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What does a Sales Clerk do?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A sales clerk works in a retail store helping customers choose which products to buy. He or she has to keep both the customers' specific needs and the company's profits in mind while remaining friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. In some stores, sales clerks may also act as cashiers or perform a number of other tasks. Though this position is usually open to people of all experience levels, those with more training or experience may have better salaries or be promoted into management positions.

Customer Service

The first step in helping a customer is building rapport and making visitors to the store feel comfortable. To do this, a sales clerk greets customers in a pleasant voice and with an open expression. Next, he or she finds out what they want by asking open-ended questions. For example, a salesperson working in a camera store might ask what sort of photos a person is interested in taking. From there, he or she will be able to recommend the type of camera that is best suited for his or her needs.

Salespeople pay particular attention to what features matter most to the customer. If his or her first question is, "What cameras come in red?", he or she will have different needs than someone who asks, "Which cameras have lenses that can be replaced with a telephoto lens?" This not only makes the sales clerk's job easier by narrowing down what the person wants, it also makes the customer feel listened to and important.

Product Knowledge

Sales clerks are generally very well-informed about their stores' products. They can clearly explain the pros and cons of different types of merchandise to help customers make informed decisions about their purchases. Visitors to a store are more likely to trust the recommendations of someone who appears to be highly knowledgeable and able to communicate in a way they understand. If a person requests a very specific type of item, then the sales clerk knows or is able to quickly determine whether the store carries that item. If the particular product is not available, he or she can show the person another product that has similar features or will serve the same purpose.

Company Profits

Besides providing customer service, sales clerks are focused on increasing a company's profits. Sometimes they up-sell by showing customers the benefits of a product that might be more expensive or have more features than what they originally intended to buy. They may also ask people who have decided to buy a product if they would like to purchase accessories for it, such as a stain-resistant fabric treatment spray to go with a new couch.

In some cases, a sales clerk can increase profits while also saving a person money by selling house brand items. These items are produced by the company and only sold in that company's stores. They are often less expensive than comparable name-brand products, but the company receives a higher percentage of the profits.

Other Duties

Most salespeople often have other duties in the store in addition to actually making sales. They commonly double as cashiers, which involves taking and processing payments through the cash register. Sometimes this works the other way as well, with people gaining experience as cashiers and then being promoted to sales staff.

People in this position may also be responsible for tracking inventory, stocking products on shelves, and keeping the store clean. Depending on the type of store, they may also assist customers over the phone. Those who have worked in the store for a long time, have training in visual merchandising, or show a good eye for design may help create displays of merchandise. People with a lot of experience or a demonstrated talent for making sales may be promoted and put in a management position, where they supervise other people on the sales team, open and close the store, and train new staff.

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Discussion Comments

By comfyshoes — On Jul 03, 2010

Sunny 27- I agree. Another often overlooked point involves developing a rapport with the customer. In today’s competitive market a simple greeting is not enough.

A sales clerk should try to engage the customer in a small conversation. Perhaps on the way to escorting the customer to an item, the sales clerk might make reference to the weather, or compliment the customer on an article of clothing.

The conversation should remain light-hearted and should make the customer feel relaxed.

By Sunny27 — On Jul 03, 2010

Good Article. I would stress that a sales clerk really needs to demonstrate superior product knowledge. By doing so, it establishes credibility and the customer tends to listen more to the sales clerk.

Also, the sales clerk should be able to customize his presentation based on the needs of his customer.

A series of initial open-ended profiling questions will get the customer to tell the sales clerk what he or she was looking for, thus making it easier for the sales clerk to help.

Questions beginning with how, what, when, where, and why often explain the purpose of the potential purchase setting the stage for the direction of the sales presentation. Most customers appreciate individualized attention and this is the best way to provide it to them.

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