How to Help Customers Buy Their First Bow

Use these tips to improve interactions with first-time bow buyers.
Photo Credit: Lancaster Archery Supply

Author: Cassie Gasaway

What makes an archer an archer? Their bow!

Archery retailers have an important duty: They must help customers become archers. That process starts by introducing them to a bow that fits their body and budget. As retailers connect customers to bows they love shooting, they ensure those newcomers return for lessons, practice and equipment.

We spoke with P.J. Reilly, an expert bow technician at Lancaster Archery Supply in Pennsylvania, to learn his no-fail strategies for working with new archers. Reilly said 30% of Lancaster’s customers each month are new, and most want to buy a bow on their first or follow-up visit. Those interactions help Reilly fine-tune his strategies and sales pitch. Let’s review his techniques.


Greet Them

When a prospective buyer walks in, say hello, introduce yourself, and ask why they’re there. If they want to buy a bow, Reilly recommends they take the shop’s “Intro to Archery” class, which helps them decide if they like archery enough to buy a bow. If they’ve taken the class or are set on buying, Reilly walks them to the bow section while asking questions.


Ask Questions

Reilly said he wants customers to express their wants, needs, budget and concerns. He asks three kickstarter questions:

1. What do you plan to do with your bow?
2. How much do you want to spend?
3. How long do you hope to keep this bow?

The first question helps Reilly understand which type of bow to suggest. The second question helps determine which bows to recommend after accounting for accessories. The third question lets him know if he must accommodate someone’s growth in skill or strength. Questions also help customers feel heard and acknowledged.

Reilly said communication is vital in navigating these situations. He said Lancaster’s pro shop manager, Chris Scott, tells his team: “Archery is a want, not a need. It’s part of your job to make them want what they leave with because they’ll shoot more.” Reilly takes that to heart. He strives to listen to his customers to better inform his product suggestions. Knowing a customer’s needs also helps ensure they listen to your suggestions.

Let buyers practice with the bow so they know how it feels and make any adjustments necessary. Photo Credit: ATA

Provide Options; Allow a ‘Test Drive’

Once Reilly understands the customer’s desires, he suggests a few bows and lets the customer shoot at a target 10 yards away to get a feel for the bow. He adjusts each test bow to the customer’s draw length and draw weight, and sets it up with a D-loop and Whisker Biscuit rest.

If a customer requests a specific bow, he honors the request even if he knows it’s wrong for them.

“Give them what they want, but explain why it might not be the best option,” Reilly said. “When they try it, they usually see what you’re talking about (and) change their mind.”

Reilly said if a customer wants a 50-pound recurve, he lets them try it, but explains that recurves require more strength and coordination. “They might be strong enough, but they need to shoot something lighter to gain coordination and confidence,” he said. Don’t be obnoxious about proving them wrong. Provide a solution and move on.

When customers don’t know what they want, Reilly suggests starting with three bows. It’s natural to recommend bows you like, but don’t push your preferences on them. “You should care what the customer gets, but you also shouldn’t care,” Reilly said.

In other words, don’t take offense when customers don’t like your suggestions. It’s their bow and shooting experience, not yours. By reacting helpfully to what customers say, you won’t force anything on them.

“Test drives” help customers learn what they like and don’t like about each bow. Reilly encourages customers to test a few bows even if they “know” what they want. Experiencing how a bow feels differs from reading about it in reviews or catalogs.

Reilly gives archers some pointers during setups, but doesn’t worry about their shooting form. Lancaster gives two hours of free range time to customers who buy a new bow onsite. Certified instructors provide instruction and coaching to work on their form and other techniques.


Accessories and Add-Ons

Once customers find a bow they like, Reilly discusses accessories while honoring their budget. He said finding accessories that customers like is similar to the bow-buying process. He asks what they want, provides options, and lets them test each item.

Reilly said Lancaster lets customers test anything they stock — including sights, releases and stabilizers — to ensure they find “the one.” He then sets up the bow and helps customers with their initial sight-in to boost their confidence.

As he walks customers to the check-out counter, he asks if they need a target or bow case. He discusses the price and value of those items, but explains that they aren’t immediately necessary.

“For the amount of time it takes to buy a bow, and the money they spend on a bow, few customers want to stay longer to spend more time and money on extra items,” Reilly said. “The whole process can be long and tiring.” When customers start burning out, tell them to come back when they’re ready to spend another hour or two on lower-priority gear.

Ensure your customers leave on a positive note by thanking them for their business and encouraging them to come back. Photo Credit: ATA

Check Out and Come On Back

As customers check out, hand them your business card and show your dedication to their success. Say something like: “We want you to be happy and satisfied with your purchase. If you have any issues, come back and we’ll take care of it. We’re here to help.”


Ensure an Enjoyable Experience


– Steer, Don’t Push:

“Steer customers toward what they want rather than pushing them toward something you think they should have,” Reilly said. “You can usually get a customer to agree with you, but they should come to that understanding on their own. Give them space to make their own decisions.” Also explain the pros and cons of what you recommend to help them make informed decisions.


– Be Polite, Respectful:

Project confidence but don’t be a know-it-all. “You’re likely dealing with someone who knows nothing about archery, so you have to be patient, kind and respectful or they’ll leave and never come back,” Reilly said.

Approach each situation as a coach, not a parent. A parent might be blunt and say, “You’re doing that wrong.” A coach should be more subtle, and patiently say, “Let me show you something.”


– Don’t Rush

We don’t try to rush anything,” Reilly said. “Getting a new customer set up takes time. That might cause frustrations on a busy day, but all our customers know when their turn is up, they’ll get the time and attention they need and deserve.” When you’re working with someone, acknowledge new arrivals and estimate how long you’ll be.


– Show Your Value

Some customers go through the entire process and then leave without buying a bow. When Reilly sees that happening, he worries they might seek a lower price elsewhere, and so he explains how Lancaster adds value to the purchase. That includes setting up, tuning, and sighting in the bow for free. Lancaster also offers coaching and two free hours of range time. “I drop all that in so they understand what they get with their bow,” Reilly said. “They usually come back.”


– Be Excited for Them

Buying a bow is always fun and exciting, no matter the customer. “They’re excited, and you need to project that excitement as well because it make the interaction more enjoyable,” Reilly said. To set the tone, try saying, “This is going to be fun!” or “Let’s do this! Come on!”

The more customers you work with, the better you’ll learn to read them and navigate the situation. Never forget that it’s not about what you want to sell. It’s all about what the customer likes and wants.

For more sales tips, read these ATA articles:

Get More Sales: Master the Art of Selling
How to Read Your Customer’s Facial Expressions to Generate More Sales (with Emojis)
Don’t Just Stock Products, Sell Them!

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