what is a sales associate?

A sales associate is the point of contact for customers looking to buy items from a company. Sales associate job duties vary depending on the type of business you work for or if you work in an online store. You are often expected to perform a combination of customer service duties, including greeting customers and helping them find merchandise that meets their needs. Sales associates also help customers locate services like deliveries and sales. You are responsible for closing down your department at the end of the day, performing inventory checks and cleaning up your department's space.

As a sales associate, you require excellent customer service, communication and team-building skills. You work in locations ranging from brick-and-mortar shops to online outlets. Depending on your location, you help customers in person or online through email or chat. An average retail business usually has multiple sales associates working together. 

Unlike other roles in sales, you don't emphasise prospecting and pipeline management. Instead, you focus on providing the best shopping experience for your customers.

Would working as a sales associate suit your people skills? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a sales associate role.

sales associate jobs

average sales associate salary

According to ONS, a sales associate earns an average salary of £26,545 per year. In entry-level roles, your earnings are as low as £22,500 annually. However, experienced sales associates take home over £45,000 per year. Apart from the basic salary, some companies pay commissions for sales or profit. Instead of commissions, other employers prefer to pay a lump sum bonus at the end of the year. The salary structures differ in every company and may fluctuate due to the shopping seasons.

what factors affect the salary of a sales associate?

A sales associate's salary varies for a number of reasons, from experience to external factors like geographical location and company. Most employers don't have strict educational requirements for sales associates. However, having additional qualifications in sales or customer service boosts your salary. Consider completing a few courses or gaining certifications to improve your salary prospects. 

The company you work for also influences your earnings. Different employers have unique pay structures. Some pay commission while others have basic salaries. Commissions can increase your earnings during peak shopping seasons but also mean reduced wages when sales are low.

man and women having conversation
man and women having conversation

types of sales associates

Some of the types of sales associates include:

  • retail sales associates: when you work in a retail outlet as a sales associate, you welcome customers and direct them to the items they are looking for. You ensure the customers have a good shopping experience and use your sales skills to upsell products and increase profits.
  • sales floor associates: a sales floor is where products are displayed for customers to pick them. As a sales floor associate, you work in the shopping aisles to answer customer questions and help them make purchase decisions. You explain product features and inform them of the offers and discounts available.

working as a sales associate

Working as a sales associate requires hands-on experience selling directly to consumers since you are the first touchpoint between the company and customers. Here's a breakdown of the tasks and work schedules in the role.


education and skills

Follow the routes below to become a sales associate:

  • education: there is no standard academic qualification to become a sales associate, but many employers prefer a candidate with GCSEs. Some upmarket businesses or speciality stores prefer sales associates with a bachelor's degree. You should pursue an undergraduate degree in business, marketing or sales.
  • work experience: while the academic requirements are minimal for sales associates, most employers emphasise experience when hiring. You require work experience in sales or retail to land a good job. You can gain experience through internships, field sales jobs and part-time opportunities.

sales associate skills and competencies

Some of the qualities of a sales associate include:

  • communication skills: since this is a customer-facing role, you require exceptional communication skills to interact well with people. Communication skills help you engage people from different backgrounds in a friendly and approachable manner.
  • expert knowledge of the products: you require a deep understanding of products in the store to develop the expertise to explain product features and answer customer questions. Your product knowledge can persuade customers to make purchases.
  • creative problem-solving skills: creating an engaging environment for buyers is important and involves solving problems during the sale process. Your creative problem-solving skills improve customer experience.
sales associate
sales associate


FAQs about working as a sales associate

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