Posted September 23, 2020

How to Excel in Retail Sales

By Grace Tino

The heart of brick-and-mortar stores is sales. From being an essential part in creating fantastic customer experience, to driving the store's revenue, sales associates are the engines that keep stores running. Sales may seem straightforward at first, but truly creating a great sales experience for each customer is not easy. There is a lot more to retail sales than answering customer questions and making sure they buy something. Brian Tracy once said, "Approach each customer with the idea of helping him or her solve a problem or achieve a goal, not of selling a product of service." Reading customers, knowing when to approach and when to close, and ensuring they leave satisfied is a surefire way to create a returning shopper and keep the sales flowing. Retail hiring teams often consider sales skills as some of the key traits in a good employee. Whether you're an experienced retail associate looking to advance your sales and your career, or searching for your first retail position, demonstrating sales expertise will make you a desirable employee to any store.

A large part of sales success is motivation and proper attitude. A great sales record starts at a base of confidence and positivity! No matter what mood the customer is in, maintaining a smile and optimism has the power to end the sale on a positive note. If you are interviewing for a retail position that requires sales skills, hiring managers will undoubtedly be evaluating your personality and presentation. In addition to your personality and attitude, your physical appearance also goes a long way. First impressions weigh heavily with a customer, so hiring managers will be looking for a great first impression in an interview first. Always wearing the uniform provided by the store is clearly important, but the way a salesperson presents and carries themselves in the uniform matters as well. Be proud of where you work and the products you sell!

Avoid coming across as the stereotypical pushy salesperson. Many people can remember a salesperson approaching them right upon entry to the store, asking immediately, "What can I help you with?" or "What did you come to buy today?" While these questions are traditional (and even somewhat instinctual) for a worker with a goal to sell, it can be too aggressive for a casual shopper. While considering what not to do when making a sale, think back to the last bad experience you with a salesperson. What did the salespeople do to kill the sale? Were they pushing for a sale right off the bat? Did the associate bug you with "small talk" questions to try to keep a conversation going when you just wanted to browse alone? Remembering how it feels to be a customer is key to discovering how to sell to one. Bob Phibbs, famous retail advisor, notes that common mistakes retail salespeople make are simply asking the wrong questions, which stop a sale before it can even start. To avoid asking the wrong questions, try a more open-ended approach. Welcome your customer to the store, but do not push for small talk to try and get the conversation started- simply let the customer know you will be there to assist if needed. If your customer looks lost, ask what brought them to the store, rather than if they need one specific item; asking to help them find one thing limits the potential of the sale! Essentially, the customer wants to feel assisted, not persuaded, when shopping, and a salesperson's approach makes a difference in the atmosphere of the conversation.

Once you are in a conversation with your customer, the next step is to listen to their needs. Practice active listening so you understand the customer's needs without becoming overbearing. Allow the customers to tell you about what they are looking for while remaining attentive. This includes demonstrating nonverbal cues with body language and expressions. Nodding your head is a simple way to show your understanding. Truly listen to their stories rather than already calculating your next response while they speak. If you can repeat back a summary of their needs, you will build trust with the customers, and of course be better prepared to help them find everything they need. As mentioned above, customers can be averse to pushy sales techniques, and prefer to feel assisted and in control of the interaction. Listen actively and they will feel much more open with receiving your assistance.

The next skill to utilize in a sale is demonstrating your product knowledge. You have listened to the customer, built trust, and now it is time to find the items he or she needs. This is where knowledge of your company and inventory are crucial. A great salesperson has taken time to understand and remember his/her products. Consider what products are best for the shopper and present options with your reasoning. Explaining product benefits and why they are a fit communicate understanding and attentive care, make the sale feel personal, and leave a customer feeling satisfied and happy to come back again. Do not push the sale or attempt to oversell with items the customer did not want. Simply guide the customer with your expertise, and they will likely leave with a purchase based on your advice.

Sales expertise is key to being a successful retail associate, whether you work on the floor or in customer service. Retailers are looking for strong salespeople that can contribute to the overall profitability of the store. Improving your sales with a smart technique demonstrates you are promotion-ready, or even ready for a management position. Essentially, strong sales skills translate to strong sales, and strong sales of course illustrate you are a valuable asset to a retail team. Once you are confident you can rock in sales, it is time to take it to action and apply to top positions! AllRetailJobs has thousands of open positions with actively hiring companies, making it the best place to start your successful sales career.