Binocular Selling for Dummies

Everything you need to know about selling the right bino to the right customer.

Binocular Selling for Dummies

When it comes to binoculars, there is a lot more to differentiating brands and models than just cheap, mid-grade and expensive. While, without question, high-end/quality binoculars generally cost more than lower-grade binoculars, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every hunter needs a $3,000 pair of binos to satisfy their needs. While there is much that can be said about high-end optics in regard to performance, understanding a customer’s need, finding the right set for their application, and picking something within their budget are the first steps in making the customer comfortable with their purchase. After all, the goal is to have them purchase a new pair of optics, not leave to shop elsewhere, having never seen the option that actually fits their need.

What’s in a Price?

Price is never the definitive discriminator between quality, but it can be a pretty good indicator. Speaking frankly, all optics start with the same basic glass, but to get glass ground, polished and coated to maximize transmission and minimize imperfections requires multiple processing steps, significant labor, and expensive equipment. Additionally, manufacturing methods that increase robustness, reduce failure and increase life expectancy require higher-quality materials. High-quality optics are expensive, in part, due to the costs incurred to manufacture them. It isn’t just a marketing gimmick.

With that said, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a $3,000 pair of binoculars is six times better than a $500 pair, nor does it mean that a $200 pair is a waste of money. Each has a purpose, and sometimes even a single buyer would be better served having multiple pairs — like one pair for hunting out West and another pair for back at home. What the price of optics really implies is that for a buyer who wants the best edge-to-edge optical transmission, specifically in low light, it comes at a cost. Simply put, manufacturers don’t put $1,000 glass in a $200 pair of binoculars, and yes, there is a big difference.

Having worked at an optics counter in the past, I heard many customers say they wanted the best binoculars money could buy. After I showed them some optics, they would balk at the price of a pair of Swarovskis, often stating that their current pair, which cost thousands less, were just as good. While I would have loved to tell them that it is simply impossible and get into all the nerdy details about optics, I would smile, and then have them run different binoculars through an impromptu shootout.

A few simple tests to showcase the differences between optics is to first put a plastic circle the size of a quarter inside the objective of the binocular and see if they can still “see” through it. For quality optics that are edge-to-edge polished and coated, you won’t even notice it. For cheaper optics, the “view” is impaired. Next, I would walk them outside and start by having them look at features in shadows, not bright light, and then focus through the shadow from front to back. For instance, through tree branches. Quality optics will finely focus from branch to branch and the features and color will be sharp, while lower-end optics will start to blur features, mute color, and not focus nearly as finely. I would always state, if you are trying to count points on a buck at 100 yards in some brush, which one would be better?

After illustrating the drastic differences in contrast, focus and color between binoculars at different price points outside, I would bring them back inside. Inside I had strategically placed a price sticker on a post about 10 yards from a counter. I would ask them to read the price to me and step them closer and closer, removing optics from the shootout that were unable to focus that closely until we were down to one. It goes without saying that the highest-quality optic, not necessarily the most expensive, always won in all categories from the selected group. The key is that not every binocular shootout had a pair of Swarovski or Leica in it. Instead, the shootout included only binoculars up to the price they were comfortable with. In fact, at the time, Nikon had an incredible pair of low-cost 10x42s that I sold a lot of, as they would outperform binoculars twice their price. While we made less profit on them, I had much greater success making the sale to people that were wavering at higher-priced options while still providing them the best choice at their price point.

Do Power and Objective Size Matter?

What do the numbers 8x32, 15x56, etc. really mean? The first of those number is simple: It stands for magnification. In simple terms, 10X binoculars make the object look 10 times closer. While that sounds like a simple choice, selling a 15X pair of binoculars to a hunter who intends to handhold them in a treestand while archery hunting will leave them frustrated and unhappy and likely with a headache. Selling the right power to a buyer is actually simple. For close-range hunting, 8X or 10X will do. For longer-range hunting, 10X or 12X is great for handheld operation, and anything 15X or larger should be regulated to mounting on a tripod. In most cases, 10X is ideal for nearly all scenarios. Specific scenarios where 8X would be preferred is in the timber where a bigger field of view allows for quick acquisition. On the other hand, 12 or 15X is ideal for long-range scenarios where it is more common to glass 500 yards or farther.

What often confuses people is the second number in 10x42. Why does the 42 really matter? Just like riflescopes, the x42 stands for the objective size. Simply put, this is what “gathers” all the light. Optics from the same maker with the same quality glass will always be brighter when fitted with a larger objective, especially at sunrise or sunset. Additionally, the larger the objective, the bigger the field of view, which allows for quicker acquisition of targets and a bigger scanning area. While the obvious suggestion would be to always get the biggest objective possible, the bigger the objective, the heavier the binos are and the more uncomfortable they are to hold. If the buyer is only going to keep them in their vehicle, a x56mm objective would work, but if the buyer intends to carry them on their chest all day out West and handhold them, by the end of the day, they will be regretting not going with the x42s.

Other Considerations

For users who intend to use the binoculars hunting out West, the better the optics, the less eye strain and fatigue. Hunting out West, where glassing for hours is commonplace, is no situation for a pair of $100 binoculars. While this is a difficult selling point to get across as all glass appears 100% transparent, the reality is that optical transmission on great glass is in the 90% range, while cheap glass can be lower than 80%. Additionally, high-quality glass is distortion-free, where cheap glass can have significant distortion. Because of those two factors, a good analogy is the difference between looking through a freshly cleaned and a slightly smudged window.

In the end, selling optics comes down to knowing the buyer and presenting them with the appropriate choices for their pocketbook and application. While dazzling them with percent light transmission, etc., may work, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Running a shopper through a quick “shootout” will allow them to make their own decision, and if they are still on the fence, having them come back at dusk will open a lot of eyes in regard to what makes $3,000 pair of binos different than a $300 pair. In nearly every case, the more expensive binoculars will shine at dusk, and in some cases, actually make things look brighter through the eyepiece than they do in real life.


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