10 Must-Have Skills for Retail Sales Associates

Retail employees trains a new employees on how to have the right skills for a retail store job

No matter how effective your store’s marketing strategy is or how good your products are, the human factor remains the most essential element for achieving your objectives.

And speaking of the human factor, your sales associates have the most important role in your customers’ satisfaction. They are responsible for greeting customers, answering their questions, ensuring their commitment to a purchase, and increasing the number of sales in-store.

However, all of this is not achieved without a certain amount of knowledge and skill. Whether you’re a person looking for a career in sales or an owner looking to hire the perfect retail salesperson, you need to make sure that certain skills are fulfilled in order to succeed in this position. Below are 10 must-have skills for all salespeople to excel in the retail industry.

1. Interpersonal And Communication Skills

Customer satisfaction is the bottom line in any retail store. And this is achieved through seamless communication between the sales associates and the customers. Knowing how to communicate is an essential skill for any member of the sales team, both with customers and among other team members.

In a customer-facing role, you will encounter people from all walks of life and communication styles, and you’ll often be tasked with helping them solve a problem of some kind. For example, a friendly smile to a customer about to check out can make their day and may inspire them to come back and shop with you. Similarly, if a sale isn’t going well or a customer needs you to pull a product off the shelf, it’s crucial to know how to call on another team member for help.

Practice role-playing with your team, such as going over situations on how to help a customer make a return or clarifying a question they may have. You could also ask a colleague for feedback on customer interaction. This improves interpersonal skills and provides a pleasant shopping experience for customers.

2. In-depth Knowledge of the Products and Inventory 

The sales associates should have a comprehensive knowledge of the products and services sold by the company. Customers are going to ask questions, and salespeople must be able to provide answers to questions and solve problems. Solid product knowledge will help you better serve your prospects, so they feel supported and confident in their purchase. Plus, they’ll be more likely to get the word out about your company.

There are several key strategies for gaining product knowledge:

  • Participate in or conduct informational interviews with members of your company’s product team 
  • Use products as needed to have first-hand experience 
  • Research competitors to understand what differentiates your company’s offering

3. Be a Quick Learner

During the first days on the job as a sales assistant, there are many things that will need to be mastered. Using the cash register, managing a sale, and rearranging a misplaced product are some of the basic tasks.

Store inventory is also updated periodically, giving employees a whole new catalog to memorize. Stores also tend to change their displays weekly, requiring employees to learn everything from a minor new layout to a complete store change. Products and industry trends are constantly changing, as well as new technologies hitting the stores.

4. Time Management Skills

Time management is one of the essential skills for better and more effective management of a retail store. Retail employees often have many responsibilities, from setting up the store to catering to customers. Your sales associates have other duties than just sitting around and waiting for customers to come in. They may have to canvass before a big sale, follow-up calls with vendors and customers, restock merchandise, or clean storefronts.

They also need to know the times when the store peaks in traffic so they can better plan for customer-facing tasks and other secondary duties. The data in your retail POS system may assist better time management for your employees, too. Review your retail reports and identify your peak and off-peak hours. POS software also facilitates employee payroll by logging all the time clock management.

5. Patience

As ancient wisdom says, patience is a golden virtue. An impatient salesperson cannot make the customer’s buying experience enjoyable. Salespeople must listen to the same questions and explain important basics, such as exact care instructions, product warranties, and company guarantees, sometimes dozens of times a day.

They’ll also have to deal with rude and fussy customers. In other situations, the technology may be defective, or customers spend an extraordinary amount of time trying to decide what they want. One thing is for sure, though – whatever situation they’re confronted by, they will have to be patient. Doing so is in the best interest of the company’s reputation.

6. Tech Literacy Skills

Retail technology has revolutionized the retail industry in recent years. Most retail stores have POS software capable of processing transactions, tracking inventory, and providing crucial data on consumers and their preferences for more successful marketing campaigns.  For retail store owners, it is, therefore, imperative to ensure that your sales staff is well-versed in retail technology.

To do this, you need to implement hands-on training. If you want your employees to fully understand your in-store technology (e.g., POS system, CRM, inventory management solution), you need to give them first-hand knowledge. Create a test account for those who are still picking up the basics.  One option is to have newcomers collaborate with employees who are familiar with the technology and can show them how to do things. 

You should also take advantage of support offerings from your POS system vendor. Your supplier may assign a dedicated account representative to help resolve support issues. Make sure your supplier provides you with a support team always ready to help you with any problems.

7. Ability to Count The Till

Knowing how to facilitate transactions at the checkout properly is especially important for retail salespeople. Fundamental math skills and cash-handling procedures help ensure that your customers and your business are financially aligned. Associates should brush up on their addition and subtraction skills so they can make quick and accurate calculations when working with cash.

If you have a colleague who knows how to use point of sale systems and conduct transactions, shadow them to learn best practices. As you develop your cash handling skills, it can also be helpful to count the amount of change given back to the customer to make sure you are giving them the right amount.

8. Sales skills

Sales associates are responsible for more than just managing your retail store; they are also responsible for making sales and growing your business. The most effective associates understand the sales skills and selling techniques that help them work with customers to find the products they like and want to buy.

9. Ability To Adapt and Prioritize Under Multiple Tasks and Unexpected Situations

Sales associates juggle various tasks and work under tight deadlines with competing priorities. The ability to adapt is essential to thriving in this environment.

Demonstrate adaptability by reacting calmly to unexpected situations, remaining open to trying new ideas if an initial solution doesn’t work, and taking on new roles or responsibilities if necessary. If, for example, you are completing a sale and suddenly another customer or another employee collapses, how will you handle it? Or, while counting inventory on one of your shelves, a customer pulls you aside to ask about another product that is not in your catalog at all. Are you going to tell the customer to wait for you to finish, or are you going to prioritize the customer’s request and come finish your task afterward?

10. Industry Expertise 

Industry expertise is one of the skills required for salespeople that is not often overlooked, but we still want to mention it here. You can always train certain skills, but someone with a basic knowledge of your field is helpful.

If you try to train an associate of your mattress sales store as a member of the sales team, but they don’t understand the different types of mattresses, how to choose a mattress for back pain or a mattress topper, it will be difficult for them to get on the scene quickly. So it’s always a good idea to have someone who knows about the industry you operate in.

Infograph highlighting 10 retail skills for sales associates, including interpersonal skills, product knowledge, and eagerness to learn, and more

KORONA POS has been a huge game changer for my overall profitability. Implementation was seamless and painless! The support staff is great and always ready to help. Had I known it would be this easy, I would have made the switch sooner!

-Kristen L.

Retail Skills Sales Associates: Wrapping Up

A salesperson in a retail store must have certain skills to fully assume their responsibilities. Some of the most essential skills include mastering the products and services offered by their company. They must also know how to communicate, be patient, know how to manage time efficiently and be able to listen to customers.

Finally, having the ability to navigate through a cutting-edge POS software program to make checkout easier and faster for customers is also an important skill to master.

Photo of author

Written By

Mahougnon Martial Amoussou

Passionate about SEO and Content Marketing. Martial also writes about retail trends and tips for KORONA POS. He loves NBA games and is a big fan of the Golden State Warriors.