx and Brooklyn had no idea what square dances were, but they were curious.””
On opening night, the Silvers could not accommodate all of the people that showed up.
Later that year he and his bride of four years Ronnie, left upstate New York and traveled to Atlanta, Georgia. For a while he was in the jewelry business before he decided that he didn’t want to travel anymore. Given his long time love for cars, Mr. Silver wanted to sell them.
Mr. Silver went to several dealerships in and around Atlanta in search of a sales position. He stated that he had a difficult time landing a job until Lander Motors decided to “”give him a shot.”” He began to speak about his early experiences at Lander when he was asked, “”Why was it so hard to land a job at a dealership?”” Mr. Silver replied with a chuckle, “”I was the first Jewish car salesman ever in the history of Atlanta.””
1946 – In his first 22 months as a salesman at Lander Motors in Atlanta, Irving Silver delivered 235 new cars, 15 trucks and 70 used vehicles. (Good thing they decided to “”give him a shot””).
In 1949, he became the first auto salesman in Atlanta to make over 50,000 in one year.
Over the next few years he became the number one salesman in the country for Dodge and Plymouth.
In the 1960’s he was the number one Nash Rambler salesman in the country and became a member of the Chevrolet “”Legion of Leaders.””
In the late 1980’s he became the number one Jaguar salesman in the WORLD, delivering over 837 Jaguars in less than 3 years. A record that has never been broken.
Due to an injury Mr. Silver “”retired”” from Troncalli in 1989. At 78 years of age, he was back in the saddle in 1995 returning to work at Troncalli.
Mr. Silver had a top gross of 21,000.00 in a single day. (Commission, not sales).
Mr. Silver is the founder of the first Automotive Sales Institute which was accredited by the State of Georgia, he led the board for over 47 years.
He was also director of the Antique Automobile Club of America – Southeastern Region.
Irving never looked back. Over the years he would sell cars to the sons, daughters and grandchildren of his customers dating back to 1949. He personally sold over 100 million worth of automobiles before he stopped keeping track.
Charlie Troncalli, head of Troncalli Jaguar, Lincoln-Mercury and Saab wrote: “”…he has more than earned the title of ‘legend.'”” A Jaguar trade publication referred to him as “”Sterling”” Silver.
To top it all off, in 1965 Mr. Silver had an idea for an invention. The turbine operated wet/dry shaver. He holds the patent on it. Due to the fact that his shaver is turbine operated, it sucks the cut whiskers into a canister which means they won’t float around in outer space. Today, every time an astronaut inside the Space Station shaves, he or she utilizes Irving’s shaver.
In closing – If you are ever fortunate enough to meet a true American Hero, PLEASE, P-L-E-A-S-E tell their story. Our country needs it now more than ever.
View photos, letters, video clips and more at: AutoSalesHallofFame.com