April 16, 2015
The Second Gun — The One to Keep Them Coming Back
For many adults new to firearms and the shooting sports, their first steps into this world are often prompted by the desire to protect themselves and their families. That means the first gun they want is one suitable for that purpose, and especially one that works well when carried concealed.
Let’s say you’ve been successful at working with new customers like this. You find out why they want a gun for self- and home-defense, you’ve asked all the right questions about their daily lives and where and how they live, gotten them through basic safety and gun handling instruction and maybe even their concealed carry class and you’ve sold them the firearm you both think will work best to do the intended job. Great job, absolutely give yourself a pat on the back. But now take a step back, take a look at the bigger picture and ask yourself this: How often do I see these first-time gun purchasers, the ones for whom self-protection and concealed carry is the priority, back in my store again?
If the answer to that question is “Not often,” you might be having a problem with follow-through. That’s a term all of you should be familiar with, as it relates to the basic shooting skills and the follow-through that’s necessary to reset the trigger and require the firearm’s sights after each shot. But here I’m talking about follow-through after a successful gun sale, specifically when it’s sale of a personal protection or concealed carry gun.
Follow-through or after-care of a completed sale can be important no matter what the firearm, but especially so with those suitable for concealed carry. The reason for this is a fact we don’t like to admit to and that is that many guns intended for this purpose just aren’t a lot of fun to shoot. This particularly becomes a problem for the first-time buyers, the ones who don’t have a lot of range time with a variety of guns under their belts. The more experienced shooter, especially those who started with a gun other than one intended for concealed carry, have simply learned to accept that some guns are easier and more fun to shoot than others. They also understand, through that exposure to a variety of guns, that they still need to practice with those firearms that are less pleasant to shoot — and that includes firearms like magnum shotguns and big-bore rifles intended for dangerous game, in addition to the harder to handle micro semi-automatics and snub-nosed revolvers of CCW genre. The more experienced shooters do this because they know it makes them better shooters with those more difficult to handle guns and because once they’re done practicing with a gun they don’t really like to shoot, they can move on to one they do enjoy. But how can a new shooter, one who starts out with a self-defense or CCW gun, do that?
Easy. Sell them a second gun.
If you’re good at selling guns to first-time buyers, it’s likely you have worked in lots of conversation with these customers about the importance of regular practice and the how it helps build on the rules of gun safety through the ingraining of good habits. What you need to add to this conversation is, well, a little honesty. Be up front, explain that a micro .40 S&W brand X semi-automatic likely isn’t a ball to shoot on a regular basis — despite practice with it being necessary — and then show them a gun that is pleasant to shoot. Maybe it’s a full-size 9mm semi-auto or an L-frame S&W .357 that is a joy to shoot paper with when loaded with semi-wadcutter .38s. Maybe it’s a .22 bolt-action rifle or 20-gauge over/under skeet gun that lets your new customer explore shooting in a way totally apart from the seriousness of a gun for self-defense. It doesn’t matter what it is, just so long as they customer begins to understand that there’s a world of truly pleasurable shooting to be had.
Now, I know many of you will argue that most customers aren’t prepared to buy two guns in one shopping trip. Fair enough and, for the new shooter, two guns at one time may be a lot for them to wrap their heads around. So don’t try to get them to go home with two now, rather, set the stage so that the probability of selling them a second gun is greatly improved.
It’s not enough to tell these new customers, “Hey, you may not have a ball with the one I’m selling you, so think about gun XYZ eventually” — you have to show them. Have them signed up for a couple safety and basic shooting classes? Great, offer them a rental gun that’s easier and more fun to shoot than that mouse gun they bought to carry concealed and let them use that rental for most of the shooting that takes place in the class (though emphasize they should shoot their new purchase as well). You could also hire instructors who keep a selection of easy-to-handle firearms just for this purpose. Don’t have a shooting range with your store? Partner with one or several in your area and set up a program with them that’s tailored to widen the firearms handling experiences of these new shooters in a gentle, responsible way. Offer a discount or special on your rental gun case — first three rentals after your purchase are free or two rentals for the price of one — or maybe even a “try before you buy” special on a pairing of a fun ammo and gun combination, with the cost of that rental and ammo or a part of it taken as a discount against their next gun purchase.
How you go about preparing your first-time firearms buyer to be loyal customers is limited only by your imagination. The thing to keep in mind is that you’re building a next sell — not upsell, next sell — opportunity. To do that, you have to give your customers a chance to enjoy firearms and the shooting sports beyond whatever necessity drove them to your store in the first place. Teach them, engage them and they will come back time and time again.