Sales Assistant Skills: Examples and Definitions
Updated 1 March 2023
Having the skills and qualities that make a great sales assistant will help you excel in a career in retail. Sales assistants need to have strong soft skills to help them work well with people, as well as hard skills that enable them to perform their job. Understanding sales assistant skills means you can work on developing your skill set to succeed at work. In this article, we discuss the key skills sales assistants need, provide examples of how they're used in the workplace and share how you can highlight your skills when searching for your next role.
What are the key sales assistant skills to have?
Sales assistants should have strong customer service and communication skills, as they spend a lot of their workday assisting customers. Typically, they will work as part of a larger team in a shop, as such being a team player and working well with others are desirable qualities for sales assistants. Some elements of a sales assistant's role will also require practical skills, such as:
Ability to use a cash register or point of sale device
Attention to detail
Basic numeracy skills
Ability to maintain a tidy shop floor
This combination of people skills and accurate, efficient cash handling are desirable skills for retail sales assistants.
Examples of sales assistant skills and qualities
Within their workday, sales assistants will encounter a variety of customers with a broad range of needs. Being able to communicate with different people and problem-solving effectively are essential qualities for sales assistants. There may be times when the retail environment is busy, fast-paced and stressful, as such sales assistants must work well under pressure. Some of the key skills for sales assistants include:
Customer service skills
Customer service skills are essential in fostering a positive relationship between a business and its customers. Sales assistants should have the customer service skills to resolve issues for customers, answer questions about products and provide assistance in finding items in the store. Customer service skills include strong communication and problem-solving, as well as qualities such as a positive attitude and patience.
When working as a sales assistant, it's important to contribute to the overall success of the team. Many tasks in a retail store require a group effort to complete, especially in large shops or flagship stores. For example, sales assistants typically have to stay after their shop closes to tidy displays and prepare stock for the next day. To support the rest of the team, sales assistants that are leaving before the shop closes can contribute by tidying the shop floor in between helping customers.
Problem-solving skills help you find the source of a problem so that you can identify ways to resolve an issue. Being able to understand complex queries and support customers in finding a solution is part of delivering excellent customer service. While customers may not always find a solution that works for them, sales assistants should think creatively to offer a variety of options to customers when presented with a problem.
Attention to detail
Having a keen eye for details is a useful quality for sales assistants to have for multiple reasons. When working at the cash register, sales assistants must pay close attention to the money they are handling and transactions that they process to avoid making errors that could have a negative impact on the business or customers. However, paying attention to details also helps sales assistants to maintain an aesthetically pleasing shop floor. For example, those with a strong eye for detail will notice when merchandise is untidy and identify when there are gaps in product displays.
Basic computer skills
While sales assistants have a range of duties on the shop floor, they will inevitably spend some time operating a cash register or point of sale device such as a tablet. As such, they should have basic computer skills and the ability to operate a cash register efficiently.
Time management skills
Sales assistants often juggle multiple tasks at once, as several customers may approach them for help at the same time. Because of the large volume of customers that sales assistants encounter, they need to effectively manage their time and remain organized so that they can help each customer as promptly as possible. Having strong time management skills not only ensures that customers receive efficient service, but will also help sales assistants not become overwhelmed by their workload.
How to improve sales assistant skills
There are many ways to improve your sales assistant skills. While you may notice some of these skills develop naturally through practice and experience, here are some steps you can take to help:
Ask a colleague for advice. Senior sales assistants and members of the management team in your retail store usually have a wealth of experience working with customers. Asking for advice or shadowing them for a day will help you improve your sales assistant skills.
Practise your active listening skills. When people consider communication skills, often listening skills can be overlooked. In order to problem solve and deliver excellent customer service, sales assistants must be able to listen to others in order to understand their needs.
Develop your product knowledge. As a sales assistant, customers look to you to be an expert on the products in your store. Taking the time to research new products, try them yourself and listen out for upcoming product launches will help you to improve your skills as a sales assistant.
Take a course on new computer software. If computer skills are your weakness, take a course on the software to better understand how to use it. You can even develop computer skills through online training or watching tutorial videos.
Sales assistant skills in the workplace
Having identified a variety of skills for sales assistants, it's important to find ways to utilise these skills in the workplace. Here are a few ways to incorporate your skills at work:
Ask questions. Whether you're trying to understand a customer's problem or trying to resolve a problem with colleagues, ask lots of questions to help better understand the situation. Not only will this help you find a solution, but those around you will appreciate feeling heard too.
Support your colleagues. Fostering a sense of community and teamwork includes stepping up to help colleagues when you can. When you notice a colleague appears stressed, ask how you can help.
Practice your observation skills. Observing the shop floor will help you notice when displays are knocked or products are left untidily. While disturbing browsing customers to tidy is not good customer service, noticing when the store is looking messy and making a mental note of areas that need tidying will help you stay organized.
How to highlight your skills as a sales assistant
There are many different sales assistant skills that you could highlight when searching for your next role. Understanding how to present your skills in your CV, cover letter and interview can help you to find success in your job search.
Sales assistant skills for a CV and cover letter
When writing your CV and cover letter, it's important to review the job description for the role you're applying for. Identify what sales assistant skills the recruiter is looking for and ensure you highlight which of these skills you have. Using bullet points within the skills section of your CV is a simple way to present your skills and experience. Some of the key sales assistant skills that recruiters look for include:
Customer service skills
While there might not be space for extended examples in your CV, your cover letter is the perfect place to include specific examples of times you have effectively demonstrated these skills. For example, ‘in my previous role as a sales assistant, I delivered excellent customer service to a customer who was looking for an out of stock item. By asking questions and understanding their preferences, I found a suitable alternative that left the customer delighted.'
Related: How To Write a Sales Assistant CV
Sales assistant skills for an interview
Before your interview, prepare some specific examples of times you have demonstrated the key skills outlined in the role's job description. As well as providing examples of your sales assistant skills, ensure you are showing those skills during the interview. For example, if you highlight your active-listening skills on your CV, make sure you show the interviewer this skill by listening patiently and asking questions when appropriate.
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