Selling Gun-Care 101

You’ve Just Sold A Gun, Now It’s Time To Sell Maintenance

By Carolee Anita Boyles

Talking about gun-care products should be a staple of selling every gun. After all, if a shooter fails to clean his gun, he’ll eventually be back complaining it doesn’t work properly. Show him how to clean the gun properly and sell him the tools to clean it with, and he’ll be back for ammo and targets instead.

At LeadFeather Guns & Archery in Winter Haven, Fla., Owner Evan Reynolds has observed an increasing number of younger, tech-savvy shooters purchase firearms, and a shift in the demand for high-tech gun cleaning products.

“When we teach our beginning classes, we have people bring in their firearms and we show them how to break them down, clean them and maintain them,” he shared. “A gun is like any other ‘working’ product such as a car. If you don’t maintain it, eventually it’s going to give you issues — especially in the semi-auto world. Good maintenance makes your investment last longer and makes using it more enjoyable.”

One of the keys to selling gun-care products, according to Reynolds, is educating customers. They purchase what they understand and know how to use.

“Everyone knows the old oils their grandfather used,” he said. “We tell them about the new synthetic oils and give them free samples. We’ll also share our experiences with the products and what we use here in the store; it’s a good way to advertise a product.”

Reynolds recognizes the innovation in today’s gun-care products.

“There have been great changes in firearms care,” he observed. “A lot of smaller manufacturers have come up with products that hold up better than some of the older products. They last longer, and are — in some cases — less expensive. For instance, Slip 2000 is one of the better cleaning products we carry. We like their synthetic oils and carbon cutters.”

Another product line LeadFeather carries is Pro-Shot.

“We have their rods and cleaning kits,” Reynolds added. “There’s also a relatively new company we’ve just started carrying named Real Avid. They have a pull-through braided bore cleaning cable, the Bore Boss. It has a plastic handle on it, which doesn’t slip when you pull it through the bore.”

Fort Thompson Sporting Goods’ Raymond Paladino stands next to an array of gun-care
options at his store. An end cap capably displays these popular add-ons for customers

Customer-Focused Formula

After the most recent presidential election, Reynolds relayed he wondered what direction sales would take. All in all, sales in general have not changed significantly he shared.

“I know a lot of shops are down 10 to 20 percent,” Reynolds informed. “We’re just trucking along as well as or better than we were in the Obama era. I think a lot of it has to do with customer service. We sit down and spend time with our customers. When they buy a gun, we show them how to clean and maintain it.”

Reynolds maintains a full staff of five to seven employees every day to be sure the floor is covered.

“We don’t want a customer to walk in and have to wait, or feel like she’s being ignored,” he said. “We always want the customer to feel like she’s the most important person in the room, because she is. I don’t pay my employees; the customer pays my employees. Without customers, I don’t have a shop.”

Although LeadFeather Guns & Archery has a significant web presence, Reynolds said internet sales are not a huge part of the business.

“We don’t do a lot of online business; we just have a supplemental income from it,” he added. “Most of what we do is storefront business. People come in and put their hands on the firearms and ask a lot of questions, and we give them honest answers. I always tell my employees if they don’t know the answer to a question, don’t make up something. Go find someone who does know the answer.”

As such, the online customer is not his target customer.

“Those folks are usually looking for the least expensive price,” he said. “Online sales are very impersonal, which is not my customer. My sales are based on how we treat people; I pride myself on it.”

However, maintaining an online presence does help bring in customers.

“It’s the way people research things these days,” Reynolds shared. “Gun and archery customers will drive a considerable distance to visit a store that treats them right. Once they come, they’re hooked because of the way we treat them.”

Real Avid Carbon Boss AR15

MTM Case-Gard Gun Cleaning Rod

What Sells?

Raymond Paladino is the manager of Fort Thompson Sporting Goods in Sherwood, Ark. He contends most firearms buyers in his store ask what they need to clean their new gun.

“We carry a wide variety of cleaning products, including Hoppe’s, CLP, Ballistol, Pro-Shot and 80 Below,” he said. “I have a whole section of gun cleaning products, including brushes, jags, and mops.”

Of what he carries, Paladino added, there isn’t one brand that jumps out as more popular than any others.

“We sell about the same amount of all of it,” he said. “The hottest thing right now is the Ballistol; I really believe what makes a product popular is the way the manufacturer promotes it. If I see a product on the Pursuit Channel or on the Outdoor Channel, I know multiple people are going to come in here and ask for it.”

When it comes to equipment and accessories, Pro-Shot products lead the way in sales.

“I think mainly because it’s the one I’ve carried more than any of the others,” he added.

At Fort Thompson Sporting Goods, getting products in front of customers is mostly about location.

“We put all of our solvents on an end cap of one of the aisles,” Paladino shared. “It’s positioned so if you’re standing there looking at a rifle, it’s right there. When you turn around, you see it. As far as the actual promotion of those products, it’s about all we do, because if you own a firearm, you’ve got to clean it. When someone buys a new gun, usually the first thing he says is, ‘Now I need something to clean it with.’”

Employees usually talk about the products they use and are familiar with, which helps sell those products.
“If the customer hasn’t seen an ad for something and they ask us, we’re going to tell them what we’re using,” Paladino said. “I may like one thing and the guy standing next to me likes something else. Both get the job done.”

One fairly new manufacturer Paladino is watching is 80 Below.

“Their lubricant is very cold resistant, and I’ve sold a lot of it,” he relayed. “I think there are a lot of people who have never heard of them.”

In addition to Fort Thompson Sporting Goods’ expansive website, they also talk about products on Facebook and utilize hashtags to call attention to products and special promotions.

“I think it works, although we don’t have a real big push for that kind of promotion,” Paladino said. “Cleaning products kind of sell themselves, which is why I carry a lot of them from different manufacturers. The products that have always sold and are always going to sell are Hoppe’s and Breakfree. Those are staples, and will be until the end of time.”

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