What do customers want in a gun purchase experience? According to discussions in various online forums like The High Road, a large part of it is excellent service, including speedy and hassle-free firearm transfers. While the cost of the gun is always an important factor, small gun shop owners (LGS) can compete without offering bargain-basement pricing or extensive inventory if they can offer a great experience.
Contrary to popular belief, aggravation is not an inescapable part of buying a firearm. FFLs who want to be successful will pay attention to the following five strategies for increasing sales and profits.
Build a Firearms Community
Building a memorable experience in your store is important. Celebrate the culture and convictions of the firearms enthusiasts in your community — whether it’s bagging a bear, drinking coffee in the blind, flushing upland birds, or calculating the wind effect on the range.
Spend time with them when they come to the shop: hang out, make friends, and be welcoming. If they’re not there to shoot the breeze, get them in and out quickly.
It also helps to be active in the local community and have a mobile or direct mail communication strategy so that you can stay in touch between visits.
Differentiate Yourself from the Competition
Your shop is probably not the only one within driving distance of your potential customers, and just about everyone has access to the internet. To differentiate yourself, begin by asking what your community values. Can you offer training classes, gunsmithing, accessories, optical equipment, or faster, hassle-free paperwork? For example, if you can lessen or remove the friction in the transfer process, you’ll quickly develop loyal, repeat customers. You have the expertise—you know things your customer doesn’t. How can you make your knowledge available to them and become recognized for that?
Know Your Customer
Whether you’re aware of it or not, you have a niche, so become an expert in it. Do your best to know the laws regarding firearms in your area, not just the ones pertaining to FFLs. For example, do you live in a “stand your ground” state or one with a “castle doctrine”? How old do people need to be to carry a handgun? Can employers prevent employees from having firearms in the parking lot? What are the unique hunting laws in your state? (In Kansas, game birds may only be taken in flight.) Due to ATF-required record-keeping, specifically the 4473 Form, you already have quite a bit of information about your customers. Consider developing some high-level buyer profiles to boost your marketing efforts.
Offer Excellent Service
Service is the differentiator between firearms retailers, whether they are big-box, online, or local gun stores. Excellent customer service includes useful information, respect, patience with questions, and fast turnaround times. For people who know what they want, the longest wait is likely to be processing the 4473, with wait times increasing in proportion to the number of people in the store.
One customer described his experience this way:
“Well, the rifle the guy brought out was damaged with a big ding that had taken the finish off the top of the receiver. But by that time the second guy had left and had to get called back. Another wait. The second rifle looked OK so I was allowed to start on the Form 4473 on the computer. After completing the NICB [sic] check the clerk had to call another guy back a third time to double-check that all the Ts had been crossed and the Is dotted properly and I was finally allowed to pay and leave. The entire process took about 2 hours from the time I entered the store.”
Don’t let this happen in your store. People are inclined to pay a little more for great customer service, including knowledge of gun laws and how to deal with NICS and the BATFE. And finally, you don’t want most of the time people spend in your store to be filling out the 4473.
Stay ATF-Compliant for Firearm Transfers
There is a lot of misinformation circulating about completing Form 4473 as part of a firearm sale. Some of it comes from the fact that workers at the sales counter often don’t have the same level of knowledge as the FFL. That in itself is aggravating enough, but when that lack of knowledge or confusion about the process causes customer frustration, LGS sales are negatively affected. Even worse, if the knowledge gaps create areas of non-compliance, the firearms dealer’s license could be revoked. For example, you don’t want one of your employees handling Form 4473 to the customer as if it was their receipt, and yes, this has happened.
The ATF is very clear about how the Form 4473 process is supposed to take place. If you’re ever audited, the IOI will be looking at it with a microscope. Your job is to balance the needs of your customers with the requirements of the ATF. It’s possible to accomplish both of these goals at the same time and do it better than the competition. The E4473 platform allows your customers to breeze through Form 4473 while keeping you 100% compliant.
Fast track your firearm sales with E4473.