Divorce and Sales

By Rick Roberge

Divorcerate.org suggests that about half of all marriages end in divorce. As of today, Elaine and I have been married for 38 years, 6 months and 6 days. Sometimes I wonder why.

She married an engineer, but got a salesman.

She married a good looking guy, but got a fat, old grouch.

We don’t agree politically (or on much else).

So, why are we not a statistic?

Switch gears. Let’s talk about sales and new customers.

What percentage of your customer relationships end in divorce?

How many of them end with your customer dating someone else?

– having an affair?

– having a huge, knockdown, drag out argument?

– either/both of you wondering why you ever got married (did business) in the first place?

– arguing how to divide marital assets (who owes who)?

One more diversion: This exchange happened in the 1997 movie, “As Good As It Gets” between the Jack Nicholson character and the Helen Hunt character.

Melvin Udall: I’ve got a really great compliment for you, and it’s true.

Carol Connelly: I’m so afraid you’re about to say something awful.

Melvin Udall: Don’t be pessimistic, it’s not your style. Okay, here I go: Clearly, a mistake. I’ve got this, what – ailment? My doctor, a shrink that I used to go to all the time, he says that in fifty or sixty percent of the cases, a pill really helps. I *hate* pills, very dangerous thing, pills. Hate. I’m using the word “hate” here, about pills. Hate. My compliment is, that night when you came over and told me that you would never… all right, well, you were there, you know what you said. Well, my compliment to you is, the next morning, I started taking the pills.

Carol Connelly: I don’t quite get how that’s a compliment for me.

Melvin Udall: You make me want to be a better man.

Carol Connelly: …That’s maybe the best compliment of my life.

Melvin Udall: Well, maybe I overshot a little, because I was aiming at just enough to keep you from walking out.

So, what does this exchange have to do with the divorce rate and sales? If you watch the movie you’ll learn that Carol (the salesperson) isn’t looking to change Melvin. She’s looking to find a “normal boy friend”. So, many service providers start a relationship by saying something like, “I can change your life!”, but it’s not until the prospect says, “I want you to change my life.” that movement begins and it’s at that point that both parties get on the same page.

Until the prospect says of their own volition, “You make me want to be a better man.” your relationship is doomed. That’s why I suggest that your sales process should be a disqualification process rather that a qualification process. My goal is no bad marriages and no divorces.

This post is done, but I’d like to share one more thing. Each of my clients has said something like, “You make me want to be a better man.” and as a result they make me want to be a better coach.