Gun stores across the nation are in a position to influence customer’s purchasing decisions. Don’t make it about your bottom line, make it about the customer’s needs.

Needs vs. Wants

I have had many conversations this year with new gun owners or soon to be new gun owners. One thing was made clear to me. They are tired of being told “what” to buy. The average firearm consumer is becoming educated, they value what they need more than what they want. The questions I get asked lead me to appreciate their desire to learn more about firearms before they make their first purchase. Of course, there will still be the spontaneous purchases, those more interested in what they want, but a good chunk of the masses are becoming educated. So, as a gun store you need to do something others cannot do and that is to listen.

Ask questions

The single most important thing you can do with a first time gun buyer is listen to their needs. If they haven’t shared them with you, don’t impose your personal bias on them. Instead, ask them what is the purpose of the firearm. What do you intend on using it for; concealed carry, home defense, competition, duty or recreational. The answer to this first question will guide you towards helping them make the best purchase choice to fit their needs. While there are some overlapping areas, they each have unique requirements some firearms achieve better than others. Don’t make it about the manufacture, caliber or even action of the firearm. Let the mission drive the gear selection.

It is about safety

In our classes the mistake I see is when someone was sold something and after putting it into service they realize it is not for them. Yes, sometimes it is a fit issue. The majority of the times it is a mission issue, choosing the wrong firearm for the mission. Asking specific questions is a good way to get to the heart of the matter. While they may intend on carrying it for self defense, they do not feel comfortable or confident they can do so safely because they are still learning. This is a critical observation and one overlooked. They need something to help them develop confidence they can safely operate and shoot before they get all fancy.

It’s not what you think

In the case of a firearm choice ideally suited to help build confidence and comfort it is not going to be small, lightweight or compact. It will more than likely be a full size variant and for good reason. If they are truly looking to become comfortable and confident the larger framed pistol will be more forgiving. It will have improved sight length, less perceived felt recoil and better interface than the more compact variants. Keep the overall need of feeling comfortable and confident in mind. Features such as interchangeable frames to adjust the fit are common and helpful for many. They need to learn to shoot and before basic operations safety and confidently first, the rest comes with time.

First time gun purchases are on a steady rise, we as an industry must do a better job listening to their needs. They are in there, you have to ask the right questions to get the right answers.

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