How to Become a Retail Sales Representative

Research the requirements to become a retail sales representative. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in retail sales. View article »

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Becoming a Retail Sales Representative

Education Level High school diploma or equivalent
Experience Some preferred; on-the-job training common
Key Skills Customer service, human resource, and interpersonal skills; stamina; self-confidence; use of accounting and spreadsheet software;
Salary $21,780 per year (2015 median for retail salespersons)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014), Job postings from employers (October 2012), O*NET Online

Retail sales representatives, also known as retail sales associates or salespersons, help customers select products and encourage them to make purchases. Some of their other duties include greeting customers, preparing sales contracts, and maintaining sales records.

These professionals usually get to work indoors in comfortable retail settings, but they often have to spend full shifts on their feet. Holidays are usually the busiest times of year for retail stores, so these representatives must often put in extra hours during these periods and might not be able to request vacation time then.

There are a few key skills associated with this profession. These include customer service skills, interpersonal skills, confidence, stamina, and knowledge of accounting and spreadsheet software. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, retail salespersons earned a median annual wage of $21,780 in 2015.

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Educational Requirements

Retail sales representatives are generally not required to obtain a formal education; however, some employers prefer to hire workers who have earned a high school diploma. Individuals who sell technical products such as cars or electronics may be required to hold a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Those looking for jobs in the field may want to investigate various types of retail sales employment. Retail sales employment can take various forms. For example, some positions pay according to a commission rather than a base salary. Others demand travel or a flexible work schedule, which could include working evenings, weekends, or holidays. Aspiring retail sales representatives also should investigate the type of retail sales environment they want to work in, such as a department store or a car dealership.

Prospective sales representatives can sometimes boost their employment prospects by demonstrating marketing ability and knowledge of the latest technology and products available. Potential retail sales representatives can develop these skills through work experience in sales or customer service.

On-the-Job Training

Many retailers provide hands-on training to new retail sales representatives. The length of training typically ranges from a few days to a few months. Topics covered during training include company guidelines, safety, and customer service. Training usually varies based on the products being sold. For instance, retail sales representatives who sell computers might receive specialized preparation based on the specific features of various computer types.

Pursue Management Options

With several years of experience, many retail sales representatives move into supervisory and management positions. However, some employers may want prospective candidates to have a college degree.

So while a formal education is not typically required to become a retail sales representative, those interested in the field might benefit from learning some customer service and accounting skills and gaining on-the-job training.

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