Education, Eduction, Education — It’s key To Profits!
Optics enjoy a built-in, year-round market. Yes, your customers’ primary purchases may be firearms and ammunition, but optics rate high in follow-on, must-have sales.
The white-hot firearm sales following the election of President Obama also had a positive impact on optics.
“Our business slowed a little bit just because people were so focused on buying guns. But six or eight months in, once people had all these rifles in their closets and realized they needed optics on them, that’s when we started to see the pace pick up. It’s been really good the last year or two,” said Dean Capuano, director of communications at Swarovski Optik North America.
How many of the rifles purchased in your store include a quality scope upgrade? How many of your customers who are preparing for their next big hunt realize the difference a quality binocular or spotting scope will make in the field? That’s where you play a key role. Dealers who really know the features of today’s optics and train their sales staff are the ones enjoying the profits.
More Than Basic Features
“The biggest thing for us is educating the dealer, the consumer and our reps to really look at the features and benefits of the product. It’s education, education, education — showing them why high-end optics are better than some of the lower-priced brands,” Capuano said.
How has selling optics in today’s market changed?
“Two things. Number one, the quality of optics has increased. When we first introduced our EL binocular in 2000, it was very easy to see the difference. As some of the other binocular companies have improved their quality, now you really need to have the consumer take the time to look at field-of-view and look at the quality of the glass,” Capuano said.
Hunters, especially those traveling to far-flung areas and investing in expensive hunts, are looking for anything that will give them an edge in the field. Capuano says dealers need to be able to demonstrate to their customers that all optics are not the same.
“Dealers need to take the time to train their sales staff to show the quality of the glass and coatings, to show the edge quality on a binocular. Most people pick up a binocular, look through the center of the glass, and it looks OK and they’re happy with it. If you go on a mule deer hunt in Colorado, or a coues deer hunt in Mexico, you really need to use the edges of the glass,” he said.
Capuano says dealers and their sales staff can “talk all day long about technical features — weights, field-of-view, eye relief.”
“But, first and foremost, it’s about quality of the glass and quality of the coating. That’s something you can’t fake. It’s what drives up the cost of the product, but it’s really going to make the difference out in the field,” he said.
Hunters going to the range, shooting 50 to 100 rounds before the hunt, want to know the accuracy they have dialed in is “going to be right there for them” when they take that critical shot.
“With riflescopes, don’t just talk about the quality of the glass, but the repeatability of the scope and how durable it is,” Capuano added.
The second thing to remember, according to Capuano, is how much better educated today’s consumers are because of the time they spend doing their homework online and through social media resources.
“In the hunting community, print is still number one, as far as I’m concerned. But we’re seeing a huge growth in online activity and people doing their research before they go into a dealer. That’s why we’ve seen a lot of dealers doing well with either selling online or having their websites up to speed so that people, by the time they get into the store, have a good idea of what they’re looking for,” Capuano said.
Gain A Sales Edge
As Capuano points out, selling today’s optics, especially those with a higher price-point, requires additional knowledge. In addition, dealers face the challenge of staying ahead of consumers who are often well-informed about products.
“High-end optics can be an intimidating sale, especially in this economy,” Capuano said. “The old-school way of consumers walking into a store not knowing exactly what they want and relying on the guy behind the counter, while still very important, is changing. What we try to do is drive the consumer into the store already asking for the product. That means the dealer needs to know what the consumer knows.”
Swarovski offers dealers optics education on the company’s website, www.swarovskioptik.us (click “Service,” then “E-Learning”). How many dealers take advantage of the latest and best tools or programs to become better educated on optics?
“It’s about 50-50. The really good dealers have gotten onboard with utilizing all the tools the consumer has now. That’s the biggest difference I see in the last year or two,” Capuano said.
Capuano admits he’s frustrated at the number of dealers who are missing out on what is available in the way of optics education, plus rewards.
“For the last seven or eight years, we’ve had our Pro Staff Program. Dealers can have their sales staff sign up so every time they sell our products, they earn a certain amount of points. Clerks can go online and do training sessions,” Capuano said.
Points earned through the dealer rewards program can be redeemed for Swarovski products. The Pro Staff Program is updated regularly.
“Anytime we have new products coming out, we put up new product training to keep the dealers, and especially the clerks, trained. Our sales rep force is great, but if the consumer is having certain questions, dealers and their staff can jump online and get answers,” Capuano said.
Swarovski isn’t alone in educating consumers to drive sales — along with offering training for dealers. Burris, Bushnell, Leupold, Minox, Steiner, Weaver, Zeiss and others provide enhanced product information online.
Covering The Market
There are many reasons consumers buy optics, and there is very good crossover in this market. That allows dealers to cover sales gaps that may exist in their customer base.
Don’t overlook campers, hikers, birders, boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts as optics consumers. The L.E. optic market is also huge.
“The birding, general wildlife and traveling market is a big percentage of our market. The binoculars and spotting scopes come into play a lot more there. In the off-season, hunters travel with their families. They may be out doing some birding or scouting for the next hunting season. That whole wildlife market is definitely a growing market,” Capuano said.
Staying up-to-date on manufacturers’ promotions also can give dealers an edge in optics sales.
Burris is offering a $100 rebate on purchases of its Eliminator LaserScope through Dec. 31, 2012.
Steiner is offering its “Spring into Summer” rebates of $30, $50 and $100 on qualifying marine binoculars purchased through July 31.
Weaver is giving consumers a $50 rebate on the purchase of a Super Slam riflescope or binocular through Dec. 31, 2012. Consumers also can receive a Buck Commander hunting pack with a purchase of any Super Slam or Grand Slam riflescope or binocular through Dec. 31, 2012.
A weekly updated list of promotions and rebates is featured on Shooting Industry’s website at www.shootingindustry.com/rebates.
Dealers, to increase your “closing the sale” rate, consider downloading the rebate forms and providing them to your customers at the time of sale. Or, go one step further: fill out the form while your customer is still at the counter, and mail it for them.
By Greg Staunton
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