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Parting shot: are you forgetting something?

When A Woman Walks Into Your Store, Are You "Just Another Pushy Clerk, "Or Are You A Worthy Ambassador For The Shooting Industry?

It may come as a surprise, but your ability to continue to sell and own guns may be in the hands of females, aged 21 to 54 who do not currently own firearms. They are the largest group of citizens who still may be swayed either pro or con about firearms ownership. The other demographic groups are, for the most part, already polarized in their views.

Therefore, as a dealer, these individuals are of paramount importance to the industry. How many times has an unaccompanied female come into your store and walked out a short time later without saying a word? How many times was she made to feel foolish? Too many times they are ignored, made to feel ill at ease, subjected to gender-related jokes, or patronized with open amusement.

Put the shoe on the other foot. How do you feel when you walk into a ladies garment store all alone? Somewhat uncomfortable, maybe? How grateful would you be if a female clerk offered you some help without using words like "chemise," "foundation garment," or "middy"? Wouldn't you be willing to go back there the next time you needed to make another purchase?

Ladies must feel the same way coming to see you in the gun store. They generally don't know enough about firearms to even begin to answer the "How may I help you?" query. It's easy for them to feel intimidated when they are exposed to the technical jargon that we so readily spew out.

From Their Viewpoint

Please consider that a female shopper may be very embarrassed about being in a gun store -- one of the last bastions of male-dominated independence and power. Consider also that if this is their first-time purchase they are also too often coming in out of fear, or a severe trauma which has occurred in their life.

A genuinely friendly smile and a courteous greeting of "good morning" will set the tone. In my store, I have a small supply of various flavored tea bags along with a spotlessly clean guest cup works wonders in setting your new female customer at ease. "May I pour you a cup of tea?" is a tactic that they certainly are not expecting and, more often than not, is initially declined. The fact that it was offered is the key; don't forget to offer again before the sale is over.

You must be very sensitive to the mood and body language of the new female customer. Is she obviously nervous? If so, tactfully get her away from the noice and "well-meaning" advice from your other customers. Go to the far end of the counter and tell her why you have done so in a low, confidential tone of voice. Encourage her to feel at ease. Keep smiling!

I have found that by asking "will the firearm be used for training or possibly home defense" is a quiet opening to determine what type of weapon that we should be considering.

You can, if done properly, ask her if there has been an event which has occurred that is prompting the purchase. Be very careful here. This is a subject that must be discussed in a semi-private area (no other customers within earshot and in a most tactful manner). If she opens up to you at this point, you have won her confidence. Don't misuse it, however, by only trying to close the sale.

The Ultimate Customer

Bear in mind at all times that this individual is virtually priceless to the industry. She must be subtly made to question that all the information she has been fed by the media, the magazines, and the anti-gunners is perhaps not quite right. She must be made to feel that firearm ownership is socially acceptable, politically correct, and a source of plain old enjoyment.

This customer is also not only a prospect for a firearm purchase, but she will need instruction (be prepared to ladle it out in lavish doses in the store, even to the exclusion of your regular male customers -- they will understand), books, ammunition, gun locks, cleaning equipment, eye and ear protection, carrying cases, etc. This is accessory sales paradise!

There are two things that I do which you should consider. First, if she subsequently brings in a friend, there will be a token discount not only for her friend, but a like amount of credit extended to her on the next purchase of accessories.

Second, we offer a trade in policy that gives great value for both the store and the customer. On a new gun purchase, all she needs to do at any time in the future is return the gun to us -- along with all original box, papers, and factory accessories (tools, clips, etc) -- and we will give her 100 percent of the original purchase price as trade-in credit towards any firearm, new or used, of a greater retail value at the retail price.

If you think this completely through, you will see the many benefits to all concerned. Customers love it, and it keeps them coming back. Thusly, she may trade in her .22 semi-auto trainer for a .357 snub nose when she is ready. Generally, we find that she keeps the .22 she has learned to enjoy shooting and buys a .45, .40, or 10mm along with a skeet or trap gun as well.

Representing The Industry

The sentiment of non-firearm owning females on the issue of gun ownership will make or break this industry within the next 10 years. Believe it! She must be treated with extreme care on her initial visit. You must remember that you are an ambassador for the entire industry when she walks through your front door. Whatever brought her there is your good fortune.

She represents a tremendous opportunity not only to gain a new customer but to counter the best efforts of those who would take our guns away. You, Mr. Dealer, can win her heart and mind on this issue more effectively that all of the news anchors and Sarah B's of the world -- or you can absolutely convince her that they are all correct in their portrayal of us.

All you must is remember that she may be a bit uncertain about how to start and needs your patient understanding and concern.

So why don't you both talk it over in a quiet area of the shop over a cup of tea?
COPYRIGHT 1992 Publishers' Development Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:firearms marketing
Author:Lockett, Bob
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Dec 1, 1992
Previous Article:The legacy of 1776: how you can cash in on the current black powder market.
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