RULE 1: Know Your Arrows
Cody Powell, regional sales manager for Gold Tip, believes shops that have knowledgeable guys who know the specs and capabilities of top-end arrows make all the difference.
“Honestly, many archers, even some experienced ones, don’t know what the +/- .001, .002, .003, and so on means on their arrows,” said Powell. “Then when you get into things like spine tolerance, spine around the shaft, and weight tolerance, faces really go blank. However, when someone explains that spine tolerance is the measurement of how much the stiffness measurement changes within a dozen arrows, and ‘spine around the shaft’ is how much the spine stiffness changes as an arrow is turned, they begin to see the light. It becomes clear that when you have arrows with poor stiffness tolerance they will flex differently coming out of the bow, and so can hit in different spots.”
Dan Ellyson, co-owner of A-1 Archery in Hudson, Wisconsin, agrees with Powell wholeheartedly.
“Working in a shop each day I see lots of different archers with various needs, but many are bowhunters looking to take to the woods,” Ellyson noted. “Over the years I have explained to so many hunters that the package of +/- .005 arrows in their right hand won’t perform well with the fixed-blade broadheads they have in their left. Others I find are carrying around 125-grain heads and super-light arrows with poor stiffness. They need to know that they are shooting a ‘spaghetti noodle with a bowling ball on the end.’ I sell more and more quality arrows simply because I research and understand what all of the arrows in my shop are capable of.”
“Let’s put it this way,” said Lennie Rezmer, executive vice president at Carbon Express, “a guy rolls into a tire shop in a sweet BMW or Mercedes needing some high-performance tires, but the technician on duty has no idea about the capabilities of the car or any of the tires in the shop, so he tosses on some low-grade models. The customer leaves the shop and then wonders why his car won’t perform well on tight corners. It’s because he wasn’t educated. Pro shops owe it to their customers to give them the best advice possible and fit their high-performance bow with a high-performance arrow.”
RULE 2: Elaborate On Spine Tolerance
Many top archers agree that spine tolerance is more important than the overall straightness of an arrow. Champion shooter Bill Pellegrino is one of these people. Bill owns and operates Pellegrino’s Archery Hut in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and he is a man on a mission.
“My whole goal is to teach people about spine tolerance!” Pellegrino exclaimed. “I want my customers to understand that this—more than any other factor—will help or harm the flight of their arrows. Most guys who come in and drop a lot of money on a bow don’t seem thrilled about shelling out over $100 for some arrows, but after a quick lesson on spine tolerance, most change their mind. Educate the consumer that arrows recover at different speed rates and different times in flight. When you have arrows with incredible spine tolerance, that recovery comes at the same time in flight whenever the bow is fired. This will of course lead to better performance and accuracy, which are two things all customers seem to want. If an arrow has terrible spine tolerance the overall straightness truly matters very little.”
Rezmer added to Pellegrino’s theory by saying, “Teaching customers that premium arrows have more forgiveness coming out of the bow and recover quicker in flight—which leads to better shot consistency—is a crucial selling point.”
RULE 3: Practice What You Preach
The first time I stepped foot in an archery pro shop I was as green as an unbroken horse. I had just been given a bow and was eager to get started. My journey through the shop led me to the archery range where I found two men shooting incredible groups. Both had amazing bows and were dressed in fancy shirts embroidered with many sponsor names. The men worked for the shop, but were just in for a practice session. After watching them for a spell I started picking their brains about their gear. Both men took the time to show me their hunting and competition setups, and then I quizzed them about arrows, mostly because that is what I had come to buy. Knowing that I wanted the arrows strictly for hunting, they showed me what they shot and explained why. That was good enough for me. I walked straight to the counter and shelled out $119.99 for a dozen quality arrows.
“Many customers come into a shop wanting to buy or try what the pros at the shop are shooting,” said Powell. “The key is to make sure the guys who work for and represent the shop are shooting higher-grade premium arrows.”
“Savvy shop owners and employees understand that the bow is only 50 percent of the accuracy equation—the remaining 50 percent is all about the arrow,” Rezmer added. “Be sure to be promoting high-performance arrows when you, your employees, or a sponsored shop shooter is flinging arrows. When customers see this at the shop, in league, at a 3-D shoot, or in the woods…they take note of it.”
RULE 4: Maximize Opportunity
Each month shop owners get a certain number of customers through their doors—many of whom are highly impressionable and looking for reasons to upgrade their gear. Jeremy Dugger, owner of Xpert Archery in Farmington, New Mexico, spoke about the effectiveness of having an indoor range to maximize sales of all types of gear but especially arrows.
“It doesn’t have to be a huge range, but whenever guys are in a shop shooting they begin to swap stories and tinker around,” said Dugger.
“Before long one guy falls in love with another guy’s arrow and has to have the same one right away. It’s also a fabulous idea to run competitive leagues throughout the year. This gets guys in the shop, and allows us the chance to share the ‘latest and greatest’ in the fascinating world of arrows.”
Over the years I have purchased thousands of arrows and tried countless brands—for me it was always the “little things” that seemed to cause me to upgrade. Almost as a reflex, whenever I enter an archery shop I take a gander at the local bragging board. Many times in the past I purchased arrows simply because numerous successful hunters in the photos were shooting them. Dugger and Ellyson agreed with the power of the Bragging Board.
“Hunters love to swap stories and look at photos,” Dugger said, “and having photos in the shop is great advertisement.”
“Bowhunters are curious creatures who love something new,” Ellyson added. “Many times an archer will be having trouble with a certain type of arrow and will switch because of the power of a picture. Visual advertisement is a great thing to have!”
Another key point of maximizing opportunity is having plenty of quality arrows on hand at your pro shop. As a consumer I can’t stress this point enough! It is so frustrating to go into a pro shop only to find the arrows that have crawled to the top of my wish list are out of stock. I realize at times this can’t be prevented, but having a healthy population of arrows in a wide array of sizes and brands can make a crucial difference in your year-end sales totals.
RULE 5: Be The Expert
“People come into a shop expecting the person they speak with to be an expert,” said Rezmer. “The more passionate and informative you can be, the better chance you will have to get quality products, arrows included, into the hands of the customer. You need to be the one who talks them out of bad arrows for their quality bow, and make them realize reaching into their pocket a little further will be well worth it.”
“In my opinion,” said Ellyson, “archers need to understand that they will never be better than what their arrow can do. When a confident, knowledgeable person explains this to them and can spit out the specs of various arrows on demand, it makes a huge difference. Customers want and need to see confidence exuberating from you.”
“A fake is easy to spot,” said Pellegrino. “If you don’t have an immediate answer to their question or have to go look it up, it doesn’t look good. Experimenting with all the various arrows that you bring into your shop is a big responsibility that is important and extremely valuable.”
RULE 6: Be Available & Focused
Consumers are drawn to upbeat personalities who are willing and eager to help. I realize that we all have our good and bad days at work, and there are times when we simply don’t want to deal with another person. However, regardless of your mood or the time of day, the customer expects your attention and best information each time they speak with you. Make them feel like they are your number-one priority, and you will gain their business. Plus, they will refer people to your shop on a regular basis. As a consumer and a regular to many archery shops, I can say without hesitation that the overall attitude and atmosphere inside the shop is what will or won’t bring me back.
When speaking with a customer about arrows, Ellyson likes to start things off with a simple question: “What do you want out of your arrows?” he asks. “Most of the time they have no idea so I start with speed, penetration, accuracy, and then we narrow it down. By doing this it allows me to better explain the dynamics of many arrows, providing the customer with knowledge and choices. During these conversations is my chance to steer them away from going to Wal-Mart, and instead customizing an arrow that is right for them.”
“Spending time with a customer is so valuable because it allows you the opportunity to see what type of personality they have,” says Dugger. “Some guys fall in the ‘super anal’ crowd that wants the best of the best, simply because their brain won’t allow them to shoot anything else. Other guys want you to prove to them that a higher-quality arrow will be beneficial. This is where your attitude becomes everything. Take time to answer their questions, but educate them at the same time. Finally, be willing to tell and show the customer your personal arrow setup.”
“Investing time in your clientele builds the foundation of your business,” Ellyson says. “It’s a no-brainer that a satisfied customer will come back, but they will also send you business. The guys who leave the shop will tell their buddies to stop buying the reject arrows at K-Mart and other places, and instead send them to you for quality custom shafts. Before long you will have a healthy customer base that is savvy to the benefits of high-end arrows, and they will educate others.”
RULE 7: Help Customers Overcome Anxiety
While in the small archery pro shop mentioned earlier in the article I saw several guys with horrible cases of “arrow anxiety.” They seemingly became overwhelmed by the plethora of choices in front them. Their affliction was obvious; they would grab a certain bundle and storm off—only to come back in two minutes and exchange them. One man even got into a fight with his wife because he had been wavering back and forth for so long. Another just stood for several minutes rubbing his head while emitting long sighs.
These are the guys who need you! They will hang on your every word and accept your well-presented recommendation. For these guys it’s a total relief to have someone offer sound advice and basically make their choice for them. And by getting these customers into a premium arrow for the first time, it’s a good bet they will stay with “premium grade” for the rest of their archery careers.
Ultra-high-quality, premium arrows are at the forefront of the ever-evolving face of the archery industry. Each year new ideas are tested and put into practice, many offering real benefits that few consumers seem able to grasp. Your weapons in all this are your own education and attitude. Pro shops that keep up with technology and acquire solid knowledge of the latest and greatest arrows have the tools necessary to put more money in the cash register. And that’s a straight-shooting guarantee.