Get Out From Behind The Counter, Ask Questions.
Linda Ewasiuk of The Bullet Hole in Omaha, Neb., brands herself a “rule breaker” when it comes to selling handgun accessories. She believes the key to increasing add-on sales isn’t in unique marketing tactics or special promotions.
“The real answer to increasing or broadening your sales is to engage the customer in conversation,” Ewasiuk said. “Nine times out of 10, when you get to talking to customers, they will actually tell you what they want or what they’re looking for.”
Simple and uncomplicated — that’s Ewasiuk’s approach.
“Start a dialogue. If they are a first-time handgun owner, ask, ‘Are you interested in taking a lesson? Have you thought about how you’ll safely store that gun at home? Do you have kids?’ If you ask the right kinds of questions, you’ll be able to make accessories sales by pointing them to the products they need,” she said.
Ewasiuk also believes it’s crucial for dealers to get out from behind the counter, which is “a barrier between the store clerk and the consumer.” Ewasiuk points out that dealers should remember what it was like to be on the other side of the counter.
“When I have someone who comes in, I try to put myself in their shoes. I remember when I was on that side of the counter; I remember the help I wanted. Treat people the way they want to be treated and they will become wonderful, loyal customers who continue to come back for their add-on accessories,” Ewasiuk said.
Those add-on accessories rate high in consumer purchasing. In a November 2011 NSSF survey, the 8,671 handgun owners responding to questions concerning accessories purchased: holsters (69%), cleaning kits (58%), hard carrying cases (33%), gun/range bags (30%), three or more extra magazines (30%), soft carrying cases (27%), aftermarket grips (14%) and rail-mounted lights (5%).
The survey also revealed that handgun owners are most likely to use their most-recently purchased gun for concealed carry (32%), non-competitive shooting (28%), home defense (24%), hunting (5%), collecting/investment (5%) and other (6%). While home defense ranked third overall, it’s important to note that for consumers owning only one handgun, home defense ranked highest in primary use (42%).
How will your customers use their handguns, and what types of accessories will meet their needs? Do as Ewasiuk advises: get out from behind the counter and ask questions. Being “in tune” with the customer almost always leads to accessory sales, Ewasiuk said. By listening to the types of questions the customer asks, dealers can then guide the customer in the right direction, thereby custom-fitting the accessories.
In Tune With Customers
Of the top-selling handguns at The Bullet Hole, Ewasiuk favors Glock.
“They are so accurate and so easy to shoot; they are very forgiving as far as maintenance goes,” she said.
Ewasiuk provides two Glocks for customers to fire on The Bullet Hole’s range, and for comparison to other best-selling brands, Smith & Wesson and Beretta. The Ruger LCR and LCP also are very popular, Ewasiuk said.
“I keep the guns in the store pretty tricked out with grip extenders and sights,” she said. “That gives customers the opportunity to see how they can make the gun their own. It’s helpful because then the customer can point to an accessory on the gun and say, ‘That’s exactly what I want.’”
While she sells laser sights, Ewasiuk believes every shooter should learn to shoot using iron sights. Ewasiuk always promotes The Bullet Hole’s first-time shooter classes. Once the customer can successfully use iron sights, she recommends LaserMax laser sights.
For firearm security, GunVault sells very well for Ewasiuk, likely because she uses the product in her own home and provides a personal endorsement. Ewasiuk also believes it’s important to offer many different safe and vault options.
“Once you get out from behind the counter, you’re not just talking about locks and safes in the display; you can actually show the advantage of (GunVault’s) biometrics over the manual key,” she said. “You can show which are easiest and quickest to open, giving the customer options.”
Gun Dental Floss
The concept of getting out from behind the counter and engaging the customer also applies to other accessories, like cleaning kits. Ewasiuk likes Pro-Shot’s cleaning kits and Hoppe’s BoreSnake, which she pitches to customers as “dental floss for your gun barrel.”
“Cleaning gear is a good example of why it’s important to get out from behind the counter,” Ewasiuk said. “A first-time shooter needs everything — patches, solvents, brushes — everything it takes to clean a gun. That makes it a perfect opportunity to show them a BoreSnake, and tell them what the advantages are to having a BoreSnake in the appropriate caliber.”
For grips, Ewasiuk thinks of Hogue as The Bullet Hole’s “old standby,” and notes that Ajax “does a nice job on custom grips,” which comes in handy in the Omaha area, where custom grip makers are scarce. She points out that, “Ajax does especially nice 1911-style grips in exotic woods.”
“I always suggest to anyone who buys a handgun with wooden grips that you can put a slip-on over it, but occasionally we will take them off and put on Hogue’s,” Ewasiuk said.
Either way, it’s an add-on sale success for The Bullet Hole, with 9 out of 10 customers preferring rubber grips.
For holsters, Ewasiuk sells a good number of Galco models, which she rates high for their first-class leather. In addition, The Bullet Hole also sees solid numbers from the sale of FIST holsters, in both their leather and Kydex close-fitting body models, and Dale Fricke Holsters, of Bozeman, Mont.
In extra handgun magazines, Ewasiuk “always goes with the manufacturer’s” versions and doesn’t stock aftermarket options.
The zombies also have invaded the Omaha area and, like thousands of other dealers, The Bullet Hole has “jumped on the bandwagon.”
“We have zombie targets to shoot at and we do carry the Hornady zombie ammo,” Ewasiuk said. “I didn’t think the zombie thing would be this long-lived, but it made a resurgence here over Halloween and still seems to raise its head every week or so.”
Create A Dialogue
The Bullet Hole’s 12-lane, 25-yard indoor shooting range is an asset, which Ewasiuk says plays an important role in boosting accessory sales.
“I think it helps tremendously to have a range onsite. You get people out on the range, they get to talking to each other and they get to see what the person on either side of them is using,” Ewasiuk said.
The range atmosphere gives Ewasiuk and her staff yet another opportunity to get out from behind the counter and engage the customers.
“A dealer’s biggest mistake is failing to engage the customer in conversation,” Ewasiuk said. “You have to create a dialogue; you have to let them know they are wanted in the store. Think of your store as a destination spot — people come here because they are looking for something a gun store is going to sell.”
Not surprisingly, Ewasiuk has a unique job title.
“We refer to her as our ‘education coordinator.’ Her value far exceeds her title, however,” said Wes Ewasiuk, owner of The Bullet Hole.
By J.K. Autry
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