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The National Shooting Sports Federation (NSSF) is the firearms industry lobby group. The NSSF does some stellar work, both in terms of legislative campaigning and dealer education. The NSSF’s “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” campaign has done more to eliminate “straw purchasing” than the $2b-per-year ATF (which instigated the practice through Operation Fast and Furious). The video above is designed to help gun dealers sell professionally and effectively. With all due respect, as a former sales trainer whose gun blog is read by hundreds of gun dealers and salespeople, I offer the following as an addendum to the techniques described above. In other words, here’s how I think dealers should sell a gun . . .

If we set aside the meet and greet (I’m in favor of closed questions like “Welcome to BFF Guns. What’s your favorite caliber?”), sales is a three-part process: qualify, present, close.

1. Qualify

You can sell any given firearm based on a wide range of features/benefits: brand rep, ergonomics, price, reliability, etc. How do you know which gun has the features/benefits the customer wants? How do you know how to sell it to them?


Ask the customer to list the three things they like about their current gun, any gun. That’s what they want in a new gun, in order of preference. Period. Seriously. That’s it. Nothing else.  You’re done.

[NB: If they don’t own a gun, ask them what they like about guns. If they don’t like anything about guns, don’t sell them one.]

2. Present

Make sure the firearm they’ve chosen, or you’ve chosen, satisfies their three stated preferences. If it doesn’t, don’t sell it to them. Help them select a more appropriate firearm.

SHOW the customer that the gun meets their three preferences. If they want accuracy, punch up accuracy stats or YouTube vids from the net. If it’s price, show them the price of the gun vs. alternatives. If they’re looking for a smooth trigger, have them dry fire the gun and its competitors.

As you demonstrate that the gun meets their needs, make sure they agree. Is that the kind of accuracy you’re looking for? Do you agree that this gun is the best value? Does this firearm have a smooth enough trigger for you?

3. Close

You’ve established the customer’s preferences, shown them that the product has the benefits/features they want, and made sure that they agree. Now ask for the money—any damn way you like. Just do it.

If the customer raises objections, if > then close them.

Establish the objection (e.g. “it’s a bit pricey for me”). Ask the customer if they’d buy the gun if you can answer their objections: “If the gun was less money would you buy it?” If the customer raises new objections, add them to your if > then close (e.g. “If the gun was less money and you didn’t have one in the same caliber, would you buy it?”)

Then overcome all of the objections (if possible) and ask for the sale, again. If it doesn’t work, stop selling, shake hands, move on.

There’s a lot more to gun sales than that. Feel free to chime in, to help gun salesmen meet their customers’ needs with the right attitude, product knowledge and sales techniques.

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  1. I would also add to this don’t act like an asshole. I can’t count how many small gun shops I have been in that the owner treats everyone like crap. He doesn’t like to pull guns out of the display case and genuinely treats everyone like they are waste of time. I think gun shop owners should take some real sales training and learn how to treat every customer like they are valuable.

    • That’s just sensible business practice, and courtesy.
      If anyone needs special training for that, do something that does not involve contact with the public. And please, stay home.

      • Yeah, you’d think, but apparently this is beyond the grasp of some gun shops. Some of them don’t understand that while not every customer will decide to buy a gun every time they step through the door, they could very well decide to never buy a gun from you by the time they step out of your shop.

        There’s a store attached to a gun range just outside of Seattle that combines ludicrously high prices with the attitude described above. I stopped in there when I was looking for my first gun, and they treated me like a leper. They’ll never get a penny of my business.

        On the other hand, there’s a gun shop a couple miles down the road from the first place where the guys treat the customers like human beings. It’s not like Cheers or anything, but they’re friendly, and they’ll show you the guns and talk to you about the various models, etc, etc. On top of that, they’ve got the best prices in the area. I’ve purchased two handguns from them and used them to transfer a Mosin I got on GunBroker, and they’re the first people I call when I’m thinking about getting something new.

        Again, you’d think this was obvious, but from the way some people run their shops, not so much…

        • I found this attitude problem to be true of the independent bookstores in San Francisco back in the early ’90s. The staffs are often book lovers yet don’t care to interact with people. Some of them were very arrogant and a few had that attitude of I’m a super-intellectual and you’re not. Today almost all the independents are gone. Barnes and Noble, and Borders are barely hanging on.

        • I’ve certainly know a couple of the former, but haven’t found the latter (at least on the south side).

          There’s one shop in S. King that has a TERRIBLE rep for sales. I’ve personally never had a problem, but Ive also never walked in and NOT said, right off the bat: “There is a very good chance I will purchase a firearm today. Here’s what I want.” The last time I was in, there were THREE groups of people that were interrupting the sales person as he showed me items from the case, and – yes – he treated them like lepers, but I kind of get the reason why (I was comparing several subcompact 9mms with stated intent to buy, and they wanted to ‘look at’, in order, a barrett light 50, a mossberg chainsaw, and ‘one of them highpoint gats’.)

          That said, they don’t give a good vibe until you make your intention to buy known, and there’s no invitation to hang out and browse, that’s for certain.

          Any hints as to where this good shop is?

        • Sounds like someone’s been to Wade’s.

          I cut them slack for being incredibly uptight about range safety because they get a rental suicide every two or three years, but I don’t buy guns there. They cater to the Microsoft Gun Club crowd, and the prices are higher than I like.


          FWDG’s bad rep for customer service is undeserved.

          They don’t like it when people who are ‘just browsing’ want to be waited on when there’s six guys with their wallets in hand lined up, and I don’t blame them. I’ve been the guy in line behind someone who seemed to mainly be there for conversation, and it’s annoying.

          When things are slow, yeah, they’ll take their time, explain everything, hell, I’ve seen them demonstrate how to field-strip rifles… but when the shop is full, it is expected that lookie lou and chatty charlie will let the people who are there to spend money step to the front, and no, they’re not exactly subtle about it.

    • “Don’t act like an asshole.”


      How can so many gun stores fail to comprehend this?

    • We have a gun shop that used to be like that. Until someone else bought a property about 5 miles down the road and started building a new gun shop. Suddenly, the salespeople in the first shop got a lot more helpful.

      Nothing like a little competition to keep everyone doing things right.

  2. That training video reminded me of every bad job I’ve ever had…

    I’m not much help, since I know a fair bit about guns–often more than the people behind the counter–so if I’m browsing, I can answer most of my own questions. If I know what I want, I’ve already spent time learning about it. The good news is that guns often sell themselves.

  3. The most effective and easy to master Retail Sales book that I have read is “No Thanks, I’m Just Looking: Sales Techniques for Turning Shoppers into Buyers” by Harry Freidman. The book is amusing and a light read. Like any book take from it the parts and ideas that will work for you. It is now in its 11th printing.

  4. I’ve bought plenty of guns, but I’ve never been sold a single one. I walk into the shop, tell the guy behind the counter what I want to see, check it out and buy it or not.

    Am I the only one?

  5. Know your products. Know your products. Know your products.

    If you can’t tell me some details about what is in your display case, then stop trying to sell it. Tell me why I should buy one .45 over another, and the reasons should be the right reasons FOR ME, not for you. For example, don’t try to sell me the most accurate pistol you have (a target shooting gun) when I’m looking for a concealed carry pistol.

    Have a good selection of shooting accessories and supplies also. (holsters, range bags, cleaning kits, several types of ammo for each caliber, “eyes and ears”, etc.)

  6. If a gun store wants to talk up the dangers of a gun maker they don’t stock they should do what the Gun Room in Portland did: they have compiled a 3-ring notebook with photos of Glock owners who have had their fingers or other body parts injured blown-off when their Glock malfunctioned.

  7. i retired at a time that my favorite gun store was hiring. my wife suggested i put in an app there. i told her no. that would be turning my hobby and recreation into work. and like others have said, if i don’t get treated right i take my business elsewhere.

  8. Maybe some of you should spend some time working behind the counter at a gun store. Try having guns (some loaded, even) pointed at you day in, day out by people who sometimes can’t even spell their own names correctly on the 4473.

    The “don’t act like an asshole” advice works both ways.

    • The above attitude is illustrative of the problem. The “don’t act like an asshole” DOES NOT work both ways. The asshole who comes into the gun store to look around is not trying to make a living off you. You are trying to make a living off the customer. You should start treating them like they have done you a favor coming into the store. You might just sell more stuff that way. To be successful in retail means treating everyone with courtesy and respect.
      In many ways, what I do is similar to retail except people are paying for a service rather than goods. I have to interact with people all day long and am not fond of some of them. Despite this, I try to project a friendly, helpful attitude to all because that is my job. The only exception to this is when people are openly rude to myself or my staff.

    • Sorry Dan, but that comment does NOT wash in retail sales. If you can’t take dealing with asshole customers then find another job because you will NEVER run out of asshole customers.

      YOU on the other hand are being PAID to do a job, and when dealing with joe public you MUST have a thick skin or you will fail. Yes, it sucks dealing with bad people but the golden rule for business is:

      They are in business to make money.

      That’s it. The assholes money is just as green as the nice person and if you are gonna be selective on who you sell to based on who you like I bet you won’t last in the retail field for very long.

      I have found that gun dealers that like to push one brand are mostly filled with biased people towards their manufacurers.

      There is a taurus gun store near me where the guy will get mad, snotty, and arrogant if you try to get them to compair any other weapon to their beloved models.

      The same is true if you go anywhere NEAR the sig factory. It sig or nothing.

      The outlet stores like Dick’s or Wallyworld are filled with clueless wage-slaves that are just there to punch a time card so asking questions there is useless.

      I find the only stores that will treat you right are the ones that sell all brands and parrot no “party lines” but will sell you what you want not what their corporate masters are pushing them to unload no matter what the customer wants and most of those have turned out to be mom & pop stores.

      • Wes, spy, I get what you guys are saying and I mostly agree–I’m actually damn good at my job and nothing makes me happier each day than actually helping someone pick out the right gun for them–but there is a slight difference between retail anywhere else and retail at a gun store; guns can be very dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing with them and when a customer comes in with a loaded gun and is showing it off by waving it around the store, flagging everybody, I’d say that rates a “don’t be an asshole” (as does playing with the Crimson Trace displays by shining the lasers into other peoples’ eyes). I’ve had coworkers nearly get shot by unsafe idiots, so I feel I have a good reason to NOT let some customers get away with whatever they want.

        Other than that, yeah, asshole customers are to be expected, it’s just the unsafe ones I get worked up about.

  9. Its not just guns – I have yet to finds sales people who can help me. Be it cars, electronics, cameras – you name it! Most are just there to run your credit card. I laugh at the bogus info I have received from BestBuy. My last car I when to purchase the sales guy comes right and says “you probably know more about this car than I do”. The best LGS that I know about and others like as well is considered good because the simply have enough people to work the counter and they can get you whatever you want and have a large selection for you to test fire but they pretty much do nothing except take things out of the display case.

    I believe most LGS take the tack of, put a sign up and the will come!

  10. Personally, I buy guns on whims a lot. If something looks interesting and isn’t too expensive I’ll take it home. On the other hand I am a practical gun buyer who has guns for specific purposes.
    Whim meets purposes = eclectic collection of different types of guns.
    Sales people are annoying and generally pushy. The shop I go to isn’t too bad, they got rid of the idiot off duty cop who didn’t know gun laws and now have a great bunch of old guys who are knowledgeable about guns.

  11. Salesmen shouldn’t pretend to be lawyers/cops. That just pisses me off. I was looking at a Kriss Vector recently and commented how it would be better served as an SBR. Seriously, there’s no balance with a 16″ barrel on that thing! Officer Dave started condescendingly finger-waving about “That’s a FELONY!!!!” Then I calmly informed him about tax-stamps, NFA paperwork, etc (thanks TTAG!) and put him in is place. Needless to say he lost a customer that day.

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