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Skills Every Sales Associate Should Have

As a Retail Sales Associate, you are often the first point of contact for customers and have a wide range of responsibilities that include customer service, cashier, stocker and will often find yourself stepping into other roles, sometimes several in a single day. However, what all of these positions have in common is a focus on helping customers get what they want in a retail environment and drive sales

Some of the skills you will need are specific to particular positions as each company can vary in how they define roles. However, the below 7 skills are the foundation of a good starting point if you’re beginning or looking to further develop your skills in a retail sales career.

Good Communication Skills - As a sales associate, you are interacting with people all day, every day. From helping customers, taking directions from your manager and providing feedback to your colleagues, having good communication skills is the base of being successful in a sales position. You can improve your communication skills by asking your colleagues and customers for feedback. For example, try asking a colleague or your manager to listen while you greet a customer and interact with them; then take on board the feedback to refine future interactions you have with customers.

Strong Product Knowledge - When working in a customer-facing role, it's essential that you have a clear understanding of the products and services you're selling. A solid foundation of product knowledge will enable you to better serve your customers and buyers. Take the time to familiarise yourself with your company’s products and offerings to get a clear understanding of what the features of the products are and how your customers will benefit from using them. You can gain product knowledge by having training sessions with your colleagues, researching competitors to understand what makes your company different, you can also use/try the products or services yourself so you have first-hand experience.

Active Listening - To be able to help your customers solve their problems, you need to first understand what challenges they are facing. Listening to understand rather than listening to respond is key. You can improve your active listening skills by incorporating practices such as listening to your customers wants and challenges completely before offering solutions. Repeating back what you have heard is a good way to confirm you understand them correctly and ask thoughtful open-ended questions to gain a deeper understanding.  

Creative Problem Solving - Sales associates are the first point of contact for customers with questions or experiencing a problem with your company or product and are therefore often required to solve problems quickly. To be successful at this, a solution-oriented and creative approach is vital. For example, if the same query or problem keeps arising for customers, you may want to prepare a solution or response that you and your colleagues can use repeatedly. You can also share this feedback with your suppliers or production team so they can address the issues and come up with a more permanent solution to improve your offering.

Ability to Adapt & Multitask - As a retail sales associate you often find yourself juggling multiple tasks, competing priorities and working to deadlines. Being able to adapt and adjust to whatever’s thrown your way and reprioritising is key to being successful in this environment. You can demonstrate this skill by reacting to unexpected situations in a calm manner, remaining open-minded, taking on new responsibilities when needed and understanding how to effectively re-prioritise.

Quick Learning - From the first day on the job you will be inundated with information. Everything from how to work the register, how to merchandise, running sales and more.  This never ends as customer-facing roles can be unpredictable. You’ll regularly be expected to learn new selling techniques and product information. The ability to quickly master new skills will help ensure you succeed as a retail sales associate. Ask for guidance and tips from more senior staff members in your team and work with them on how you can implement these.

Persuasiveness - The ability to persuade customers that your products or services are ideal for their needs is important for sales associates. Building a rapport with customers will help the flow of a sale and will naturally persuade a customers purchase behaviour. You can practise becoming more persuasive by being empathetic and when addressing customer objections frame your responses as solutions. When you have built trust with a potential customer you are able to better persuade them.