11 Sales Associate Skills (Plus Tips for Improving Them)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 11 October 2022 | Published 6 December 2021

Updated 11 October 2022

Published 6 December 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Sales associates typically work in a retail setting, where their duties range from answering questions about products to processing transactions at the cash register. This involves having interpersonal skills, in-depth product knowledge and the ability to complete a variety of technical tasks. Learning about the top skills you use as a sales associate can help you incorporate these qualities into your job applications or discover ways of meeting performance targets in your current role. In this article, we list several sales associate skills and share tips on how to develop them.

Related: How to Create a Cover Letter for a Retail Position

12 sales associate skills

Review these 12 sales associate skills that can help you succeed in the workplace:

1. Observation

Being observant is a top skill for sales associates because it's important for them to pay attention to customer behaviour and the appearance of inventory on the shelves to maintain an optimal environment. Throughout their shift, a sales associate uses their observation skills to notice when a customer enters the shop or may require assistance, allowing the associate to promptly greet them or give them more information about a product. Sales associates notice details about the appearance of the shop, making it easier for them to restock items at the appropriate time and ensure the shop looks clean and tidy.

Related: 20 Important Sales Skills and How You Can Develop Them

2. Multitasking

Sales associates often multitask to manage their responsibilities and support multiple shop patrons at the same time. When several people are shopping in the shop at once, sales associates use their multitasking skills to provide customer service to each of them and guide each of them through different stages in the shopping experience. They also apply their multitasking skills to manage tasks such as restocking shelves while also supervising the sales floor.

3. Industry knowledge

Depending on the type of products they sell, sales associates apply specialised industry knowledge when interacting with customers. To make sales and answer questions, they require a background in what kinds of products the shop sells and the features available for each product. Sales associates use this knowledge to make recommendations and start conversations with customers about different ways to use their purchases. Having industry knowledge shows customers they can trust your recommendations, increasing your ability to make sales.

4. Persuasion

Having persuasion skills can be helpful as a sales associate because they can increase your ability to sell products. Being persuasive can allow you to engage customers in conversation, learn about their interests and convince them to purchase products that can meet their needs. You can use persuasion to upsell customers and increase the number of items they buy or encourage them to buy more expensive items.

5. Customer service

Providing customer service is one of the core duties of a sales associate. Having customer service skills includes being able to anticipate a customer's desires, understand their problems and come up with solutions. Sales associates use their customer service skills to create a positive shopping experience for shop patrons and resolve issues whenever they occur. By having a helpful attitude and considering the customer's mindset during all interactions, sales associates can encourage customers to return and make repeat purchases or leave positive reviews.

Related: 12 Customer Service Skills: Definitions and Examples

6. Tech support

Sales associates may use different retail technology tools, including point-of-sale systems, payment terminals, inventory software and mobile card readers. It's useful for sales associates to have basic tech support skills so they can operate and troubleshoot the shop's technology systems when they have issues. Many retail technology tools integrate with the internet, so understanding how to reset computer networks and restore connectivity can make it easier to correct issues with processing payments or searching for items in the inventory database.

7. Compassion

Compassion and empathy are useful characteristics for a sales associate to have because these traits allow them to relate to customers. Being able to understand a customer's perspective can make it easier for you to provide them with the most relevant information and support. Having compassion also improves your customer service and active listening skills because it shows customers that you genuinely care about their concerns and you want to provide them with the best outcome.

8. Tact

Sales associates assist customers with their shopping experience while also upholding shop policies, which often requires them to be tactful. The way you communicate with customers can help you form positive relationships with them and influence their satisfaction after an interaction in the shop. Using tact involves talking to customers respectfully and paying attention to how you phrase your conversations. This can help you deescalate conflicts while being respectful to your customers.

9. Stamina

Working as a sales associate involves being active and moving around on the sales floor, which can require physical strength and stamina. Some sales associates work long shifts that involve opening or closing the shop, which may include physical tasks such as deep cleaning or setting up shop displays. Your stamina can help you maintain your energy and endurance throughout the day when walking around the shop, standing at the register and stocking inventory.

10. Resilience

Sales associates may encounter a range of unexpected situations throughout the day, including assisting customers with different dispositions, solving logistical problems with inventory and quickly processing transactions for long queues of customers. Being resilient and having the ability to recover from challenging situations can help sales associates manage their responsibilities regardless of the changing factors in a retail environment. Resilience also allows you to stay positive when interacting with frustrated customers and keep a calm demeanour when the shop is especially busy.

11. Communication

Successful sales associates have excellent communication skills that they use to explain concepts and interpret information. They primarily use verbal communication, but they may also use writing when preparing reports about sales information or sending internal emails. Sales associates listen carefully to customers to ensure that they understand what kinds of products they want, then explain how they can provide assistance. They also apply their communication skills when describing shop policies and negotiating the best outcome when misunderstandings or issues occur.

How to develop your sales associate skills

Here are several ways you can learn skills as a sales associate and improve your current skill set to enhance your job application or exceed expectations in the workplace:

1. Observe experienced associates

Grow your interpersonal skills by shadowing experienced sales associates and paying attention to how they interact with customers. Notice what phrases they use to welcome customers and create a positive environment. You can also listen to their conversations and sales pitches to learn about product features and shop policies. Everyone has their own strategies for providing customer service, but you can develop your own style by incorporating elements of each sales associate's approach.

2. Research the shop and its items

When you're not actively interacting with customers, research the products available in the shop and the different vendors you keep in stock. Reading the descriptions on the product packaging is an easy way to learn about items quickly while stocking inventory or even scanning items at the register. If possible, spend time testing some products to gain personal insight into how the features work. Make sure you also know the shop policies thoroughly so you can provide customers with accurate information about exchanges, returns and discounts.

Related: Research Skills: Definition, Benefits and How to Develop

3. Mirror your customers

Enhance your interactions with customers by mirroring their behaviour. This can improve your active listening and communication skills by making customers feel you understand them and helping them better relate to you. For example, paraphrasing what a customer says and repeating it back to them can give them the opportunity to verify that you interpreted their question correctly. You can also try to use similar body language as your customers to make them feel more comfortable in the shop.

4. Be proactive

When working as a sales associate, constantly look for ways that you can either help customers or improve the sales floor. Be proactive about approaching customers to welcome them, start a conversation and educate them about products. Taking the initiative to talk to customers can give you more practice using sales techniques, allowing you to improve your skills quickly. This also shows customers you care about their satisfaction and want to provide them with a positive experience in the shop.

5. Use role play

Acting out scenarios with other sales associates can help you refine your customer service and sales skills. You can role play with your coworkers to practise resolving challenging situations, using new sales techniques or demonstrating products. Role playing as the customer can also be a great way to develop empathy and consider potential challenges the customer may experience. This can help you brainstorm solutions and be proactive about providing high-quality support when real customers visit the shop.

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