Selling Hope

Charles Revlon, founder of Revlon Cosmetics, was once quoted as saying, “In the factory, we make cosmetics. In the store, we sell hope.”

Recently, while observing in a high-profile dental office, I listened to a dentist present a very large treatment plan to a man in his late 60’s. The man had not been to a dentist in 15 years and his mouth showed it: Crumbling restorations, severe periodontal disease, complicated occlusal and TMJ issues, and missing teeth. “A train wreck” was the hygienist’s description as she handed the models to the dentist.

Right before he stepped into the consultation room where the patient waited, he said to me, “Oh goodie, I always get to deliver the bad news.” Here’s how he started his presentation:

“Well, Mr. Cartwright, thanks for coming in today. As you know, you’ve got a lot going on in your mouth. I wish I could tell you we could fix all this easily and quickly but unfortunately, I can’t. Because you’ve been away from the dentist for so many years, you now have a domino-effect happening in your mouth. It took years to reach this point and we will not be able to fix it overnight. We’re going to have to do this in several stages and, to do it right, it’s probably going to take up to a year or longer. You see, these missing teeth here (pointing to a set of x-rays)? The problem is… ”

He could not see this patient’s face (too busy looking at the x-rays only he could read), but I wish he could have. From where I stood, I saw embarrassment, weariness, shame, and  hopelessness.

We don’t sell implants or surgery or workshops or eyeglasses or flea and tick medication for pets. We sell hope. Whoever you are and whatever you think you sell… you don’t. You sell hope and solutions and possibility. We sell an acceptance of the past, a calming view of the present, and an optimistic future. This is what patients and clients, kids and parents, customers and colleagues want: hope.

I still vividly remember the face of another patient, years ago as I observed a brilliant young dentist, faced with delivering a similar bit of heavy news, start his consultation in this way:

“Mr. Hughes, I’m really happy you’ve asked me to help you make some decisions about getting your teeth fixed and your mouth healthy. Your main concerns were being able to chew and smile comfortably again, and I’m very excited about what might be possible in helping you to achieve both of those goals. I understand it has been many years since you’ve seen a dentist, but I also want you to know I honor the sacrifice you’ve made in getting your kids through school and putting your family first, and now like you said, it’s your turn! There are several areas to address in your mouth right now so we’re just going to take it one step at a time. The great news is there’s nothing here that I can see for which we don’t have at least one, if not more, great solutions. I’m positive we will be able to come up with a plan that will fit your goals, your timeline, and your budget, and I’m excited to talk to you about my ideas. Ready to dig in?”

Acceptance of the past, a calming view of the present, an optimistic future. In a nutshell: Hope.

This week, see the news you’ll be giving patients and clients about the options for improving their situation as good news! Enjoy as you watch their spirits lighten and faces brighten as you remember the primary commodity you’re selling: hope.

Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.

~ Martin Luther


  1. I will be reading this next week with both of my teams! We can all use this reminder.

    1. I’m so glad you liked the message, Annie, and that you will be sharing it with your teams. I agree its an important perspective to be reminded of from time to time.

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