Sales associates are an important part of any retail business. They are your brand’s “feet on the ground.”
Good salespeople display and promote your products, teach your customers about them, boost your sales, and give your customers a great shopping experience. They also help make customers loyal and promote the brand: 42% of U.S. internet users said that “great customer service” would make them want to talk about a brand online.
So, what are the qualities of a good salesperson? The best salespeople know how to do certain things or are prepared to learn them.
Whether you’re the owner or manager of a retail store looking to recruit new staff or a person who wants to work in retail, you should know what skills make for good employees.
What Are Skills for Selling?
Retail skills refer to the abilities and skills that help salespeople sell customers products and services. When combined with personality, attitude, and experience, these skills can help salespeople establish customer relationships and bring in more money for the store. They are also important skills and traits to have for future jobs and opportunities.
Skills Every Retailer Should Have
Let’s break down the skills that make great salespeople in retail. Several of these skills may come naturally to people who work in retail, while others might have to be taught or picked up on the job.
As long as your employees are willing to learn and open to being taught, these skills can make a big difference in how well they do their retail jobs and how well your business does, too.
(These skills and abilities were taken from real job listings for sales associates.)
1. Putting the customer first
If salespeople are indeed the face of the business, then customers are what keeps it going. A customer-first attitude is a very important retail skill for all of your employees, not just associates.
A customer-first attitude helps retail workers greet customers, assist them in locating what they require, and give great customer service. This skill builds trust and friendship among your employees and coworkers and helps you keep regular clients who may promote your brand and help your business grow.
Dealing with customers and selling in stores
People often think of customer service and sales as two separate things. Customer service pertains to handling problems, giving refunds, and getting feedback in general. Getting a customer to buy is what sales are all about. That’s one way to look at things, but it’s better to realize that sales skills are also customer service skills and vice versa.
Listening to your customer, figuring out what they need, and coming up with a way to meet those needs are the keys to good sales.
The majority of the time, or oftentimes if they’re already in your shop, the solution that they require will be on the shelves. Occasionally it won’t be, so it’s so much preferable for a long-term relationship to point your client in the proper direction and explain how the products can assist in other ways.
Good customer service revolves around listening, figuring out what the customer needs, and coming up with a way to meet those needs. This time, you probably won’t be giving your client a product. You’ll sometimes give advice, help, and maybe even money back.
To be good at retail sales, you need to know what to do to close a sale and when to do it. Building relationships is really what sales are all about. Good salespeople do this quickly and in a manner that lasts.
2. Skills in talking to people and working with them
Good communication skills, like being able to speak clearly, politely, and with patience, are important in any job, but especially in retail. Salespeople need to be able to talk to customers, work colleagues, buyers, and managers in order to do their jobs well.
Interpersonal skills include endurance, friendliness, and active listening, which are very important skills when trying to understand and meet the needs and solve customers’ problems.
This may appear to be a soft skill, and yet active listening is just as much about revealing that you’re listening as the act of listening to itself.
When you listen actively, you pay total attention to the individual who is talking.
You will pay close attention to their body language, their words, and their tone. Pay attention to how a sentence is said because it can mean two very different things.
Your staff’s body language is also an important part of active listening. Being open, nodding and shaking one‘s head in the right places, and keeping their focus on the client are all things that will be noticed.
It will help to have the right soft skills, but learning such a hard skill can also help with some soft skills. When a staff member repeats what a customer just said, they really have to pay attention. That cannot be faked, and so it takes time to learn how to do it.
Able to deal with all kinds of customers
It’s not always easy to be able to change. You need to do more than just think quickly. It takes courage. Your team will have to deal with customers who raise objections that don’t seem to make sense.
Some customers will say they will buy but never do. Some customers will buy something every week and then return it the next week. Some customers will surprise you with something you didn’t expect.
Having to deal with so many hard things can put us to the test. A staff member who is strong isn’t someone who never gets upset. There is no such person. A staff member with resilience is someone who can deal with problems and come back stronger.
3. Storytelling skills
A long time ago, in a land far away, a salesperson told a possible customer a story. It turned out that the customer was the CEO, who was working undercover. She liked the story so much that she gave the retail assistant the job of chief marketing officer.
That was a terrible story, but being able to tell a good one is important in retail. A good storyteller will tell other customers about his or her past successes. They might tell the story of how a product came or was seen for the first time in a certain country.
These are interesting kinds of stories. They make the customer forget about what they’re buying and think about what could be. Most of the time, telling a story about how something helps is more powerful than just listing facts. Have your staff try it out and see what a difference it makes.
4. In-depth knowledge of the product/product knowledge
Even if you hire someone with a lot of experience in your field, they will still need to learn about your product catalog. The more they know, the more questions they can answer when customers ask, and the more helpful they can be when selling.
Being eager to learn will help them grow, but there are also things you can do to help. Start by pointing them toward your best products. What sets them apart?
Don’t just think about the things it can do. Think about what your customers will get out of it. Why do your products stand out from the rest?
It’s also important to train regularly. There will always be new products and improvements to the ones you already have. Keep infographics and leaflets in the break room so employees can use them to fill in any gaps in their knowledge.
You could also have “unboxing sessions” to see how customers would react to the process. As a learning point, list the “top 10” products your store sells each month. Or, you can have your staff use your products. Doing is always the best way to learn.
5. Technology savvy
In the digital world of retailing, we live in now, technology skills are more important than ever. Salespeople and other retail workers should know how to use computers, point-of-sale (POS) systems, tablets, and any other business-growing software.
Omnichannel businesses might even let their employees handle online sales, send back an ordered stock straight to customers’ homes, and market to customers in person. With good training, employees should also be able to do all of these things.
A lack of technical knowledge can not only lead to mistakes and wrong information but may also slow the checkout process or even the customer service process, which can cause the business to lose customers.
No one really knows your customers better than your employees, who are your brand’s “boots on the ground.”
6. Must be able to learn quickly
As a sales associate, you’ll get a lot of information on your first day: how to work the register, run a sale, and fold clothes correctly.
This also never really ends. About once a month, stores change their stock, giving employees a whole new catalog to learn. Stores also tend to change their displays every week, so employees have to learn everything from a small new layout to a whole new way of running the store.
As a result, people who work in retail today must know how to use technology. So much of a salesperson’s job is done with things like mobile POS technology that he or she can’t really choose to struggle with it.
There are examples where more than a few older workers who could never figure out how to work the register well caused long lines at a counter, which made everyone else’s jobs harder and gave customers headaches.
Other Relevant Skills
There are other relevant skills that every retailer should have. They include:
Persuasion is a key skill in retail. Everything is a step in the sales process. Your team’s efforts at persuasion don’t necessarily result in customers making unnecessary purchases. That is manipulation, and while you could experience some short-term success using this tactic, it will ultimately backfire.
Understanding a customer’s demands, being able to defend a product’s merits, and overcoming objections, are all essential components of effective persuasion.
Your staff person will be effective in sales if they are aware of the advantages of what you offer and are able to articulate them.
Great communication abilities
Several of the soft skills described earlier, such as active listening, will assist with this, but effective communication may also be learned. Techniques can be used to help you in the real world and build your confidence.
When addressing clients, responding to their inquiries, and making sales to them, your personnel must be able to express their message precisely. Even if you can’t forecast every circumstance, role-playing potential situations will help your staff be ready for the majority of them. Start by giving examples from real-world situations.
Display and product styling abilities
What do buyers see when they first look at your storefront or at an outside display? As crucial as anything your employees might ever say is the manner they present your shop.
They’ll be aware of what goes well with what, which fashions are extremely relevant, and which goods are most likely to draw customers in. When a consumer enters your store, a knowledgeable employee can also offer advice on what fits best when that customer goes home.
It’s not just about the clothes here. A furniture store may suggest chairs to match a specific table or interior color scheme. The ideal pairing of a smartwatch and smartphone may be suggested by a tech retailer. The ideal pastries to go with chai lattes may be suggested by a cafe.
Experience or knowledge of the retail industry
Any staff member will start off significantly better if they have a grasp of your sector. It’s great to be able to answer inquiries about your products, but how do they stack up against those of your rivals?
Are there rules that the industry must abide by? Do your customers have a minimum or a maximum price point expectation? Are you supplying those items? Why not? if not? Being unique is excellent, but your employees need to understand why you operate in a particular way.
Finance and math abilities
This is no longer as crucial as it once was. Math abilities and basic mental arithmetic were essential in the days before credit card payments, debit card payments, and digital wallets, unlike when cash was the sole form of payment. A single 0 entered incorrectly could irritate a consumer or cost you a significant amount of money.
Automatic cash registers and calculators have made many tasks easier, but arithmetic abilities and a grasp of concepts like percentages are still crucial.
What would the final cost be if all items were discounted by 35%?
Any sale will profit immensely from your ability to make quick calculations and from not keeping your buyers waiting.
Being able to handle and count money, look for fakes, and operate a cash register are among the crucial retail skills because cash is still used today.
Good time management
Retail personnel frequently handle a wide range of duties, from setting up the store to servicing clients. Effective colleagues are skilled at time management. They plan their days in accordance with the times of day when the business sees the most traffic.
Employees would know to plan customer-facing work around noon and back-office tasks later if, for instance, your store has a lunchtime boom in foot traffic followed by an afternoon lull.
The great news is that you can assist your staff with time management by providing them with information on your store’s traffic patterns. Look through your retail reports to determine your peak and off-peak periods. The team can then plan their time accordingly after you have shared your findings with them.
Being able to multitask
A staff member may search your store computer for a product that a customer has requested when another customer comes up with a query. The ability to multitask is a necessary talent. Without losing sight of their first client, they must guide their second client in the appropriate route.
When a staff member picks up the item their first customer has ordered, they should also be able to gather more goods for the display. Customers should always come first, but if a staff member can do two or three tasks at once, they’ll be invaluable.
What characterizes an excellent store employee? We’ve led you through it in this article—the combination of soft and hard abilities. When hiring, keep in mind that while most people won’t possess all the necessary skills, some retail skills are simpler to teach than others.
Use this article as a resource to identify employees with the necessary retail abilities for success, whether you manage a lifestyle business, a developing boutique, or have many retail locations.