Retail salespeople help customers find products they want to buy, arrange
for payment of the product and wrap or deliver it.
There are more than 100 different types of retail establishments. Salespeople
are employed to sell a wide variety of products, from home electronics to
clothing, from jewelry to specialty foods and more.
Salespeople may also be responsible for merchandising -- setting up displays
-- shipping and receiving articles and taking inventory.
Salespeople have to make sure they know a lot about the product they're
selling. While some products, like clothing, require knowledge of fabrics
and fit, other products, such as home electronics, require extensive knowledge
of features and functions.
"The product knowledge is probably the most challenging part of my job.
There are so many different types of home electronics and I can't be caught
knowing less than my customers," says electronics salesperson Grace Kelly.
Many employers give pop quizzes, just to keep staff on their toes and make
sure they're keeping up with new products in the store.
You'd better not be shy if you're planning to do well in retail sales.
This job means you have to approach strangers all day to interest them in
products. Being comfortable with people is essential for retail sales.
Good physical condition is an absolute must for many retail positions.
You'll be on your feet most of the day. Many jobs may also require lifting,
reaching and bending. A good pair of shoes definitely helps.
A neat appearance is also very important. That's because you're the person
the public sees when they come into a store. Along the same lines, service
with a smile is par for the course in retail.
"Service is really important, especially in this area, because most stores
will match prices," says Pat Weber. She is a retail salesperson in Pittsburgh
who has sold everything from nuts and bolts to computers. "It's the service
that sets one store apart from another."
Weber says she's seen people pay more for certain products rather than
go to another store because they knew they'd get good service.
This is a high-pressure career -- pressure to make sales. There is even
more pressure for those people who work on commission. Commission means they
earn a percentage of what they sell. Some salespeople make a combination of
an hourly wage and commission. Others work strictly on commission.
"Commission can be feast or famine. While there are some bad days, the
return seems to be better in the long term," says Weber.
"I find that if I forget about the money and focus on the customer's needs
instead, the sales come more easily anyway."
It's no secret that salespeople, especially commissioned ones, have a bad
reputation. Experts say this may be true of a few, but most are just honest,
hardworking people with an interest in the product.
"People think you only wind up in sales because you've failed at something
else. They also think you're pushy, aggressive and high pressure and that
you don't care about what the customer wants. This just isn't true," says
A 40-hour, Monday-to-Friday workweek is very rare in retail sales work.
Most salespeople are expected to work weekends, evenings and holidays. Many
also work overtime at busy times like Christmas.
An important thing to note is that it is often impossible for salespeople
to make it home for Christmas if their families live out of town. It's simply
too busy for employers to give staff the time off.
Some retail salespeople move up through the ranks to become managers, marketers
and planners. Once familiar with the product and the company, you may have
an opportunity to move away from sales and into the more strategic business
side of retail.
Some people enter these upper retail positions out of business school.
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