Something about Gun Sales

Something about gun sales.

“Many are startled to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t rule that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to own a gun until 2008, when District of Columbia v. Heller struck down the capital’s law effectively banning handguns in the home. In fact, every other time the court had ruled previously, it had ruled otherwise. Why such a head-snapping turnaround?” –  Michael Waldman Read more


In the past, many of us have found ourselves in positions where we had to sell something. For us, there were certain business situations that forced us to ask ourselves a question like, “How the heck am I gonna sell this stuff?” That is stuff that’s not food or tires or alcohol or anything that doesn’t just sell itself. And, “How on Earth do I sell a mega-massive amount of the thing I want to sell?”


One way is to announce scarcity. Humans being humans, we do not like to run out of stuff. Whatever it is. The stuff may be gone forever and we might not have any, we think. It’s not fun to imagine living in a world without something.  When scarce, stuff becomes more valuable and one can be charged a lot more for it even if the sales person has a surplus of stuff– a warehouse stocked full– and with more on the way. Examples would be the “rare” item or the “going out of business sale.” (I’ve seen businesses “going out of business” for the last 20 years around here where I’m from; that sales pitch still works after all that time) Want a way to move product? Say it’s urgent that customers buy it today since it won’t be here tomorrow. Scarcity, it’s a good one.

I have run across Scarcity and a few other sneaky or sleazy ways of doing business in the past, and I don’t feel sorry for having used those techniques since tricks of the trade come in handy if one is in sales. Volumes have been written on sales techniques and strategies; a sales person is at a disadvantage if he or she does not study up on the thing. One particular book that caught my eye was Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials) by Robert B., Ph.D. Cialdini.

On scarcity, Cialdini writes:

“This principle says that things are more attractive when their availability is limited, or when we stand to lose the opportunity to acquire them on favorable terms. For instance, we might buy something immediately if we’re told that it’s the last one, or that a special offer will soon expire. With this principle, people need to know that they’re missing out if they don’t act quickly. If you’re selling a product, limit the availability of stock, set a closing date for the offer, or create special editions of products.

This principle can be trickier to apply within your organization if you’re trying to influence others to support your ideas or projects. You can, however, use urgency to get support for your ideas. For example, you can highlight the possible urgent consequences of the problem that your idea helps to solve.”

Free Gift

Another sales tactic that Cialdini describes is the Free Gift–Reciprocation–

”Before accepting a free gift or a discounted service, or before agreeing to hear confidential information, ask yourself whether you’re going to feel obliged to give the same or more in return. Should you decline, so that you don’t feel indebted?” says Cialdini.

It’s not a bad book, and Cialdini spills the beans, so to speak, on sales manipulation.

Which Tactic to Choose When Talking Guns?

Now, guns. Let’s see, I got a warehouse load of guns and I want to sell the crap out of them. Which principle of sales guy manipulation am I going to concentrate on? Free gift or Scarcity? I got it. Skip the free gift. Let’s make potential buyers think that President Obama is going to take all guns away and enslave us too while he’s at it, or something even more dumb. It’s dumb and sounds dumb, but it works like a charm, like a Jedi mind trick. It gets them every time. And, dammit, I should have bought some stock. Woe is me.

But there is more to the story as my friend Wil R. points out,

“I know it is popular to view gun salesmen as nefarious, but I have many friends in that business, including Terry (not me) in Pauls Valley who are not bad people. When I visited that gun store, as I did on many occasions, the guys agreed that the sales of ammunition and semi-auto carbines was caused by unwarranted hysteria, They were not gleeful or even happy about all of the sales. They thought people should be buying guns and ammunition for the same reason that I was, because they liked to shoot!”

I agree. Gun sales based on genuine need or on a love of sport is really cool. However, if one is trying to pass this flavor of gun ownership off as the founding fathers intent, think again; it’s simply not part of the Constitution. It’s just not–until recently, as times change for better or for worse. Back then in Founding Father days you had to be a member of a state-run militia. More often it was required.

“These militias were the product of a world of civic duty and governmental compulsion utterly alien to us today. Every white man age 16 to 60 was enrolled. He was actually required to own—and bring—a musket or other military weapon.” says Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

These guys were not to be any creepy anti-government insurgents with a 2nd Amendment ax to grind. The writers of the Constitution were not that stupid.

Today I think gun sales get a bit strange though when someone falls for a scary conspiracy theory like when that someone simply doesn’t like a democratically elected official– even when that politician has no earthly intention of making guns scarce. That’s just plain weird. For individual gun owners in Oklahoma, the Scarcity pitch comes from someplace else– not from President Obama.


2 thoughts on “Something about Gun Sales

  1. Scare tactics and scarcity work great when people do not question the alternatives. Even when people are aware of the tactics being used, telling someone the worst is about to happen triggers an emotional response that could leave one wondering if it is true. Unfortunately many people don’t realize they are being manipulated and play along.

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