Clientbook Blog
March 2, 2023

Top retail skills to look for in your next sales associate hire

When hiring for jobs in retail, sales associates working directly with clients on the sales floor can often be some of your most important hires. After all, your retail associates are the ones building relationships with customers, answering customer questions, and handling the sales process from start to finish.

If you're a retail manager or business owner ready to grow your sales team, there are several relevant skills you'll want to include on your job description and screen for in interviews to set your team up for success.

In this article, we'll cover the top retail sales skills to look for when hiring your next retail sales associate to help you elevate your brand, reach your sales goals, and earn repeat customers.

Want more ways to elevate your sales team? Learn seven habits of successful retail sales associates in our article

What are retail skills? 

Retail skills include any expertise or abilities someone would need to be successful selling products to customers in the retail industry. These types of skills are important for all types of jobs in retail, including sales associates, assistant managers, customer service representatives, and more. 

Why are retail skills necessary for sales associates? 

Having a talented team of associates equipped with the relevant skills for a retail business is more important than you might think. After all, one positive customer experience has the potential to get shared with dozens of others.

According to data reported by SmartKarrot, 90% of American shoppers talk about their customer service experience with others. What's more, nearly 92% of customers trust positive reviews from their family and friends more than advertising.

That's why it's essential to hire someone with the retail skills they need to offer excellent customer service and earn loyal customers that will keep coming back to your store time and time again. 

Top retail skills to set your retail sales team up for success

Whether you're building your very first sales team or are looking to grow your current one, below you'll find a number of essential skills anyone who wants a career in retail needs to be successful. 

We've broken these skills down into two categories: hard skills and soft skills. Let's dive in! 

Hard skills 

Hard skills are the kinds of skills in retail that require more technical knowledge and expertise. These may be skills a job candidate could have learned working in a previous retail store and has transferable skills that can apply to your store. 

In other cases, these are skills that may need to be taught on the job if the candidate is just starting their career path and doesn't have much hands-on retail experience yet.  

Product expertise  

First, any good sales associate needs to be a subject matter expert when it comes to your store offerings and products. Understanding what the product features are, knowing your product styling preferences, and knowing which products would be best for certain types of customers are all part of having excellent product knowledge. 

Familiar with retail technology

Next, your team needs to have the technology skills to work the retail technology your store has set up, or be able to quickly learn it if they're not already familiar with it. 

This could include working the cash register, tracking customer payments, using client management tools, or managing any other technology they'll need to complete their daily tasks.

Market knowledge

Having extensive industry knowledge and insight into what's going on in the market is another critical skill in retail. The more your team knows about what products are in season, what's selling best, and what your competitors are doing, the better they'll be able to sell to your customers. 

This is something that will likely come with time, so don't worry too much if a job candidate doesn't come to you already filled with this kind of knowledge. As they spend time in your store and dedicate time to learning the industry, they'll expand their industry expertise. 

Soft skills 

Next, let's go over the soft skills needed in any retail environment. Soft skills are the kind of traits that are more commonly known as "people" skills that have less to do with a person's technical knowledge and more to do with their personality.

These interpersonal skills are especially important to look for when interviewing candidates, as soft skills are harder to teach if they don't already come naturally to a candidate. 

Ability to connect with others  

One of the most important soft skills for a retail associate to have is the ability to connect with your clients—especially if you hope to build long-term relationships with them over time. 

This focus on building relationships with clients in retail is called clienteling, and requires excellent communication skills, active listening, and strong customer service skills. After all, it's far easier to earn business from someone who feels heard and understood rather than someone who feels like they're just getting a standard sales pitch.

Attention to detail 

Next, keen attention to detail is another key skill for any retail role. When an associate is working with a client, paying attention to their body language, tone of voice, and especially what they're saying can all help decide how to best interact with that client. 

By paying close attention to these kinds of details, your associate will be better able to match the right product to the right client, and personalize their experience each time they visit your store. 

Strong organization skills 

If you have a lot of clients who come into your store, it's essential to have a highly organized team to help keep track of everyone's names, sales history, and important dates in their life. That way, when your client returns to your store, they'll feel valued and respected by you and your team. 

Clienteling software like Clientbook is an excellent way to help keep your team organized, especially if they struggle with juggling dozens or even hundreds of clients on top of their other daily duties. It automates a lot of the tasks that associates are used to doing manually, such as client follow ups, so a client never gets lost in the shuffle. 


Finding the right job candidate for your retail space can be challenging, but it's well worth the effort. When you hire someone with the retail skills they need to better connect with clients, showcase your products, and drive traffic to your store, each interaction they have with your buyers has the potential to spread to dozens of others. 

Want to see how Clientbook can help set your new sales hires up for success right from the beginning? Book a demo today to see how easy clienteling with Clientbook can be.

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