​Essential skills for success at every level of retail sales

What employers are looking for and which skills you need to succeed at every retail sales level

Whether you're just getting started in retail or you're already building an amazing career in this industry, you need a certain set of skills. Find out what employers are looking for and which skills you should list on your resume.

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Entry-Level Retail Sales Skills

Landing an entry-level job as a clerk, a sales representative, or a retail sales associate can be a great part-time position or the start of a rewarding career. No matter how you're planning to shape your professional life, however, you'll need a few basic skills to get your start as a sales associate.

1. Written and Verbal Communication

At the core of the retail industry is communication. No matter what you're selling, it's critical that you can both read product descriptions and talk about relevant goods and services.

In most retail settings, you'll also need to have the confidence and finesse to approach customers, make a verbal connection, and gain an understanding of what they need. If you can speak or write more than one language fluently, give yourself an A+ for this skill.

2. Customer Service

Great retail employees know that communication is about more than just verbal exchanges. It's also about creating an environment where customers feel valued and appreciated, even if they're being difficult.

Take steps to develop your customer service skills by learning to anticipate how customers will respond to you. Develop lists of typical scenarios and craft your responses to customer questions, comments, and complaints. When you try them out in practice, do your best to listen and make customers feel at ease.

3. Attention to Detail

There's no room for sloppiness in the retail world. As a sales associate, you're bound to spend at least a portion of your day operating a point of sale (POS) system or arranging merchandise. Both of these key roles require a high level of accuracy. Focus on your attention to detail to ensure that you process transactions accurately and that you make the sales floor look its best.

4. Product Knowledge

You'll never be able to answer customer questions or provide accurate information without fully understanding the products you're selling. Read all the literature you can, get to know the company website, and find out whether you can test out products yourself. After all, you want to gain the most in-depth product knowledge possible.

Mid-Level Retail Sales Skills

Shifting from a basic retail associate role to a sales specialist or sales manager job is a huge step up for your career. Take the time to hone these skills to ensure that you truly excel in your new role.

5. Leadership

Whether you're a shift supervisor or a retail manager, you have to own your leadership skills. Without this basic asset, you may not have a chance at succeeding in a managerial role.

To develop your leadership skills, work on creating an environment that emphasizes teamwork and goal achievement. Make a point of telling your employees what you expect of them and helping them find a way to meet the goals you've set.

6. Organization

This is a skill that's important at all retail career levels, but organization becomes particularly critical when you begin to manage employees and shape company objectives. After all, in this type of role, your daily tasks become much more complicated.

Instead of spending the work day on the sales floor, you might jump from cashiering and organizing displays to training employees and communicating with the corporate office. To keep everything straight, you need a system and a schedule as well as the ability to multitask.

7. Resilience

Even if you love your job, you know each day is packed with small and large challenges. Whether you're running out of time to meet a sales goal or you're understaffed on an unexpectedly busy day, you have to learn to roll with the punches. To do this, learn to think on your feet, make decisions quickly, and not take things too personally.

8. Responsibility

With better titles and bigger paychecks come significant responsibility. Mid-level retail managers must demonstrate dependability, trustworthiness, and the ability to make smart decisions. To succeed in this role, you'll need to prove that not only will you show up when you're needed, but you'll also take actions that are in the company's best interest.

Senior-Level Retail Sales Skills

As a general manager or a business development manager, you've made it to the top of the retail sales career ladder. Sharpen the following skills to lead your company in the right direction and build the business you want.

9. Vision

Great general managers rarely keep things the same for long. Instead, they're constantly developing their vision and looking for ways to improve themselves, their teams, and their companies. If you don't have a crystal clear vision yet, try connecting with a mentor to help you find your way.

10. Creativity

You don't always have to know exactly how to bring your vision to life. In fact, obsessing over finding the perfect plan can stop a business in its tracks. If you're creative, you aren't afraid to think outside the box, toss around some ideas with your team, and try something new to achieve your goals.

11. Motivation

If you don't have a boss holding you accountable or pushing you to do better, it's up to you to keep the momentum going. When you struggle with self-motivation, remind yourself why you wanted to take on a senior-level management role in the first place. Remember your desire to accomplish great things or your belief in the company, to keep yourself motivated.

12. Commitment

As a senior-level retail manager, you don't necessarily have to stick to a single position for the rest of your career. You should demonstrate that you have the commitment to set and achieve long-term goals. Harnessing this skill gives you greater credibility, helps you build a stronger team, and results in a more successful retail business.

Do you have what it takes? Put your professional skills to the test by applying for entry-level sales associate positions or take the next step with a retail management training program.