By Jade Moldae
A lot of factors are in play when a member of your sales team is engaged in “securing the sale” with a customer. You can have a bright storefront with a modern layout, an expansive selection of inventory, competitive pricing and clever marketing/signage to draw customers in for a visit but perhaps the most influential factor is in the employee.
Labeled “the biggest value-add you offer” in this month’s lead feature, Doug VanderWoude likens a store’s employees to the tires on an IndyCar — millions of dollars invested in an immaculate car and accomplished driver are for naught if it’s using the wrong tires. Likewise, if your store does everything right but has uneducated or disrespectful employees interacting with customers it will wreck the sale. (And, as you well know, word of a negative experience spreads quickly.)
Simply, hiring the right team can be the difference between a thriving store and one struggling to make ends meet.
Develop An Engaged Staff
A standout quote from P2K Range (El Cajon, Calif.) General Manager Dennis Rohman nearly six years ago in Shooting Industry’s March 2014 issue resonates today (emphasis added): “I hired younger people who came from non-shooting backgrounds because they were good at customer service — from Nordstrom, Target and other general retail. I figured I could teach them about guns, but I couldn’t teach them to be nice.”
Rohman brings up a compelling point: hiring approachable, trainable employees will be an asset to your operation. One way to educate them is to give employees real-time experience with the products they sell. Jeremy Ball, general manager of Sharp Shooting Indoor Range & Gun Shop in Spokane, Wash., recommends range days.
“Do range days with your staff. Ask for manufacturers to support training of your employees,” he said. “It’s a small investment on your part to have your staff enjoy some time together doing what all of you have in common.”
Ball’s next recommendation adds further value to the services offered at your store.
“Get your staff out using the products you want them to sell. If you want them to sell an expensive product they can’t afford, they better have some real-time experience with it,” he added. (Mark Whitlock had a similar sentiment in this month’s “Selling High-End Optics” feature: “If you haven’t used it yourself, it’s really hard to sell someone a $3,000 optic.”)
Engaged employees can leverage their personal experience and approachability to provide unmatched customer service — a point emphasized by Jacquelyn Clark, Bristlecone Shooting (Lakewood, Colo.) co-owner.
“We have the ability to offer something online dealers and even some big boxes can’t offer — a unique and personal buying experience,” she shared. “A human touch, customer service and the ability for customers to interact while going through the purchase process work to our advantage. Online retailers can never do any of that. And with a tactile purchase like a firearm, we have a leg up.”
Later this year, we’ll feature an article in Shooting Industry providing tangible tips you can implement at your store to facilitate hiring efforts.
NICS Figures Continue Climb
Closing out 2019, there were some promising signs consumers are back in the market to purchase a firearm. Encouragingly, Black Friday recorded the second-highest single-day total in the history of the NICS system by posting 202,465 checks. (With 203,086 checks, Black Friday 2017 holds the single-day record.)
The good news didn’t end there. Dec. 2019 had 1,553,965 NSSF-adjusted NICS background checks, representing a 4% jump over Dec. 2018. (The unadjusted figure of 2,898,501 reflects a 15.1% increase from the unadjusted Dec. 2018 number [2,517,286].) With 4,001,455 NSSF-adjusted checks, Q4 2019 registered a 4.9% jump over Q4 2018 (3,813,342).
Overcoming a slow start to 2019 business, a multi-month recovery that began in May led to a total of 13,199,172 background checks for the year — a 0.6% increase over 2018’s annual total.
Yes, this tracks below other recent annual figures but a year-over-year increase is still worth mentioning here. And it’s also a sign “the consumer is still there” — a case made by Rob Southwick in his 2020 market prediction that appeared in last month’s issue.
What’s your store doing to ensure they stop by this year? Have insights of your own to share? Contact me anytime: email@example.com.