Sales Associates sell, rent, or lease a range of non-technical (e.g. clothing, furniture, and cars) goods and services directly to consumers. They are usually employed by stores and other retail or wholesale establishments that sell on a retail basis to the public.
A Sales Associate is not to be confused with a Sales Representative. The Sales function is divided into two broad categories based on the type of customer: business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumers (B2C). Sales Associates are B2C-oriented, meaning the customer is encouraged to buy the product or service immediately and directly from the Salesperson; while a Sales Representative works for B2B companies, meaning these professionals take the products and services from one company or organization to sell it to another.
An industry can include both B2B and B2C. For example, an Author sells their manuscript to a Book Publisher, while the latter prints, publishes, and markets the book to a bookstore. These are all B2B relationships. However, when the final customer goes to the bookstore to buy the book, he’s creating a B2C relationship with the Sales Associate.
These professionals may also specialize and act as Consultants for home entertainment systems, computers, books, cars, food, and other products and services. Sales Associates have a key role in service, retail, and wholesale establishments since they are a direct and constant point of contact with the customer, hence, they are vital in leaving a long-lasting positive impression on clients, to get them to go back not only for the products, but for the shopping experience as well.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Sales Associates are required to complete.
- Greeting customers and creating a welcoming environment:
- Greeting, acknowledging, and informing customers in a warm, courteous, and professional manner;
- advising customers on use and care of merchandise and providing advice concerning specialized products or services;
- directing customers in locating merchandise; and
- ensuring customer satisfaction.
- Selling and promoting goods, such as books, cars, clothing, shoes, cosmetics, electronics, furniture, plants, and many other types of merchandise:
- Discussing type, quality, and quantity of merchandise or services sought for purchase, rental, or lease;
- being up-to-date on the most current promotions and advertisements, informing clients about prices, discounts, and promotions;
- maintaining solid product knowledge and all other aspects of customer service;
- knowing the specifications of a product when working with expensive and complex items, such as cars, spare and replacement parts, jewellery, electronics, among others; and
- maintaining appropriate stock levels and ensuring that all sizes and styles are represented.
- Assisting and relieving Cashiers, as requested:
- Operating cash registers; and
- processing the payment for the sale using a Point of Sale (POS) system.
- Sharing suggestions, ideas, and concerns with the appropriate Managers.
- Maintaining sales records for inventory control:
- Operating computerized inventory record keeping and reordering systems.
- Stocking shelves, arranging for mailing or delivery of purchases, taking inventory, preparing displays, marking prices on items, taking out the trash, or carrying out any other back store activities when required:
- Assisting with cleaning activities, making sure the store is organized and clean; and
- processing shipments.
- Complying with all health and safety standards and procedures, as well as with the establishment’s rules and regulations:
- Recognizing security risks and thefts, understanding the organization’s procedures for handling robberies;
- notifying Security Guards or calling the police if necessary.
- Greeting customers and determining their wants or needs.
- Recommending merchandise to customers based on their needs.
- Explaining the uses and benefits of different products to customers; showing how merchandise works, when applicable (e.g. connecting appliances and cars by doing driving tests).
- Answering customers’ questions and resolving any problems they might have before getting a Manager involved.
- Knowing about current sales and promotions, policies about payments and exchanges, and the company’s security practices.
The average Sales Associate salary is $31,254 per year or $16 per hour. This is the same as the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $22,000 while most experienced workers make up to $44,000. These results are based on 2,463 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Customer service oriented and exceptional selling skills:
- Being aware of customer activity and responding with a sense of urgency, prioritizing assisting customers over other tasks;
- providing high levels of customer service to existing clients and potential customers;
- being persuasive enough to be able to convince clients; and
- exercising sound judgment in effectively addressing customer concerns.
- Exceptional communication and interpersonal skills:
- Communicating clearly, especially verbally, in order to create a clear and communicative environment with customers, coworkers, and supervisors;
- having a friendly and engaging personality in order to create positive interactions with clients;
- listening carefully and understanding customers’ questions and complaints in order to be able to resolve any issues promptly; and
- contributing to creating a team atmosphere that is flexible and enjoyable.
- Being resourceful, energetic, driven, structured, and displaying a strong desire to take initiative.
- Demonstrated time management and organizational skills:
- Multitasking; being able to work in a dynamic, fast-paced environment;
- being proactive; and
- being able to work both independently and as part of a team.
- Problem-solving and decision-making skills:
- Identifying issues and resolving problems in a timely manner; and
- being polite and patient while dealing with difficult clients.
- Physical strength:
- Being able to stand for extended periods of time, as well as climbing ladders and lifting/ carrying up to 50 pounds at a time.
Professionals looking to enter the world of Sales as a Sales Associate will not be required to have a formal education; however, some employers prefer applicants who have a high school diploma or equivalent. Most Sales Associates receive on-the-job training, which usually lasts a few days to a few months and includes topics such as customer service, security, the store’s policies and procedures, and how to operate the cash register. Furthermore, since providing an exceptional service to customers is a priority for many employers, Sales Associates often get periodic training to update and refine their skills.
Sales Associates typically have the opportunity to advance to supervisory or managerial positions; however, some employers prefer candidates for these positions to have a college or university degree.
Sales Associates must be willing to work flexible schedules that meet the needs of the business, including overnight, evenings, weekends, holidays, and call-in shifts.