Everyone in the gun retail business talks about the importance of add-on sales. Actually, add-on sales are critical to the success of any retail business. The customer you already have is by far the most profitable sales opportunity. In these times of constant advertisement bombardment, intense competition and price-savvy customers, it costs a fortune (in relative terms) to acquire a new customer, so it makes good financial sense to capitalize on the ones you already have.
I hear a lot about potential shooting-related add-on products like cleaning kits, holsters and ammunition. However, there is one product that I don’t hear much about. In fact, in all the gun joints, in all the towns, in all the world, I’ve yet to have a gun store sales associate try to sell me a handgun laser. Of course, they’re easy to find in the store, and I can ask for one. I’ve just never had anyone suggest that I buy one.
That’s strange to me. I mean lasers aren’t exactly a new and unproven technology. Even many of us old farts have come around to appreciating the value of mounting a laser on a defensive handgun. What’s even stranger is that a handgun laser is a relatively easy sale. The value propositions are solid, the usage is easy to understand and most people can quickly get up to speed on the selling features and benefits.
Why go to the trouble? Because it’s easy money. They’re not inexpensive, so solid margin percentages can translate into more cash per sale than the gun itself. While online competition exists, the specialized nature of handgun lasers means that you won’t be competing with the discount stores that will sell other shooting add-on products like cleaning kits.
So how do you get from here to laser tycoon success? Start with these five steps.
- Understand The Benefits
When Jeff Goddard, director of sales for Crimson Trace, approaches a prospective retail partner, he focuses on the top-level benefits to the user.
When we help retailers with selling benefits, we focus on a couple of basic things. For example, a laser is an item that will enhance a shooter’s ability,” he says. “It also helps with many of the popular pocket guns that have poor sights or short sight radiuses.”
It’s just about that simple. The addition of a laser doesn’t eliminate the use of sights, nor does it make one an expert shooter. It’s a tool to enhance one’s ability, especially under high-stress situations. As humans, we’re pretty well wired to focus our attention on what threatens us. Rather than fighting a well-developed instinct to focus on a threat, a laser projects an aim point onto the threat we’re already looking at. It’s that simple. While there are other uses for lasers, such as facilitating dry-fire practice, the biggest benefit is helping enable a user to get hits on target in poor situations. Unfortunately, until you use a laser in poor light conditions with a little pressure, it’s hard to really understand the value. This leads us to the next point.
- Put It In The Customer’s Hands
You’ve probably seen blue guns equipped with lasers as part of a sales display. Maybe you already have them in the store. In either case, the key to making these sales tools work is to not just allow, but rather encourage, customers to play with them. As Goddard observes, “A lot of times customers have that ‘aha’ moment when they put the dot on the wall and see it.”
Some retailers who have success with add-on laser sales try a novel approach.
“Another idea is to have employees carry blue guns equipped with lasers in holsters while they work. That makes it easy to demonstrate laser capability to customers. We also find that blue guns are a lot less intimidating to new shooters to try out and handle,” Goddard explains.
The takeaway is that no matter the method that’s right for your business, get prospective customers handling those blue guns with lasers. It’s a great way to start a meaningful conversation with a customer.
Rather than asking the standard, “Can I help you?,” try something more likely to start a deeper discussion. When a customer handles that blue gun, one might say “That’s a Crimson Trace Lasergrip for the Smith & Wesson M&P. Notice how it’s designed to activate when you assume a natural firing grip?”
A deeper opening question to the customer opens the door for your staff to provide some education on the benefits of adding a laser to the handgun they’re considering.
- Display For Success
In a previous column, I talked about the dual value of creative product displays. By creating a scenario-based display rather than attractive groupings of similar products, you can subliminally educate the customer, even if they are browsing on their own.
Goddard shared another strategy used by some of their more creative retail partners.
“I would suggest making up kits inside the store and present these as a self-defense kit. When you hand that firearm to a customer to look at, the value of the laser will be really clear as they can try it out.”
In the “self-defense kit” display, you might include a quality flashlight, holster, quick access safe, and appropriate self-defense ammunition. Grouping products that a new shooter might not consider, like a flashlight, provides another great opportunity to educate and up-sell.
The other big benefit of scenario- or usage-based displays is that they make for an excellent sales crutch, reminding your team to bring up additional products.
“I would also recommend putting lasers right next to the guns they fit in the gun case. Having a shelf full of laser boxes behind the counter makes it much harder to prompt questions and facilitate add-on sales. Just place a single box next to the gun, or maybe display certain guns with lasers already installed,” Goddard adds.
Every time your salespeople take that gun out of the case, they’ll be reminded to talk about adding a laser. If you want to make the display compelling, create your own product bundle with discounted price for a gun and laser combination.
- Measure And Adapt
Once you incorporate strategies for adding laser sales, it’s important to make the topic an expected portion of sales team meetings.
Gary Dedeaux of Gary’s Pawn and Gun in Columbia, Mississippi, establishes “ratio” metrics for lasers. He expects his team to sell a certain percentage of guns equipped with a laser right off the bat. If the actual percentage slips below his goal, he knows something needs correction.
Perhaps a simple reminder gets his team back on track, but more likely, a renewed emphasis on training is called for.
- Get Started With Training
Even new shooters can smell lack of credibility, so getting your staff access to proper training is critical. For some reason, myths about the use of lasers on handguns persist.
“Lasers just give away your position!”
“The batteries will run out and then what will you do?”
“Everyone should know how to shoot with iron sights! Lasers are just a crutch for poor shooting skill!”
As the growing number of reputable trainers supporting lasers and integrating laser use into their curriculums shows, a laser will enhance the shooter’s ability. They’re not gimmicks and most of the Internet myths are just that — myths.
Fortunately it’s easy and inexpensive (usually free) to get good training. First, contact your laser vendor to see what materials they have. Crimson Trace reps can deliver a brief training program to qualified dealers. They’ve developed a program that covers the major points: why lasers, how to sell lasers, why Crimson Trace, and available tools and sales support.
You can also have your team take advantage of the www.3point5.com program. It’s free, and successful completion of online training enables your folks to earn big discounts from participating vendors.
If potentially doubling gross profit per gun appeals to you, maybe it’s time to beam yourself into the laser market.