15 skills a sales associate needs to succeed
Sales, regardless of what industry you’re in, is about people. Sales teams need a good understanding of the customers they’re working with, or they’ll flounder around and fail at getting the results they want.
Whether you’re a business owner or a team leader, finding the right sales associate is easier said than done. There are specific skills that a successful sales associate needs to have to bring their best to the table.
And if you’re an aspiring sales legend, you need to master these skills so you can walk the walk and talk the talk.
The 15 skills we’re discussing here form the foundation of knowledge and abilities that can take a good sales associate to one that can sell ice to an Eskimo.
The top skills for sales associates
Although a sales associate doesn’t need to be phenomenal at all the skills we list here, being at least an expert will go a long way towards achieving brilliant sales results.
As a sales associate, you should aim to be the best at what you do, and to do that, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with all these skills.
1. Communication skills
No sales associate could do their job if they don’t exceed at communication. This soft skill is vital and should always be worked on, no matter how long you’ve been in the sales world.
Exceptional small talk and the ability to carry a conversation in the direction you want is what sets apart sales associates. Being friendly and approachable is key, and communicating well will enhance the customers’ experiences.
It can also be very beneficial for sales associates to be able to speak more than one language. They should at least speak the most common language of the target audience.
The sales associate is most likely the first person a customer sees when spending time in a shop or business office. They represent the brand and need to greet the customers and make their sales journey as smooth as possible.
It might also be necessary for a sales associate to be good at synchronous and asynchronous communications, assisting customers in real-time and through communication channels such as email.
2. Customer service skills
It’s only natural that a sales associate should have a knack for customer service. While customer service and communication skills may seem like the same thing at first glance, there are important differences.
Customer service calls for a mixture of product and brand knowledge and empathy. A good sales associate can give a customer customized advice influenced by the product and the customer’s unique needs.
Excellent customer service is about listening to customers, understanding their pain points, analyzing what they need (even if they cannot explain it well), and providing them with the best solution that will perfectly suit them.
It’s also vital that upset customers are treated with kindness and calmed down professionally. Conflict resolution is a must for anyone who represents the brand and deals with customers.
A sales associate with expert customer service skills will be able to handle any situation a customer can throw their way pleasingly and satisfactorily.
Customer service often also takes place away from a company’s physical location, and a good sales associate needs to know the technology that goes into remote customer service.
Live chat software, messengers, and chatbots are all channels that customers might use when they need to be helped.
3. Sales & marketing skills
It goes without saying that good sales and marketing skills are part of the arsenal of a good sales associate.
While merely assisting customers in finding what they need is okay, active selling is brilliant. Of course, the sales associate should avoid being a pushy salesman that hovers over the customers.
No one enjoys a salesperson constantly annoying them and not letting them enjoy their shopping experience.
That’s why any sales associate worth their salt must have great sales and marketing skills. Building a relationship with customers can be tricky and takes a lot of dedication.
This can also include cold calling, which is much more challenging than selling to a customer in person. In this case, using resources such as cold calling scripts is a good idea and definitely something a dedicated sales associate should consider.
4. Multitasking skills
Multitasking is an often-overlooked soft skill that can take a sales associate’s efforts to the next level. There are always things happening around a salesperson, and they need to be really good at handling them all equally well.
Managing the front desk, handling orders and returns, checking stock levels, making sure new products are put out, and dealing with customers are just a few of the many tasks a sales associate should be able to do without sacrificing the quality of their work.
Good communication skill also comes into play here — the sales associate should be able to talk to customers and manage their tasks effortlessly.
5. Leadership skills
Another very important skill for sales associates is the ability to lead and motivate a team, even remote sales teams. A capable sales associate can coordinate their co-workers’ responsibilities as well as the flow of customers with ease.
Leadership skills can go beyond being authoritative, though. If a sales associate is given a task and goes above and beyond to do it as successfully as possible, that’s also seen as taking a leadership role.
Making good and level-headed decisions no matter what the situation also forms part of good leadership skills.
6. Product knowledge
A sales associate can only be so good as their knowledge of the product or service they’re selling. It’s also crucial for them to believe in said product or service because that’s what will keep them driven and passionate.
If a customer comes into a business knowing more about the product than the sales associate, it can lead to a sense of unprofessionalism that can damage the brand’s reputation.
Staying informed of updates, changes, and new additions is essential for a sales associate.
7. Basic technology skills (CRM or POS software)
The business world has digitalized, and knowing how to use the relevant tools is essential for any salesperson.
Although the level of technology used in-store will vary from one company to the next, a good sales associate have to be familiar with all possible tools and resources.
Knowing the best CRM for small businesses (and how to implement CRMs), being aware of how to use an electronic tag, how to read QR codes, and working with digital coupons are only a few of the things necessary to a sales associate.
8. Creative problem solving & decision making
No sales position will ever be without its fair share of problems and obstacles. That’s why it’s so important for salespeople to know how to solve problems effectively and make good decisions, sometimes in a limited timeframe.
If a customer comes in with an issue or complaint, the sales associate acts as the first point of contact who needs to handle the matter and leave the customer feeling satisfied and happy.
It might be necessary to give the customer a discount on their next purchase or treat them to something special to resolve the issue peacefully. Deciding the appropriate course of action is a must-have ability for any sales associate.
9. Time management
Proper time management is essential because there is always something that must be done, and if just one task is neglected, it can negatively impact the business.
A sales associate’s time can be challenging to manage at times, but a good sales associate will find a system that works for them. Using an hours tracker app can help with this.
Learning how to manage their time is a crucial skill that will help the company run smoothly and prevent the sales associate from burning out and performing poorly (and suffering health problems).
10. Organizational skills
Organizational skills go well with time management as it allows you to plan your tasks and prioritize them properly.
Being organized at work will help ensure that the important tasks and chores are always done on time and prevent any crisis that could come from forgetting to do something.
A sales associate should have admirable organizational skills, even if they need to rely on tools to help them stick to their plans and remember every important duty. Being very organized can also help make matters easier when something unexpected happens, which is almost guaranteed in the sales world.
11. Active listening and trust-building
Going to a business and being greeted by a salesperson who genuinely seems to listen and care is something all shoppers want. Unfortunately, many salespeople don’t offer that kind of experience, which often leads to the company losing business.
Sales associates need to be able to truly listen to and understand customers, create a sincere sense of trust, and guide them through their buying journey. That’s why active listening and trust-building are so important.
With these skills, a sales associate will be able to not only make customers feel welcome and at home but give them precisely what they want and need quickly and effectively.
12. Teamwork skills
Few sales associates will be working alone, and they need to be able to work well with others. It’s also important that team members know and trust each other enough so that they can complement each other.
Using the most relevant and appropriate teamwork effectiveness model goes a long way. Still, a sales associate needs to be able to collaborate and manage co-workers to make the model work well.
Helping co-workers build on their customer service skills, meeting their sales targets, and improving their sales skills should be important to a sales associate. This will benefit the company significantly.
Photo credit: Bit.ai
13. Adaptability skills
The sales industry can often be an unpredictable world to work in. A sales strategy that works well one day can fail abysmally the next.
Being able to quickly adapt to whatever is happening is a highly-desired skill for a sales associate. It’s also important to keep an open mind so solutions that may seem a bit foreign can be tested.
Good adaptability will go a long way towards helping a sales associate manage tasks effectively, even when the unexpected happens.
14. Flexibility skills
A sales associate who is flexible is willing to accept tasks and work shifts that may not have been planned for them. Being there to pick up the slack when someone else is unable to work may not be something many sales associates want to do, but it shows eagerness to work and impressive flexibility.
Of course, there is a fine line between a sales associate who is willing to be flexible to keep the company running smoothly and one that is being misused. The ability to be flexible must never be abused by the employer as an excuse to overwork the employee.
15. Persuasive skills
Excellent persuasive skills can take the effectiveness of a sales associate from mediocre to downright impressive. While it’s definitely not necessary to be an ‘oily salesman,’ being persuasive is an essential skill for any efficient and capable salesperson.
It’s essential that a sales associate can convince buyers to purchase their employer’s products or services. It’s also key in defusing conflict situations without anyone getting angry or feeling mistreated.
Persuasion can also help customers feel more at ease and comfortable, which is more likely to lead to them making a purchase. This is a skill that can be learned and perfected; it just requires some time and dedication to get right.
Sales associates should skill up all the time
Being a sales associate isn’t easy; it’s a demanding role that is often challenging. Having the right skills and being good at them will make a big difference in how effectively each sales associate does their job. Even if they do not yet have a grasp on all the skills mentioned here, they should be striving to skill up all the time. It’s the only way they’ll get better and become fantastic at what they do.
Full name: Mark Xavier Quadros
Specialty: Content Marketer for SaaS and online business.
Mark Quadros is a SaaS content marketer that helps brands create and distribute rad content. On a similar note, Mark loves content and contributes to several authoritative blogs like HubSpot, CoSchedule, Foundr, etc. Connect with him via LinkedIn or Twitter.
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