Dick Grant didn't coin the term "supersalesman," but he certainly epitomized it. He was an early sales giant who helped build General Motors into a colossus.
Grant was the forefather of such supersellers as Bob Lund at Chevrolet and Cadillac, Bill Holler at Chevy, Jim Roche at Cadillac (he became CEO of GM) and Rocket Jones at Oldsmobile.
Grant was a Harvard man who decided on a career in sales after graduating in 1901. He was general sales manager of National Cash Register Co. in Dayton, Ohio, when E.A. Deeds and Charles Kettering tapped him for Delco Light in 1915. Delco Light, which supplied lighting for farms, became part of GM in 1920.
In 1924, he became vice president and general sales manager of Chev-rolet, and the real Dick Grant emerged. His sales promotions were legion and legendary. Perhaps the most famous were his steak and beans dinners.
Dealers were urged to sponsor a dinner for their sales staffs each month. Those who made their sales quotas ate steak; those who didn't dined on beans.
Grant led Chevrolet past Ford in sales in the late 1920s and became GM sales vice president in 1929. He was elected to the GM board of directors and served until 1953.
For the rest of the story, read Automotive News' GM 100th anniversary edition, How General Motors Changed the World, on Sept. 15. For information about the special edition, go to www.autonews.com/gm100.