Title Card - Retail And Sales

Why Retail And Sales Jobs Make For Valuable Experience

There is a lot of hate that gets thrown around for retail and sales positions. These jobs are seen as lower level opportunities with lower rates of pay, and feel like the jobs you take when you can find nothing else. Simple, trivial, anyone can do it, and requires no real skill to perform.

It is true that there is some degree of luck involved in the basic sales job. Someone who does the absolute bare minimum by merely showing clients products based solely on the questions they ask and a few hunches will sell some products. Heck, someone can “sell” product by someone else saying “I want that one” and wrapping it up for them. The question is not whether or not a person can show or package pieces, because anyone can do that. There are some hard and fast skills that turn a person from a mediocre salesperson into a great one.

Here are a few reasons why retail and sales positions are excellent for learning valuable life skills.

1. Communication

There are two main types of retail position: the purely hourly wage that acts mainly as a client experience ambassador without any quotas, and the sales position that requires reaching a sales target by the end of a designated period. Depending on the type of role you choose, there may be more or less pressure for you to initiate the conversation, but either case requires you to communicate effectively with your clients.

For the grand majority of my life, I tended to be the quiet type. I would opt to do my own thing and keep to myself rather than choose to interact with people most of the time. As a result, at the time I started my first retail job, my conversational skills weren’t the greatest. I usually had to be comfortable with you as a person if I was going to have a conversation with you. By going into retail as a sales professional, I had to talk to a variety of people on a daily basis and found my voice through performing at my job.

By naturally bringing you close to people on a daily basis, retail can be one of the best positions for talking to a variety of people, and learning how to deal with a variety of situations. In my opinion, if you want to become a better communicator, there are few settings that offer quite the same ability to learn and grow in this way.

2. Research

Sometimes, a client won’t know exactly what they want, or what they want is something that isn’t immediately available. It might be a product that used to be available in the past, or they are looking for something comparable to something they saw in another store. In cases like these, you may either need to find a suitable product, find the availability of a product across the company, or (in some companies) create something from scratch as a custom piece.

No matter what you’re researching, solid research skills are transferable to any industry. Sales and retail positions will regularly put you to the test, and just when you think that you’ve heard everything, a client will inevitably have something you don’t know the answer to. As someone who worked in retail for four years, I never stopped learning, and I never ceased to be surprised at how many things I would have to research.

Retail on its own, but especially when taken concurrently with a college or university degree, can feel like research is a normal part of your daily structure. It becomes so well ingrained that research just comes naturally to you, which is a very rare and sought-after skill in any industry.

3. People Management

Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, is a huge part of the business world today. Many companies use specialized software to manage their client base, keeping the clients’ information together with a schedule of times the company would strategically contact the client for follow-ups.

A large part of a sales job involves helping people who come through the door for the first time, but the other (and harder) part of the job involves managing your return clients. When you first start your job, you won’t have too much of a client base. Everyone who walks through the door will be someone new. What separates a good salesperson from an average one is the ability to continue to bring back your clients for special events or holidays, getting them to be excited about your products, and building up your rapport with them so that they only talk with you.

Many sales companies have a CRM system to help their sales forces keep track of their clients, and give them reminders when their important dates are coming up. These are incredibly powerful tools that are not only useful for sales associates in the moment, but also help them understand the fundamentals of a professional CRM system. It is an extremely useful and transferable skill which applies to much of the modern industry today.

These types of skills only scratch the surface of what retail has the potential to set you up for. Each individual position at different companies offers unique and interesting challenges, and may have different additional things to offer. One thing is for sure: sales and retail is not as easy as it initially looks to do well, and you can certainly come out on the other side with very desirable skills.

Take pride in your experience and hold your head up high. You should be proud of your accomplishments, and especially if they come from retail or sales. Those who have worked in the industry know that it can be tough and grueling work, but also very rewarding when done properly.