Talking About Radon to Realtors, Builders and Consumers
If you are in the radon business, no doubt you will find yourself talking about the radon issue. In fact, many radon professionals deliver formal programs as a means of educating folks while marketing their services. However, there are good ways and bad ways to address this topic and many well-intentioned radon professional have shot themselves in the foot with the wrong message ...
A growing number of radon professionals are polishing up their presentation skills to go out and talk about radon. You should consider this yourself, as it is fulfills two purposes: 1) It helps state radon outreach programs; and 2) It presents you to potential clients in a positive light.
Talking about radon, whether it one-on-one with consumers; to a group of builders; or at a real estate meeting, takes a very different mindset than what you might think. We talk a lot about techniques and approaches in our very popular Train-the-Speaker program, but here are a few key pieces of advice.
You may be dying in your home and we can save you!
The most common approach radon folks want to take is to quote EPA national estimates of lung cancer deaths. That is a proper stance for a governmental agency wanting to set environmental health priorities on a state or national basis, but it is not a good approach for you to take. Nobody wants to hear bad news, and they will think you are trying to scare them so you can make a fast buck.
A better approach is to be more positive. For example, if you are talking to realtors and builders you might say:
"A lot of homebuyers are concerned about elevated radon in homes they are considering for purchase. Fortunately, there are reliable methods for properly measuring and reducing radon levels IF they are found to be of concern."
In other words, dwell on the positive side of being able to easily deal with the problem rather than talking about death and destruction. It also relieves you from trying to defend EPA estimates.
Realize What You are Selling
You may have finished your entry level radon courses with the conviction and enthusiasm that you are going to save lives. Although that is true, it is not necessarily what your clients are hiring you for. When talking to anyone, you need to understand and address their objectives and not your own. Let's take a couple of examples:
Addressing Real Estate Professionals:
They are very accustomed to the mechanical aspects of arranging for inspections, lot surveys, title searches etc. A radon test should be viewed as in the same category of routine inspections. If they feel it will slow down the closing process - they will be resistant. So a positive message would be that a radon test can be conducted swiftly, with results provided in a timely manner and then tell them how it is done properly.
If you are a mitigation contractor realize that you are not necessarily selling a system to reduce health risks, but rather you are providing a means by which a purchase contingency is removed so the house can sell. So once again, address how quickly a radon system can be installed and verified in a timely manner that does not delay closing, and even more importantly, that "ALL homes can be reduced below 4.0 pCi/L or 200 Bq/m3."
You need to take a similar approach in that you are offering to install a radon system that they can offer as a value added feature and make money on. No builder wants to be forced to install something that they have to pay for. However, cost is not the only consideration for builders. Many of them, especially volume builders, run a pretty tight schedule. Having a new subcontractor come in can mess up their schedule by delaying a slab pour, basement finish, or roofing if they are waiting on components of a radon system to be completed. So address how you can work with the other trades to avoid any scheduling snafus. Again, be positive and come from their space.
There's Safety in Numbers
I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard a speaker from a local environmental health office or even a state or federal agency say "We want to increase the number of homes that are tested and mitigated." I know that is their goal. However, consider how that message is interpreted by the audience: "Heck if not many people are doing it, why should I?"
It can be much more productive to come from a positive standpoint such as "There has been a sharp increase in the number of homeowners wanting to measure and mitigate their homes and what I am here to discuss is how you, like thousands of others, can properly test and have your home mitigated." This opening statement says that the individuals in the audience are not the only ones concerned about radon (that makes them feel validated for even listening to you or being in the room at all). Secondly it says that others have taken action and they better get on the band wagon and join the crowd.
Regardless if you are talking about widgets or radon or to an individual or a group, the same rule applies - you have to come from the same mindset as your audience. It is not about you and your objectives, but rather how you can help them or address their objectives.
These are just a few tips from our Train-the-Speaker program. If you are considering getting out and talking about radon like many other professionals are doing, especially as you start your new business, we strongly encourage to consider taking our course not only to help you be successful but also to earn CE credit that you will need when you renew your certification.
Director of Center for Environmental Research & Technology, Inc. (CERTI).