What Does a Sales Assistant Do? (Plus Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 June 2022

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.

A sales assistant is an entry-level role in retail shops that supports a sales team. These professionals may perform customer service and clerical tasks to ensure a store meets its goals and builds loyalty with customers. Learning more about what this profession entails and how you can get a job as a sales assistant may help you refine your job search. In this article, we answer the question "What does a sales assistant do?", list some common qualifications for this role, outline how to become one, and explore their skills, work environment and salary.

What does a sales assistant do?

If you're wondering the answer to "What does a sales assistant do?", they work in a retail store helping provide customer service to customers. They may help customers locate the products they want and share information about new merchandise to promote sales. They typically aim to increase a store's revenue by ensuring product displays look visually appealing and customers have a positive experience while in the store. Here are some of their common duties:

  • arranging merchandise on the sales floor

  • lifting, moving and opening boxes of inventory

  • cleaning and organising product displays

  • inputting customer contact information into an internal database

  • monitoring inventory and restocking merchandise

  • recommending items to customers based on their preferences

  • performing transactions for customers like purchases, returns and exchanges

  • attending staff meetings to learn about company-wide initiatives

  • meeting regular sales quotas and tracking sales data

  • helping customers pick up online orders

  • greeting customers and answering phones

Sales assistant qualifications

Here are some qualifications that employers may expect from a sales assistant candidate:

Experience

A sales assistant for a retail shop is usually an entry-level position. Many employers are open to hiring candidates with little or no work experience and offering on-the-job training to teach them the duties of a store assistant. Experience in a similar role could strengthen your candidacy for these roles. For example, if you've worked as a cashier or greeter at a shop, this experience may be valuable to potential employers.

Related: 10 Reasons to Pursue a Sales Career (With Tips and Salary)

Education

Educational requirements can vary for sales assistants. Many employers prefer to hire candidates who hold a diploma in secondary education. An undergraduate degree in a field like business or communications can be beneficial, but it's typically not a requirement. You can consider attending a vocational school to take courses related to customer service or sales.

Essential skills for sales assistants

Here are some skills you can consider developing if you want to work as a sales assistant:

Communication

Strong communication skills can help you answer customers' questions about goods in a shop. Communication capabilities like empathy, active listening and public speaking may help you understand customers' requests, recommend suitable products for them and make announcements in the store. Communication also enables you to work effectively within a team. Sales assistants may support sales associates and managers, so it's important that you can follow instructions, share information and build positive relationships.

Persuasion

As a sales assistant, one of your duties may be to increase sales. To increase your chances of succeeding at this goal, it's helpful to know how to encourage customers to purchase products. Individuals who can highlight the most impressive features of a product and direct attention to items the store wants to promote may experience success as a sales assistant. You can use persuasion skills when asking customers to sign up for store loyalty programmes or email lists and sharing information about store-wide promotional events.

Math

Sales assistants may perform basic calculations when overseeing transactions. It's important that you can provide accurate change, interpret discounts and calculate sales to help customers calculate prices and deals. While advanced math skills aren't usually necessary, basic numeracy can help you perform store assistant duties more efficiently.

Teamwork

Most retail teams work as a unit to meet organisational objectives and maintain a positive work environment. A career as a sales assistant may require you to coordinate with other sales assistants, sales representatives, assistant managers and managers to operate a shop efficiently. A successful sales assistant treats their coworkers with respect, fulfills their responsibilities and readily adapts to changing business conditions.

Read more: Teamwork Skills: Definition and Examples

How to become a sales assistant

Here are steps you can follow to begin a career as a sales assistant:

1. Complete your education

It's beneficial to complete your secondary education, as most employers require a minimum of a diploma of secondary education. Having an impressive academic history can show potential employers that you have a strong work ethic and commit yourself to excellence. You can also take part in volunteer work and extracurriculars during your education to develop other relevant skills, such as communication and teamwork.

2. Build a professional network

Making connections in the industry you want to work in can help you learn about new opportunities, find referrals for positions and learn more about the field. It's helpful to meet people who work in sales positions in retail shops. Learn more about the shops in your area and attend networking events to expand your network. It's also helpful to discuss your career goals with people you meet. If you share that you're hoping to become a sales assistant, people working in the retail industry may connect you with job opportunities.

3. Craft a resume

A resume is an essential tool for your job search, so it's important to create one that targets sales assistant jobs. It's helpful to tailor your resume for each job you apply to, by including keywords from each job description. An effective sales assistant resume highlights that you're comfortable handling money, have expert communication skills and can meet the goals you set. In your resume, ensure to include the following information:

  • contact information

  • skills

  • education

  • work experience

  • certifications

  • awards and honours

4. Write a cover letter

You can write a cover letter for each job you're interested in that provides more in-depth information on your qualifications. An impressive cover letter can exemplify your skills with examples from your experiences. With each example, aim to explain the situation you experienced, the action you took and the positive outcome that resulted from your choices. If you're an entry-level candidate, you can include anecdotes from your education or extracurriculars that show relevant skills.

5. Interview for jobs

The next step in the job search is typically an interview. Some employers may only hold one interview, while others may begin with a phone or video interview and advance you to an in-person interview. Some retail stores hold group interviews, where you respond to questions alongside other candidates. In an interview, try to project confidence and professionalism by dressing in business attire. When interviewing for sales jobs, interviewers may ask questions that test your decision-making abilities, ability to work on a team and interpersonal skills.

Support your claims by giving specific examples of times you displayed the skills required for the job. Before attending an interview, it may be beneficial to research the organisation and prepare answers about why you want to work there.

Read more: 37 Sales Assistant Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

6. Attend training

Most organisations provide hands-on training for sales assistants. During your training sessions, you may shadow an experienced sales professional and learn how to set up merchandise, support customers, perform transactions and clean the sales floor. When you're learning your store assistant duties, it's helpful to ask questions if you're uncertain about proper protocol and take notes when you're able so you can reference them later.

Related: What Is a Retail Job? (Plus Steps, Skills and Examples)

Sales assistant work environment

Sales assistants can work full-time or part-time in retail shops. They may work in a variety of different retail stores such as boutiques, department stores or speciality shops. Work schedules for sales assistants can vary depending on the hours of a store and the needs of an employer. Working as a sales assistant usually requires long shifts while standing, walking and carrying heavy boxes, so having physical strength and stamina can be beneficial. Familiarity with tools like computers, phones and spreadsheets can also be beneficial, as some employers may require sales assistants to perform office-based duties.