10 Sales Associate Skills and How To Improve Them

By Indeed Editorial Team

June 11, 2021

Having strong sales associate skills is crucial to having a successful career in this industry. You can always develop new skills, or improve on the ones you already have to better your performance. If you're looking to impress your current or new employer, highlight and improve these skills. In this article, we describe who a sales associate is and what their duties are. We also discuss the requirements for becoming a sales associate, some important sales associate skills, and how you can improve them.

What is a sales associate?

A sales associate is someone who sells goods or services in a store, company, or organization. This is often the first person a potential customer meets when making a purchase. The sales associate assists buyers throughout the purchase process.

Sales associates often work for retailers who sell clothing, cars, tech products, furniture, jewellery, sporting goods, and many more products. They can also work for organizations that provide services, like computer repair or event space rentals. Sales associates can also be called retail sales associates, sales floor associates, and retail salespersons.

Sales associate duties and responsibilities

Here are some key duties and responsibilities sales associates need to manage in their role:

1. Welcoming customers and answering questions

A sales associate is often the first person a customer meets at a store. Therefore, they're responsible for welcoming customers and providing helpful information regarding the company's goods and services. They need in-depth product knowledge to answer customer questions accurately and make recommendations.

2. Operating cash registers

Sales associates are also responsible for handling cash and payments. They operate point of sale (POS) machines, manage financial transactions, and balance tills at the end of their shift. They need basic numeracy skills to be confident in making change and handling transactions.

3. Showing customers around and providing information on product to them

A sales associate is responsible for directing and assisting customers in different sections of the store. Also, they are required to provide information to customers about goods. This requires an extensive knowledge of the store inventory, prices and ongoing sales. In other words, it is their duty to be the go-to persons about any information regarding the goods or services sold by your company.

4. Building lasting relationships with customers

Building rapport with customers is a fantastic way to encourage repeat business. If a sales associate makes customers comfortable, the customers are more likely to come back again. Sales associates need strong customer service, interpersonal, and communication skills to build customer relationships.

5. Driving store sales

Driving store sales is a primary duty of any sales associate. They should be able to create innovative ways to increase sales. Sales are a major performance metric in this industry, and many sales associates are assigned goals to meet each week, month, or quarter.

6. Organizing stock and inventory

This duty involves storing, positioning, and organizing stock to maintain order and boost efficiency. Sales associates would be required to keep everything well-arranged and organized for easy access. It's also crucial to an excellent customer experience because it provides them with more inventory to choose from. A well-stocked store is also more visually appealing and draws more shoppers.

Requirements of a sales associate

Most job descriptions for a role as a sales associate look for the following traits and experience:

  • Experience in a sales or customer service role

  • Ability to maintain a positive attitude in a fast-paced environment

  • Familiarity with inventory procedures

  • Availability to work flexible shifts

  • High school diploma

  • A bachelor's degree in marketing, sales, communications, or a related field is an advantage

  • A master's of business administration (MBA) is an asset but not a requirement for most roles

10 skills you should have as a sales associate

The following are important skills you must possess to be an excellent sales associate:

1. Communication and interpersonal skills

Communication skills help you work efficiently with colleagues and customers and are essential to a good career as a sales associate. Making a sale requires you to inform a customer of the product's benefits and persuade them to make a purchase. There are several aspects of communication, but sales associates need to focus their attention on their body language, active listening skills, and verbal communication.

Read more: Communication Skills: Definition and Examples

2. Customer service and active listening skills

Excellent customer service requires active listening skills to understand what customers want and how you can help them. Identifying what they want positions your sales pitch, and this helps boost your chances of making a sale. Also, you might work in teams as a sales associate, and feedback exchange is highly necessary. The ability to give and receive valuable feedback relies on having strong active listening skills.

Read more: Customer Service Skills: Definition and Examples

3. Time management

Time management is crucial to your productivity. You would have to handle multiple tasks like attending to customers, stocking shelves, and operating the cash register. Therefore, you need to be able to balance your time between these tasks and put them in order of importance to guarantee productivity.

4. Empathy

You need to be able to share the feelings of your customers to build trust. Being able to share their feelings comes from genuinely caring about them and wanting the best for them. You should also be interested in figuring out what a customer wants and how you can help.

5. Creative problem-solving

A solution-oriented mindset and creative approach to problem-solving are key to helping customers. They appreciate any company, product, or service that solves their immediate problem. They appreciate feeling heard and having their problems solved. Happy customers are more likely to recommend you to their friends and family, and return to the store to make more purchases.

6. Basic math and computing skills

As stated above, some primary duties of a sales associate include handling cash registers. Therefore, it is paramount for you to have necessary arithmetic skills needed to calculate sales, take stock and ensure that you are taking payments accurately.

As we live in an age where everything is becoming increasingly digital, it's expected of a sales associate to be well versed in computing skills required to automate your sales process.

7. Product knowledge

You need adequate knowledge about your product or other value offering to be able to educate your customers. It's much easier to present the product's features to the customers accurately and persuasively if you're familiar with all its features. Customers respond to enthusiastic sales associates who are passionate about their products and eager to share the benefits with them.

8. Attention to detail

A sales associate must have a strong attention to detail to ensure that they achieve accuracy and thoroughness when taking stocks, handling cash, operating point of sale (POS) machines, and making sure sales prices are accurate. A sales associate with a strong attention to detail has the ability to ensure that the business doesn't run at a loss by making mistakes during transactions.

9. Enthusiasm

Your level of enthusiasm as a sales associate is crucial to the sales you make. It communicates your excitement about what you are selling. Customers always love to feel that they are making the right choice. So be sure to always go to work with a positive attitude and enthusiasm for your work and the products you sell. It will increase your customer's satisfaction and make them more likely to buy.

10. Persuasiveness

This means you should be able to encourage customers to make a purchase. You often need to use negotiation and persuasion skills. It's also key to call on your product knowledge to answer questions and overcome objections. A good sales associate must have the ability to convince prospects that their product or service solves their problem.

How to improve your sales associate skills

You can improve some or all of the skills listed above by doing the following:

1. Update your skills

The customers are dynamic, and you should be too. You need to update and improve your skill set continuously to match the ever-changing market. This involves staying up to date on trends, purchase behaviours, and the needs of the customers in your industry. The only way to ensure this is by constantly keeping up with regular developments in your field.

2. Develop active listening skills

Listen to the needs of your customer every time you talk to them to better understand what they want. Doing this sends the right message that you understand, care about their thoughts and opinions, and want to help them. You should listen to provide feedback and provide solutions to their needs.

3. Develop active product knowledge

Actively studying the uniqueness of each product you are selling, and how it solves the problems of the average customer, is crucial to developing and demonstrating product knowledge. To become more grounded in the unique value of your product or service, you could decide to make use of them to see the user's perspective.

Attending sales meetings is another way to develop your product knowledge. These meetings are an opportunity to build teamwork and create a collaborative environment. They're also a great way to learn about product updates and hear your colleagues' sales strategies to learn from them.