Overview

A Sales Associate is there to help their company to connect with the appropriate target market and sell products or services. Any company that makes money based on sales will be looking for reliable sales associates to boost their profitability, so the range can be significant – from retail sales associates working on the shop floor, to corporate sales associates working from executive offices. At a shop floor level, it is unlikely you will need extensive qualifications and most of your training will be on the job, but that will vary from company to company so a little bit of research will be necessary.

The good news is this is a safe career choice and there will always be plenty of opportunities, although in terms of remuneration it is not the most profitable. Common benefits include staff discounts, commission, and flexible working hours, while one of the most commonly reported downsides is that many Sales Associates are on a minimum hourly wage.

The best Sales Associates have exceptional communication skills, the power to influence others, a good level of literacy, a reasonable level of physical fitness (you may be on your feet for most of the day) and a commitment to great customer service. ‘Service with a smile’ is an old saying, but remains a true one – the most successful Sales Associates are often those who can maintain a sunny disposition through even the most challenging of days. Your resume needs to demonstrate reliability, time keeping, resilience, self-motivation and comfort with cash handling.

Pay

The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics puts median Retail Sales Associate salary at around $21,600 per year, although most Sales Associates work for an hourly wage, which is around $10.42 per hour. Salary aggregator Payscale puts the median yearly take a bit higher at just under $34,000 a year, but has similar hourly rates of around $10 an hour. The discrepancy here is due to Payscale factoring in commission pay to yearly takes, which can be quite substantial, depending on the industry in which the Sales Associate works.

According to Payscale, Sales Associates can make anywhere between $6K up to $24K+ in commission and profit sharing depending on the retail sector in which they operate. Key factors in determining the amount earned in a year are city (big costal cities like NYC and L.A earning more than Midwest/Southern regions) and the company worked for. Additionally, a third of Sales Associates also receive some form of dental and health insurance. Keep commission, profit sharing, and health insurance in mind when looking for a new job.

Retail Sales Associate Avg Pay

Source: U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics

Industry Forecast

Job outlook for Retail Sales Associates is rather sunny at around 7% between 2014 and 2024. This is in line with the average for all occupations combined, which is also 7%. While this growth rate may seem to contradict the ever growing “e-commerce” revolution, which by its nature requires less human labor, there are still plenty of growing opportunities for adaptive Sales Associates.

First, even though many companies are selling online, they are not necessarily closing their brick and mortar locations altogether. Instead, physical stores are becoming more like “show rooms” where latest lines are displayed. In this setting, Sales Associates can use their customer service skills to help guide customers through product lines and assist in purchases. When incentivized with commission, this can be a lucrative role that cannot be replicated online.

To find a place in the growing retail economy it is critical that Sales Associates take on more responsibilities than what were traditionally assigned to the role. Instead of just assisting customers with their purchases and answering questions, tomorrow’s Sales Associates will need to also double as cashiers, stock assistants, display designers, and even fashion stylists, which is the ability to explain product lines and assisting customers in finding suitable items to suite their individual tastes.

Also, while not working “the floor”, many traditional Sales Associates for smaller sized companies and brands may be expected to help manage the brands online presence as well. This could include updating the company website, replying to customer service inquires, or updating social media channels. In this way, the opportunities for growth in retail sales abound for savvy and adaptive candidates.

Types of Sales Associates

Sales Associates go by many many names that vary depending on the daily duties he or she performs, along with their seniority level within the company. A few of the primary categories of Retailing professionals include:

Store Managers: These individuals are not only responsible for running a sales floor but also managing a team of associates. They should therefore posses a balanced combination of sales experience and people/communication and organizational skills. The buck stops at the Store Manager’s desk and so all Associates and Associate Managers will report to them. This position has one of the highest average salaries; however, usually does not include commission as these individuals spend more time managing than actually selling to customers.

Assistant Store Managers: Assistant Store Managers are the right hands to Store Managers and are in “the trenches” daily, working hand in hand with Sales Associates to help them achieve objectives laid out by the Store Manager and the company owner(s). Generally speaking, these people are working in a type of “apprenticeship” that will train them for assuming the responsibility of Store Manager in the future.

Retail Sales Consultants: Retail Sales Consultants can be found on the floor of every retailer from Macy’s to Home Depot. Their job is to have an in-depth knowledge of the products being sold, the location of said items, and an ability to introduce customers to said products. These positions are often compensated hourly and usually do not include commission; however, some larger companies do have profit sharing programs available for enrollment.

Sales: If your title is just “Sales” you are probably well aware of your daily duties, which are simply to make money for a company. Professionals whose titles are “Sales” are very specialized in what they do. Unlike Retail Sales Associates who also have responsibilities including stocking and customer service, Sales professionals only have one responsibility, and that is to sell. After the sale, other individuals usually handle the transactions and customer support. An example of someone in “Sales” is someone who works at a car dealership or real estate office.

Account Executives: Account Executives are more senior level positions and are often found in “high industry” including governmental and financial services. They can also operate in real estate, construction, and enterprise level software amongst other larger industries with higher per-client value than traditional retail. Account professionals usually work with either very highly influential individuals or corporations, more commonly the latter, and this is thus a primarily B2B role where commissions are a big part of their pay structure.

Outside Sales Representative: These professionals are similar to Account Executives, but instead of focusing primarily on B2B sales they also often work in B2C, or “Business to Customer” sales, as well. An example of this type of professional would be a Sales Representative for an interior design company or someone working in the insurance and  financial services industry as “on site” visits are critical for understanding their clients’ wants and needs.

Make sure you try to identify what specific type of Sales experience you are most familiar with when looking for your next job, as the more relevant your background is, the higher the chance you will actually be able to successfully land an interview and secure the position.

Additionally, keep in mind that just because you start out with one type of speciality does not mean you cannot transition into different sales positions as long as you are willing to learn and make an effort to take on more responsibilities. Speak with your manager about your career ambitious so he or she can help facilitate the opportunities you need to grow within the sales industry.

Sales Associate Resume Download

Below is an example of a professionally written Sales Associate resume that you can download and print out for reference when writing your own. Keep in mind that this resume, although professionally written, is based off of someone else’s unique experiences, which means you should not be copying word-for-word, but instead simply use this sample for inspiration when writing your own resume.

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How To Write Your Own

Cover and Double Cover the Basics

First and foremost, you have to be sure all of the resume writing basics are covered for any job in retail. This means having standardized margins, a “serious” font, and a professional layout so that HR Managers will know you mean business when you send them your PDF version of your resume. Yes, you want to send only PDFs as they will maintain your formatting no matter what type of machine they are opened on, unlike Word documents, which can have their formatting ruined depending on the operating system used to open the file.

Try your best to stick to one page as multi-page resumes are usually reserved for career professionals with over 15 years of experience. Choose a standard format, such as reverse chronological, and be sure all of your dates are accurate and you have included only the most impressive bullet points for each experience section.

Try not to just list boring daily responsibilities that were expected of you and are expected of all “proficient” Sales Associates, but instead list responsibilities that exhibit your unique skills and unique experiences. Involved in the opening of a new store? Include that. Lead your team in sales last year? Include that. Regularly pick up hours when other employees call in sick or do not show up? Include that too!

As you can see, while you need to keep your formatting relatively “boring”, you want to make the content, the actual substance of your resume as exciting and impressive as possible.

Focus on Numerical Quantification

Sales is all about dollars, and for this reason you will want to numerically quantify your achievements in dollar or or percentage terms whenever possible. If you know how much you sold last year (this is more common for commission based positions) include those figures with dollar signs. Likewise if you helped manage inventory you can mention the stores inventory value which you helped replenish and order. Likewise, if you worked with a team in a management capacity include the size of the team you managed.

Including numerical quantification gives depth to your resume and communicates to the reader the gravity of the responsibilities and achievements you accumulated at a particular company.

Flaunt Adaptability

Gone are the days when to be a proficient Sales Associate all you have to do is stand around and answer customer questions. Even if that were the norm, you do not want to simply be a “proficient” candidate, you want to be as exceptional as possible. One way to truly communicate just how exceptional of a candidate you are is to feature the variety of other responsibilities you performed at a given place of employment.

Include things outside of just sales responsibilities, like mentioning supporting other departments like cashier staff, or management in goal implementation, helping stock inventory and working in the backroom, any marketing you may have assisted in such as social media account management, and other continued customer service roles you may have performed.

By showing your flexibility, you increase your value as an asset to a company because they will know they can plug you into a multitude of different challenging positions and you will be able to perform. Companies like this because it means they can hire one “all-arounder” employee instead of hiring multiple single-talent employees, which will inevitably cost more.

Sample Bullet Points

Below are a selection of bullet points that are highly applicable to Retail Sales-related work experiences and which you can use for inspiration when brainstorming your own bullet points.

Useful Sales Associate Bullet Points

Answer customers' questions about merchandise and advise customers on merchandise selection.
Stamp, attach, or change price tags on merchandise, referring to price list.
Stock shelves, racks, cases, bins, and tables with new or transferred merchandise.
Compare merchandise invoices to items actually received to ensure that shipments are correct.
Itemize and total customer merchandise selection at checkout counter, using cash register, and accept cash or charge card for purchases.
Transport packages to customers' vehicles.
Take inventory or examine merchandise to identify items to be reordered or replenished.
Receive, open, unpack and issue sales floor merchandise.
Clean display cases, shelves, and aisles.
Design and set up advertising signs and displays of merchandise on shelves, counters, or tables to attract customers and promote sales.
Pack customer purchases in bags or cartons.
Requisition merchandise from supplier based on available space, merchandise on hand, customer demand, or advertised specials.
Source: http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/43-5081.01

Career Objective

Do not overlook the importance of a well-written and targeted Career Objective. This is the place at the top of your resume, after your name and contact details, where you state your background/qualification for a given position and also the title of the position you are seeking. This means you will customize your Career Objective for each application you send out.

Limit yourself to just one or two sentences where you state your experience and the job you want. This will look something like this:

Sales Associate with 5+ years of experience in big box retailers seeking a challenging Assistant Manager position with Macy’s Department Store.

Additionally, if you can get even more specific, that is always better:

Veteran Sales Associate with 8+ years in fast fashion and branch management seeking opportunity to assist H&M’s expansion efforts in South Carolina.

Both of the above Objectives work just fine, although the second one is slightly better, not just because they have more experience (you can not change that) but because they specify a previous experience (fast fashion) that is highly applicable to the position they are seeking (with fast fashion retail giant H&M). The more targeted and “perfectly suited” you can make your Career Objective out to be, the more likely your resume will be fast-tracked for further review, ultimately increasing your odds of landing an interview where you actually win a job offer.

Additional Skills

The additional skills section is an area that allows you to set yourself apart from your competition even further by listing skills that employers may not immediately pick up when reading the experience and education sections of your resume.

Including things like the ability to operate multiple POS systems, or mobile payment processing (think iPads), or being able to take payments from credit cards manually with carbon copy paper are all skills that employers value as they know things like power outages are real possibilities and having professionals that know what to do in such instances is hugely reassuring as a business owner.

Also include language skills if you have them. The ability to connect with customers or clients in Spanish or Mandarin Chinese, for example, can be HUGELY valuable as some companies will literally have to hire another employee just to manage other languages and you being bilingual can not only save them a ton of money in not having to hire additional staff but also increase the chances of making sales with Spanish speakers and Chinese tourists.

If working in fashion, mention your keen eye for spotting trends or any relevant shows/training you have had that would indicate you can confidently assist customers in product selection.

Finally, mention any safety related knowledge or skills you hold, such as a working understanding of OSHA laws and regulations as well as simple things like CPR as any B2C company would find these very attractive assets to have at their locations.

Additional Resources

-Youtube video

-Authority organization/affiliation links