Generally, new products are more evolution than revolution, cell phones are a classic example. When we’re talking about firearms instead of electronics and communications, it’s easy for customers to miss the subtleties that make a new generation of products desirable — even to consumers who already own something similar from an older generation.
Consider the Glock 42, the company’s new slim-line .380 pocket pistol. It has generated long, speculative discussion threads on gun forums. When it became apparent the mysterious G42 would be a small .380, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
“It’s bigger than the smallest .380s out there! Why would I want that?” or “There are full-power 9mms that size! I’ll wait to buy until they chamber this exact pistol for that round!”
How should the person behind the gun shop counter address these concerns, complaints and rants? By simply explaining what the pistol was designed for.
Glock never set out to make the smallest micro .380. In analyzing the market, they noticed some consumers who bought the smallest .380s often found the recoil snappy, the trigger pulls too hard and they overall had trouble controlling the guns. So ultimately they didn’t like shooting them. The new Glock was geared for those consumers.
With the G42, Glock attempted to engineer a pistol that is still pocket-size, but easy to fire without having a dangerously light “hair trigger.” It also needs to recoil softly.
My testing showed they succeeded spectacularly in meeting these design parameters. My pre-release Glock 42 grouped two out of three popular carry loads well under 4 inches at 25 yards. Most gun magazine writers consider this “acceptable combat accuracy” for full-size service pistols! The recoil was very mild.
Sales Tip: The sales person who understands the niche market a particular gun is designed for — and is able to articulate it to a customer — is the sales person who will successfully sell this new Glock.
Present Features For The Niche Market
Let’s backtrack a few years to Ruger’s introduction of their LC380. They already had one of the smallest 9mm carry pistols on the market, the LC9. The company also set gun shop sales on fire with their tiny LCP in .380. In 2013, Ruger introduced the LC380, which was basically the 9mm LC9 platform chambered for the “9mm Short,” the .380 cartridge.
We saw then exactly what we’re seeing now with the G42: “Hey, why go to a smaller caliber in the same exact gun?”
The answer from the retailer’s side of the counter was much the same as it is with the Glock 42: “It’s easier to handle.”
In the LC380’s case, of course, recoil is less with a .380 in a 9mm platform, and that’s important to the shooter who is recoil-sensitive — which is a rather large “niche market.” But with the LC380, there was something else. Since the less powerful .380 round didn’t require nearly as strong a recoil spring as a full-power 9mm, the slide was much easier to manipulate. This factor is hugely important in two large markets — senior citizens and women — where hand and wrist strength may be an issue.
It’s probably safe to say gun dealers who understood this important selling point moved a whole lot more LC380s to the cash register.
Sales Tip: Shooting can’t be tested by the customer in the gun shop, unless there’s an on-site range and a rental sample of the firearm in question. But customers can most certainly handle the gun in the display section of the gun shop. If such important manipulation factors are explained by the seller — and demonstrated — that seller is on the way to an all but guaranteed sale.
Understand, Explain Key Safety Features
Another personal-defense pistol introduced this year is the Remington R51, a slim-line 9mm, which in some respects harkens back to the old Remington 51 .380. In other respects, the R51 is ultra-modern in its sleek lines and ergonomics. It’s essentially a single-action pistol with a short trigger pull and a grip safety, just like the old Model 51. However, it’s more powerful and rated for +P 9mm ammunition.
Reactions? We’ve already seen the sales resistance on Internet gun forums: “Yeah, but a single-action pistol is supposed to have a thumb safety, just like the old Remington 51 .380. This one doesn’t!”
The salesperson behind the counter who hears this might point out the Springfield Armory XD series of pistols work exactly the same way, with only a grip safety. Many police departments authorize and even issue them; the Chicago Police Department approved them years ago and it doesn’t even allow the optional manual safety.
With the grip safety, the gun owner can simply holster the firearm with his gun-hand thumb on the back of the slide. This puts the grip safety “on safe” in case the shooter’s finger has inadvertently been left on the trigger during the holstering process.
Sales Tip: Safety is always a valid concern for the customer in a gun shop. Sometimes you simply steer the customer to another type of firearm, with which they’re more comfortable. However, it’s important to explain exactly how the mechanics of the gun work in the real world of carrying loaded firearms — and the proper handling by the gun owner.
Anything new — whether it’s new to the marketplace or new to the customer — is going to trigger skepticism. The dealer who understands what the product was designed for and can tactfully explain this to a customer is going to make more sales, and — in this industry, in particular — allow the customer to leave with a purchase that keeps him safer. Plus, it keeps him coming back to your place of business.
By Massad Ayoob
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