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How to Be a Good Retail Sales Associate

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My name is Sadie and I am a DIY-er, cook, craft artisan, the starter of many projects, and the finisher of some.

How to be a good sales associate

How to be a good sales associate

Job Description for a Sales Associate

Most sales associate positions have very similar job descriptions, no matter what you are selling. It is your job to close the sale with your customers. This means you have to show and describe products, suggest additional products the customer might need, and make sure that the customer knows the good value of whatever they are buying. You will not only be representing your store but the many vendors that have their products available for sale at your store.

It is also your job to make sure that your store is clean and inviting to customers. This may mean straightening out clothes, dressing mannequins, displaying new products, cleaning and anything else that will make customers enjoy being in the store. Although these are important tasks, the main things you need to do are learn as much as you can about the products you sell and be able to find the perfect products for each customer.

Sales Associate Skills

  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Product knowledge
  • People skills: be able to talk to different customers and start conversations
  • Efficiency: be able to help multiple customers at times
  • Suggestive selling: increase the company's profits by adding on to each sale
  • Be able to work under pressure and meet goals
  • Customer recovery: make sure that if something goes wrong, you offer to fix it and keep the customer

Conversation Starters to Move the Sale Along

  • Hi, how are you doing today? Is it warming up outside yet?
  • What a cute little girl! How old is she?
  • I see you are looking at ___(an item)__. Are you a _(profession)_?
  • I see you have a Bears cap on. How are they doing this year?

You can start a conversation with customers based on anything you notice about them. Be as detailed as you can when asking them questions about themselves so you can provide them with the best products you have available for them.

How to Make Successful Sales

Two main things will help you make big sales and provide great customer service:

  • Product knowledge
  • Being able to figure out what the customer needs and describe products to them while explaining the benefits to them

This means that you will have to read about your products, pay very close attention during any training you receive, and listen to customers and coworkers when they tell you about certain products and brands. Remember the positives and negatives so you can fit each customer with the perfect product for them.

To be successful at selling, you also have to start conversations with your customers. This will let them know that you are interested in what they do and why they are in your store. It also helps customers warm up to you even if they came in dreading being bombarded by a sales associate. Start the conversation off on something different than selling them something so they don't think that is your only motive.

Don't lie to your customers. If they ask you a question that you do not know the answer to, do not try to make up a reasonable answer. Either read labels and find the answer out for them, ask a fellow coworker, or turn the sale over to someone with better knowledge about the product. If they ask you something and you give them an incorrect answer, you will look stupid later when they find out the real answer. They will not trust you after that and will want to continue on their own or with a different sales associate making you lose the sale.

How to Read Your Customers

Reading your customers when they first walk in the door will help you out a lot when deciding how to approach them and what questions to ask them. If they seem happy and outgoing when you first greet them, try to start a conversation with them about their day, what they are looking for, what their needs are, and so on. People like this are the easiest to talk to and sell products to because they are open to talking to you and are usually not the anti-sales associate type.

Some people are more grumpy when they come into the store and walk in not wanting to talk to you at all. These people are tougher to crack. If they push you away on the first approach, give them their space. When you constantly stalk customers who do not want your help, they will often end up leaving because they feel uncomfortable or that you are just trying to get some money out of them. The best thing to do in this situation is to back off and wait until they find a product they seem interested in. You can then approach them and say, "I see you are looking at ____. This is a great product for____. Have you ever used it before?". If they open up to you, this is the time to start a conversation and move in on the sale. If they seem annoyed that you are talking to them, then leave them alone for the rest of the time they are shopping, or you might lose them.

The Benefits of Being a Good Sales Associate

Although it is nice to enjoy what you do, we are all in it to make some money, whether your salary goals are high or just enough to get by and enjoy your free time. The great thing about being a sales associate is that you most often have the opportunity to make commission or bonuses based on your own personal sales or the store's sales. This means that you usually have to keep up with a sales goal.

A lot of companies offer you incentives called "spiffs" for selling a certain amount in one sale or for selling certain items. These can add up quickly and amount to a lot on your paychecks. It not only helps the company out when you sell a lot but also puts more money in your pocket and makes you a large asset to the company.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2012 Sadie


pantho007 from Rangpur on August 02, 2012:


David from Idaho on May 31, 2012:

This should be a must read for anyone in the industry. Far too often sales associates come across as very pushy and it can make the customer feel very uncomfortable.

Voted up and useful.

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on May 30, 2012:

Terrific advice for anyone in sales or customer service! I've seen some great sales people, and some not-so-great. It is such a joy when you find someone courteous, helpful and knowledgeable. Often, we need information about products to help us make choices. Voted up and up!