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How to Hire a Retail Sales Representative: Job Skills

How to Hire a Retail Sales Representative: Job Skills

By: Joanne Cleaver

Retail sales representatives expect to be trained in the details of your company. Selling services, insurance and other intangibles is all about taking a consultative approach, which is why retail sales representatives are sometimes referred to as sales consultants.

Often, clients aren’t sure what they want, how to describe it and how to value what they are about to buy. That's why to successfully source retail sales representatives, you must remember you’re looking for people who like selling and people who like people—not people who are already technical experts in the product.

"You need to know what kind of salesperson you need,” says Peter Radizeski, president of Rad-Info, Inc., a Tampa-based sales consultant that specializes in telecommunications and technology sales. "Transactional salespeople want to sell, sell, sell, all day long. That’s how they motivate themselves, and they do well in retail because they are always looking for something to do." On the other hand, enterprise sales staff are motivated more by building customer relationships and solving complex problems, resulting in fewer but much larger sales to companies.

No matter what type of retail sales reps you're looking to hire, they must possess the right skills and experience. These recruiting tips will help you hire great sales reps for your business. 

Sourcing Retail Sales Representative:

Focus on individuals who have transferrable experience and soft skills (such as an ability to communicate and engage customers.) Sources to tap might include:

  • Hospitality industry veterans
  • Teachers
  • Midlife career-shifters

Recruiting Tip:
“If someone has worked in hospitality, if they have spent three years or more at one hospitality employer, preferably a mid-market or upmarket hotel or restaurant, they already understand that the general public expects a lot,” says Radizeski. “In hospitality, upselling is important. You get to know how to read people. That translates well to service sales, where much of the profit is in add-ons.”
  

Key Skills to Look for in Retail Sales Reps:

  • Enthusiasm for the service
  • Ability to explain concepts to the public and customer communication skills
  • The ability to explain technical details and to troubleshoot everyday technical problems on the spot
  • Awareness of their own motivators: what keeps them stoked?
  • Willingness to be coached and to change

Recruiting Tip:
Internal customer support and call center positions require similar skills, says Susan Kannell, executive director for the National Coalition for a Telecommunications Education and Learning. Neither position is only about scheduling calls and completing transactions.

Both require intermediate understanding of both the company's products and also a working knowledge of how customers typically use them, such as common operating systems.

What to Cover in Interviews:

Ask the candidate interview questions that reveal their ability to work well with others, as well as their customer service awareness:

  • How the candidate handles conflict with co-workers
  • How the candidate handles demanding customers
  • Ask the candidate to explain a function or benefit to you as though you were a customer

Recruiting Tip:
“Look for them to carry you through the interview as though you were a sale,” says Radizeski. “At some point they have to ask for the job. In sales, if they’re not always closing, they can’t do the job. If he thinks it’s a good opportunity, he’ll ask for the job. If he doesn’t ask for the job, how will he make the sale?”

Recruit to Retain your Retail Sales Reps:

Customers are motivated by what’s new and different. So are retail sales reps.

Potential retail sales rep career advancement may include:

  • Store manager
  • Sales coach or sales trainer
  • Business to business sales, if the employee can adapt to a longer sales cycle, process and payoff 

Related jobs include:

  • Marketing support staff
  • Supplier or vendor account manager

Recruiting Tip: 
Candidates want to envision where their success can take them. Industry tools such as NACTEL's VividFuture career map makes for great follow-up.

How to Retain Retail Sales Representatives:

  • Provide plenty of coaching and feedback
  • Break out incentives and commissions so employees can see what tactics are most profitable
  • Schedule shifts thoughtfully to keep employees engaged and productive

Recruiting Tip:
Many sales reps have only partially finished college. Tuition reimbursement programs that enable them to complete their degrees can help them achieve their own goals while building their qualifications and promotion potential.

More Resources: