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February 1, 2018

Learning to Sell Part II: Adding Finesse

By John Bocker, NSSF Security Consultant Team Member

In the first of this two-part series, I talked about how to help your staff discover their inner sales pro through building a genuine rapport and demonstrating their credibility with customers by engaging in genuine and honest conversation, all of which should be aimed at adding value to the sales experience. In this second part, I’ll explain why overselling compromises that hard work, but adding-on and upselling can enhance it.

Resist the Oversell …

No one wants to feel they’re being pushed into a sale or get back home with a bag of goods only to think, “What have I just done?” Be careful not to oversell or push items on customers they’ll likely later regret buying, as this will result in customers who won’t return and who will likely spread negative impressions of you and your brand to friends, relatives, neighbors and all over social media.

The best salespeople not only understand the problem of overselling, they work against it during the sales process. For example, “This firearm fits nicely in your hand but has a six-shot magazine. I would suggest at least one, possibly two spare magazines if being used for self-defense.” An example of overselling would look something like, “Oh, you definitely need to buy at least seven or eight extra mags,” or “You’ll be much better off with this Super (and super-priced) Model XYZ that holds 15 rounds!”

Not only should you resist overselling too much product or pushing someone into a product price range with which they’re obviously uncomfortable, you should also never overstate the value of a product or service or outwardly criticize a brand or product you carry in the store. Be honest. Refrain from exaggerating and, if you don’t know the answer to your customer’s questions, don’t just shrug your shoulders or make something up, go find the answer.

… But Challenge Your Customer’s Perceptions

If a customer tells you they are looking to buy “a cheap handgun because I only need it for the house in case someone breaks in when I’m home,” it is up to the salesperson to challenge that customer’s perceptions. To sell a high-quality revolver or semi-automatic, the salesperson has to say something like, “These economical handguns certainly will perform as designed, but I’d like to show you several other options, as each has different standards for quality, materials and reliability — and when it comes to your own protection, those should be considerations for you.”

Empathy will play a big part in scenarios like these: Is this really a matter of budget, or does the customer not have knowledge of manufacturer reputation, engineering or reliability? When a salesperson doesn’t challenge a customer’s perceptions the premium items sit (until they are marked down) and that salesperson has failed to build any rapport and impart any value or credibility into their relationship with that customer. Yes, some customers only want what they want and don’t care a bit about listening to what you have to say, but these are not the majority of your customers, novice or otherwise. Most customers are savvy enough to tell when someone is being honest with them — and they like it! If they feel they can trust you, they’re more likely to buy. I call this creating “likeability,” and it can have a huge impact on your customer interaction and sales.

Add-Ons and Upsells

Great salespeople always try to increase the sales total once the customer has selected the primary item for which they were shopping. This is “adding-on,” a critical component of any salesperson’s job. Those who are talented at this do so by being honest and selling items that provide value.

The best practice of initiating add-ons is to include the need for accessories into the selling process of the primary item. For example, while discussing a firearm purchase, include discussions about ammunition and holsters. This will identify natural “needs” and increase the probability of a successful add-on sale.

Upselling is another talent, and it’s one that can be realized when your salesperson identifies things their customer may be worried about. For example, if you are selling a revolver to a customer who is new to guns because their neighbor told them it’s “the best first gun to own” and the customer expresses apprehension about fast reloads and limited capacity, you can easily move the discussion to that of semi-automatics and their additional magazine capacities. You don’t want to push it. You just want to explain the options and advantages — providing education, solutions and, again, value — which will help eliminate that customer’s particular fears.

Of course, many sales are made simply because a product or service appeals to a customer’s desires, rather than need. Yet these desires are not always clarified in the customer’s own mind. If you can identify what a person desires through natural conversation and a logical progression of questions and answers, you can gear your selling toward meeting that desire by offering additional products that will make their purchase easier, faster, more stylish or complete.

Practice Makes Perfect

Selling is like playing a sport: practice and persistence pay off. You don’t want to be pushy, but you do want to show your customers that you genuinely care about their experience and want to help them. So many retailers today are concerned only about the sale, not the experience, and today’s customer definitely wants an experience. Consistently making personalized contact or even remembering customers by name can go a long way toward increasing your sales and brand loyalty.

About the Author
John Bocker is an NSSF Security Consultant Team Member and the Managing Director at JB Group, LLC, based in Denver, Colorado. JB Group is a business security and strategy consulting organization specializing in ATF FFL compliance and protecting FFL’s against unexpected losses resulting from burglary, robbery, and internal control failures. Visit, call (720) 514-0609, or email for more information.


You may also be interested in: Learning to Sell Part I: Rapport + Credibility = Value

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