Use Face Time With Customers To Create
By Mark Kakkuri
Ask any gun store regulars what constitutes their every day carry (EDC). Or, ask them to do a “pocket dump.” You’ll quickly confirm what you probably suspect about those who carry a gun or shoot on a regular basis — namely, accessories abound.
EDC for many shooters includes a spare magazine or a reload of some kind, a tactical flashlight, and of course a folding knife. Maybe even a tactical pen. And this is in addition to a set of keys and a cellphone! As a dealer, the key idea is this: Gun sales, and especially for handguns in particular, bring a prime opportunity for sales of accessories.
Brian Tatti, a sales associate at Michigan Shooting Centers, Inc. in Lake Orion, Mich., adds cleaning kits and ammunition to the list of popular handgun accessories. “Ammo is huge — very popular with all the technology it has available today.” And if a customer is buying a gun for concealed carry, they’ll of course need ammo for practice and ammo for self-defense.
Besides ammunition and cleaning kits, probably the easiest accessory to sell with a handgun is a holster. In all likelihood, the customer purchasing the handgun intends to use it for self-defense — perhaps even for concealed carry. But even if the customer plans to just use the gun as a “house gun” or a “truck gun,” they’ll still need a holster. Always encourage the proper use of a holster in accordance with gun safety rules and explain how a holster benefits not just concealed carry on a person but also use inside a house or vehicle. Holster fits abound as do holster styles and materials. Most affix to a person’s belt — they’ll need a real gun belt, yes — in just a few seconds and provide a secure and stable platform.
Customers will often show up in gun stores looking for the latest and greatest offering from this or that manufacturer. In the past, holster manufacturers wouldn’t have advanced knowledge about a new gun and had to catch up with the gun manufacturers. And so customers often left a gun store with a gun but without a holster — because it didn’t yet exist. Nowadays, some gun manufacturers are coordinating the launch of a new gun with select holster manufacturers already in the know and ready to ship and sell holsters for the new gun.
Ruger’s recent launch of the Ruger American Pistol must have included a pre-coordinated effort for some holster manufacturers. DeSantis and Blade-Tech, for example, had holster models — the Speed Scabbard and Classic Eclipse, respectively — ready almost immediately. What better way to serve a customer buying Ruger’s new American than by pointing them to holsters available right now?
Viridian V100 Long-Range LED Illuminator
NAA 22 Grip Laser
Recently, I attended a Gunsite Academy class to learn how to shoot a carbine. The class included some instruction on how to transition to pistol and of course the two instructors wore their holstered pistols to each class. When you’re at a Gunsite class, you watch and listen and learn. All the students locked onto each instructor’s words and, during downtimes, asked a zillion questions. Someone asked an instructor what he carries every day. “Well,” he started, “I have my pistol, a spare magazine, a fixed-blade knife, a folding knife and a tactical light.” We students could have come up with this list ourselves but it just held more weight in that moment and really sank in. All of those items are good accessories to keep in mind as dealers but maybe most significant was the mention of the tactical light.
“And not just any light,” the instructor lectured us. “Buy the best one you can find. It might cost a bit more but remember, ‘You’ll buy cheap, twice.’ So spend the money and get a good one.”
As a dealer, your takeaway is to bring this important consideration to your customer when they’re buying a handgun. You can tell them a Gunsite Academy instructor always keeps a reliable, bright light on his person because, truly, he might need it. And so might your customer.
Beyond the instructor’s nuts and bolts reminder, make use of tactical light manufacturer marketing efforts to drive home the point about personal lights. Viridian, for example, has launched its “Never Go Naked” campaign to point out the clear link between needing to clearly see a target when using a gun. While the campaign aims to make sure rail-equipped rifles carry a light affixed to them, the point also applies to handguns. Have your customer consider gun safety rule No. 4: Knowing your target includes, of course, seeing your target. So if there’s a chance you can’t see your target, light it up first. The light may also serve as a deterrent!
Viridian’s V100 is one of several “long-range illuminators” offered by the company. These lights are made from high-grade aluminum, feature crenelated bezels, and cast brilliant white, red, or green lights (via CREE LEDs) from the press of a tail-mounted switch. While they can be mounted to a rifle, they can also be carried in a pocket and used independently or, of course, with a handgun in a low-light situation. The V100 is an “entry level” illuminator — smaller than the others and therefore perfect for on-person carry.
Brian Tatti, Michigan Shooting Centers, Inc.
In a modern trend among manufacturers, Ruger worked with holster
makers prior to the release of the Ruger American Pistol to give
customers options for carrying their new handgun.
Tatti reiterated the key to increasing sales of handgun accessories is to listen to the customer. “I have tried a lot of the products out there so I have an understanding and can teach my customers about the products,” he said. “But I try to talk to my customers and not talk down to them.”
This kind of salesperson-customer interaction goes on all the time but reaches a key point during the point-of-sale. “Since we keep ammunition and cleaning supplies in stock, I can make an additional sale of those items during face-to-face interaction. But I also have a lot of phone conversations with my clients, and also a lot of emailing goes on,” he said. This constant conversation, constant listening, says Tatti, is key to the sales process. “If you listen to your clients, they’ll usually tell you what to stock,” he added.
Tatti also spends a lot of time online researching new and different products — on manufacturer websites but also different handgun forums. But he also spends time on the phone with different vendors and manufacturers and product reps. And of course he interacts with his colleagues at the Michigan Shooting Centers store. “It helps all the people I work with are really into guns; they are always telling me about different products they have found.”
Tatti notes profit margins on handgun accessories have shrunk over the years — “You’re lucky if you get 30 percent” — mostly due to customers buying from online sites. But the advantage for the clients of Michigan Shooting Centers (and other brick-and-mortar operations around the nation) is the personal attention they can receive from knowledgeable and kind sales staff. So, the key to successful sales in handgun accessories, according to Tatti? Customer service. “It’s everything,” he continues. “Our entire staff takes pride in our customer service.”