You don’t have to be an aggressive salesperson to earn people’s trust

Image credit: DigitalGrowth.ca
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I will start this article with three points before I launch into the story:

  1. At the time this article was written, my job was selling firearms to a demographic who is mostly already into the culture. The store does get people who are new to the culture and new to firearms, but I don’t run into them as much.
  2. While I am technically on commission, it’s not so high that it will make or break my month. Besides, selling firearms falls into a category by itself.
  3. I have more people that come to me for advice prior to the purchase of almost anything because I tend to give straight-forward advice and I assess their needs before I do anything else. Even if I don’t know the product, I will do research.

I am still considered in-training and am still doing quite a bit of it. I had two other coworkers around me showing firearms to people and there were still people approaching the counter, so I had to take the initiative. My product knowledge after three weeks on the job is still iffy at best, but often, people are happy to be helped, and even if I don’t have all the answers, they appreciate the effort.

One of the customers was a younger woman whose opening line was interesting, “I’m looking for a gun, but I need it to be pretty.” I asked her the usual openers: Will you be carrying it? Do you want a smaller or larger gun? What’s your experience with guns?

Her responses read that of an amateur, but this gave me the opportunity to guide her. As she walked across the counter, she was drawn to a specific Kimber gun.

Her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. When she answered that she wasn’t sure if she would carry it because she’d never done it before, her face read some fear. She displayed her hands and they were on the larger side; she wanted something that would fit into her hands. She also mentioned that she’d never owned a gun, but her friends had recommended she purchase one.

I asked her if she’d acquired her concealed-carry permit. While you don’t need it for the purchase at this store, to get it, you have to take a training class, which should be her next step. She mentioned she hadn’t. I advised her that she should take one before going too much further. Those classes are not only extremely helpful, but the instructor can answer many questions, plus you can network with the group you train with.

She found three guns she wanted to see. It costs nothing to view, plus I wanted to see how she should handle it and I wanted to demonstrate proper handling.

For those who may not know, there are some basic rules to firearms handling:

I removed the firearm from the case, and in front of her, I removed the magazine and displayed it in a way that you knew it was empty. I then pulled back on the chamber and locked it back. This is something that will happen automatically if you are firing the gun at a range and you’ve fired the last bullet. I also presented it to her with the barrel pointing toward me since the ‘safe direction’ would be the wall behind us (if this were a personal firearm I had stored, I would have handed it to her sideways).

Her handling of the gun showed how new she was with it, but it was clear that she wasn’t afraid. In her hand was the firearm pictured above. I demonstrated a safe and solid way to pose with it and asked her to mirror it. She was grateful to me for showing her all that I did despite the fact that we both knew a sale wasn’t going to happen.

She returned the firearm to me and I returned it to the case. Another safety tip that isn’t in my graphic above: When you receive a firearm back from someone, verify that it’s unloaded. Yes, she received it unloaded and there was never an opportunity to load it, but it’s part of the muscle memory.

She proceeded to ask me about lessons. We both headed for the computer to do some Googling. We found a few locations that offered the classes that she’d need. I took time to emphasize the importance of these classes since you want to learn the right way, plus the acquisition of the permit. The other key question I asked her was if she traveled often.

Those who travel often and who own guns will be familiar with reciprocity laws. She volunteered that until she’s more comfortable with firing a gun that she would likely restrict her usage to a range. I advised her to seek out gun ranges as most have firearms that will for rent for a small fee.

She was emphatically grateful to me for giving out all the information and doing it without seeming arrogant or shaming. I had earned her trust and I instilled the confidence into her such that when she was ready to make that purchase down the road, she might come back to the store and talk to one of us.

She returned the subject to “the pretty gun.” I appeased her interest by showing her the other two guns we had that were colorful. Again, I wasn’t going to be making a sale, but also the store wasn’t busy, and I wanted her to hold these guns to increase her comfort. I also reminded her that while aesthetics are not a bad thing, she should narrow down the firearm to the one that works for her and will get the job done, leaving aesthetics as the final consideration. She asked if different guns can be ordered in different colors and after consulting a coworker, it turned out that if the company sold it, we could likely get it.

We returned to the computer and I searched the store’s website by color. It turned out the company carried a variety of firearms in other colors. I also advised her on some of the services offered by the store in terms of customization and how an customer can order particular firearms that might not be sold in the store. All of these things pleased her. We shook hands and she headed out.

Some takeaways from the encounter:

  1. At no time did I push her into a specific firearm, but after assessing her level of understanding, I advised classes. Some people would argue that I should have made some recommendations since I am a salesman, but that would require a deeper understanding of her needs. Had she informed me that she’d taken a few course and had fired a few guns and she’s now narrowing it down, I would have taken a different approach. For all I know, after taking classes, she decides that firearm ownership isn’t for her.
  2. At no time did I steer her away from considering the purchase of a firearm that “was pretty,” but rather I explained options offered by the store. Even though my involuntary reaction came across as criticism, I eventually returned to helping her fulfill that need.
  3. Since she was fairly new to handling, I made it a point several times to demonstrate how to safely handle a firearm so that her visual memory would capture it. Most learn by seeing and doing. Once they see a specific way for the first time, they’re most likely to mimic it.
  4. While the idea of keeping up with the legal aspects of firearm ownership is daunting, it is necessarily part of ownership. It’s one of many reasons why I recommend that new people to ownership take these classes, and why I recommend that seasoned owners practice and/or take advanced courses.
  5. For all I know, aside of this woman’s friends and family, I could have been the first person she had a serious conversation with about firearms. When I’m in that mode, I will remove my associate hat and put on my “representative of the gun community” hat.
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About the author

Mike Rana

Mike Rana is one of those people who is hard to define, though he's not immune to being labeled for something. He likes to talk about many topics including technology, business, politics, education, psychology, and human behavior. In his spare time, Mike enjoys traveling, people watching, analyzing the world around him, writing about his life experiences, absorbing information from various social media channels, and trying to be the voice of reason in the political arena.

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