Typically, retail sales workers do not need a formal education. However, some employers prefer applicants who have a high school diploma or its equivalent.
Although retail or parts sales positions usually have no formal education requirements, some employers prefer applicants who have a high school diploma or equivalent, especially those who sell technical products or “big-ticket” items, such as electronics or cars.
Most retail sales workers receive on-the-job training, which usually lasts a few days to a few months. In small stores, newly hired workers often are trained by an experienced employee. In large stores, training programs are more formal and generally are conducted over several days.
Topics often include customer service, security, the store’s policies and procedures, and how to operate the cash register.
Depending on the type of product they are selling, employees may be given additional specialized training. For example, salespersons working in cosmetics get instruction on the types of products the store offers and for whom the cosmetics would be most beneficial. Likewise, those who sell computers may be instructed on the technical differences between computer products.
Because providing exceptional service to customers is a priority for many employers, employees often get periodic training to update and refine their skills.
Retail sales workers typically have opportunities to advance to managerial positions. Some employers want candidates for managerial positions to have a college degree.
As sales workers gain experience and seniority, they often move into positions that have greater responsibility and may be given their choice of departments in which to work. This opportunity often means moving to positions with higher potential earnings and commissions. The highest earnings potential usually lies in selling “big-ticket” items—such as cars, jewelry, furniture, and electronics. These positions often require workers with extensive knowledge of the product and an excellent talent for persuasion.
Customer-service skills. Retail sales workers must be responsive to the wants and needs of customers. They should explain the product options available to customers and make appropriate recommendations.
People skills. A friendly and outgoing personality is important for these workers because the job requires almost constant interaction with people.
Persistence. A large number of attempted sales may not be successful, so sales workers should not be discouraged easily. They must start each new sales attempt with a positive attitude.
Selling skills. Retail sales workers must be persuasive when interacting with customers. They must clearly and effectively explain the benefits of merchandise.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition