What Is a Sales Associate? And How Do I Become One?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

A sales associate works in a store to sell products to customers. Like cashiers, they can work to process customers’ payments but typically have other responsibilities, like helping customers find products that fit their needs or restocking shelves.

[Featured image] A sales associate holds a stack of product brochures.

In the retail business, a sales associate can make or break a sale and a customer's experience in a store. From welcoming guests to ringing up purchases, stores depend on their sales associates to create a pleasant shopping experience and drive sales.

Keep reading to learn more about what retail sales associates do, how to become one, and how you can advance your career through experience and education.  

What does a sales associate do?

As a sales associate, you represent the business you work for to the shopper. That means you can help increase profits for the company and improve customer experience simultaneously. Sales associates will have plenty of opportunities to interact with customers, making it a good job for people who like to help others and can put on a friendly demeanour. Your daily sales associate duties might include: 

  • Greeting and interacting with customers at the door and throughout the sales floor 

  • Listening to a customer’s needs and suggesting appropriate products

  • Upselling or encouraging customers to buy other products that may complement their needs 

  • Checking and maintaining inventory of products 

  • Learning as much as you can about a product so you can answer customer questions 

  • Helping with marketing campaigns, loyalty programmes, and store promotions 

  • Creating displays and hanging signs 

  • Processing customer payments at a cash register

  • Wrapping, packaging, or bagging purchased products

  • Promoting sales and new products 

  • Stocking shelves with new inventory 

  • Processing returns and exchanges 

How much does a sales associate make?

As of February 2024, sales associates in India earn an average annual salary of ₹5,94,000, according to Glassdoor [1]. How much you make may fluctuate depending on the company you work for, its location, your responsibilities, and your level of experience.

7 tips for getting a job as a sales associate

If becoming a sales associate sounds like a career path you’d like to explore, these seven tips can help you get started.  

1. Prepare your CV and for an interview. 

Taking some extra time to sharpen your CV and prepare for an interview can help you stand out above other applicants. In a resume, note anything showing you have the skills to be a good sales associate. This can include previous work experience or different roles where you’ve had to interact with people, like volunteer work or involvement in school clubs.

Before an interview, learn about the store's history, research the products it sells, and be prepared to talk about why you want to work there. Do a practice interview at home before going in for the real thing.  

2. Consider the skills needed for the job.  

Beyond a positive attitude and customer service sensibilities, there are many skills a good sales associate may have. They include:  

  • Business sense: A good understanding of where to place products and signage can boost sales for the store.

  • Communication and people skills: Explaining a product to customers and answering questions will be vital to being an influential sales associate. Confidence in approaching customers and making suggestions will also be important.

  • Ability to work under pressure: This will be especially useful during busy holidays and weekends. Be prepared to multitask and potentially deal with demanding customers.

  • Enthusiasm for the products you sell: Genuinely liking a store’s products can help you convey the products’ strengths to a customer.

  • Basic maths: Money handling or counting change with and without technology will be helpful.

  • Physical stamina: Being a sales associate likely means you’ll be on your feet for several hours. Many positions also need associates to be able to lift heavy items. 

3. Apply during busy seasons.

Many retailers need extra support on the sales floor during their busy seasons and are more willing to hire new workers. Working as a seasonal worker can get you started in the retail industry and provide you with experience to put down on your resume to make you more competitive for other positions in the future.

The festive season from late September to December is generally the busiest time for many stores. Still, some tourist destinations may be more active in the winter months.

4. Make sure you're comfortable around computers.  

Almost every industry relies on computers, and retail is no different. From ringing up purchases to keeping up with inventory with specialised software, you must ensure you're adept with computers and other technology. If you're not, consider taking an introductory computer course online before you apply for jobs. 

5.  Consider other retail positions. 

Many sales associate jobs are entry-level, and if you have the right skills and make a good impression, a store manager may hire you without experience. But if you need help landing the job you want, consider applying to other retail roles, such as a stock clerk or delivery driver. This can familiarise you with a retail environment and make you a more competitive candidate when you apply for positions in the future.

6. Apply to places you know and like.

Stores often try to hire people who fit the image of their product. If you have a particular clothing brand you wear a lot of, try applying to that business. If you like to read, look for jobs at your local bookstore. A genuine appreciation for your products will make you a more effective and honest salesperson. Hiring managers will also appreciate people who are already familiar with their products.

7. Consider a degree. 

While there are only some educational requirements to become a sales associate, most retailers want you to have at least a secondary school certificate. If you're still in secondary school, consider taking courses that may help you pursue a career in sales, like business, marketing, communications, and psychology. 

And while university degrees aren't necessary for sales associate jobs, they can help your resume stand out and put you on a faster track to managerial positions. You can even pursue a university degree while you work.

Next steps

Building the right sales skills can enhance your resume and help you stand out as a candidate for a sales associate role. Get job-ready for a career in sales with the Salesforce Sales Development Representative Professional Certificate or the HubSpot Sales Representative Professional Certificate.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Article sources

1. Glassdoor. “Sales Associate Salaries in India, https://www.glassdoor.co.in/Salaries/sales-associate-salary-SRCH_KO0,15.htm.” Accessed March 2, 2024.

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