15+ Best Sales Associate Interview Questions & Answers

Being a sales associate is generally considered an entry-level job. But in reality, it provides you a lot of opportunities to learn about the inner workings of a business and create real revenue by interacting with customers. By doing this, you have the ability to gain a lot of insight and knowledge which can carry you along your career. Below I’ve put together some of the best sales associated interview questions and answers to help you land your future job. Before we begin, I want to share with you a small career story. For me, I started my career as a barista. While this wasn’t a sales associate job per se, it was a job where I was consistently interacting with customers, engaging in the exchange of money for goods and services, then facilitating the delivery of a product they needed. Along with this whole path, I also made sure I created an incredible experience for them so that they wanted to come back. This career experience, even though I was still quite young, has carried with me to this day long after I have since been promoted and gained new experiences and jobs.

sales associate interview questions

I hope you can see from the above story how important a sales associate is in the role of a successful business. You truly have the highest touch point between the business and its customer experience. You, yourself, are quite literally that customer experience. And if something goes wrong, if the customer isn’t happy, it's on you the sales associate. So while this can be considered an entry-level position, its actually quite important and knowing this before you go into the job interview will do you a lot of justice and provide you the ability to leap over any other who may be applying for this position.

Before we begin talking through the interview questions and answers, I want to show you a small video which might help you in understanding the sales associate role. By understanding the role, and hearing how others speak about it, you can use this to your advantage while interviewing in person. You want to be sure you deliver every moment with the manager interviewing you as though you have complete confidence in your ability to do the job. And by understanding the job very finely, it will help you accomplish this.



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Sales Associate Interview Questions & Answers

1. Tell me what you consider the sales associate job to be.

The role of a sales associate is to help deliver the best potential customer experience possible. My role is to help interface between the products and services that we offer here as a business and the potential customers that come into our store on a regular basis. I am essentially the face of the business, helping to deliver our values in a way that is trustworthy, honest and with the kindest of heart. From that, we hope to achieve sales and revenue by making our customers extremely happy to have visited us and leaving wanting to tell their friends and family about the experience they had here. We are a completely integrated experience and the sales associate is one of those ways this experience is well designed.

2. Can you tell me what we offer here, what is it that we sell?

This question is designed for the store or the business itself. What I recommend doing here is spending enough time to try and think through what the business offers, beyond its initial products or goods. For example, if you are attempting to be a retail sales associate at a store that has fashion garments, try to think about the brand itself and not just the products. You don’t want to say ‘we sell handbags’, you should go above and beyond that. Think about the brand that’s being sold, the story that’s being told. That along with the very obvious, handbags, fashion or jewelry will be a very impactful way to show that you’ve done your homework and that you clearly understand what job you are about to get paid to do.

3. What would you say is the most important part to the sales associate job?

The most important part of the sales associate job is to please the customer. The customer experience is our first priority and then other priories fall after that. We want the most pleasant interaction possible and it's my job to make sure that happens.

4. How would you interact with other associates?

Its vital that sales associates are speaking to one another. I would ensure that clear communication and planning is always being had on the floor. For example, instances, when this hasn’t gone so well, is a scenario for which we’ve all experienced as a consumer. We’ve gone into a retail store and all of the sales associates seem to be busy doing jobs, while I was left having questions and in need of assistance. It was because the associates expected that one of the other employed members of the staff was going to help me. This was an error in communication and could have been fixed by checking with other staff members if a person has been assisted or helped. Clear and consistent communication with my colleagues is a vital part to this job, ensuring that we all act as a team delivering that customer experience.

5. How would you deal with a customer who has a dispute?

It can be extremely difficult to deal with customers who aren’t pleased. Obviously, we have to handle the situation in the calmest manner. It's vital that every single sales associate knows that you have to empathize with that person. You may not always agree with them, but you need to remember to empathize with whatever scenario they felt unjustified. Remembering to tell the customer that you hear them, you understand and that you are working your hardest to resolve the situation is an absolute must. You truly need to over communicate how you are going to help resolve the situation to the customer so that they don’t feel as though they need to be further angered by the situation they are in.

6. Tell me about an instance where you almost lost your cool with a customer but was able to recover.

There was a time when a customer was unpleased with a product they purchased from our retail store and I was about to leave the store for the day, I had already worked an 8-hour shift and I was quite tired. When they came in, they completely caught me off guard and I wasn’t prepared or well equipped for the scenario due to my energy levels. I remember that I was attempting to communicate with the customer clearly but that they were unhappy with that still. I recall that I almost lost my temper and communicated poorly to the customer but instead what I did is asked one of the other sales associates to help me because I clearly wasn’t able to resolve the problem. That alleviated me from the situation which I probably wasn’t in the best of positions to be confronted with in the first place. It was quick thinking but ultimately the customer was able to get what they needed and move forward.

7. What do you consider the best qualities in a good sales associate?

I think the person needs to be very personable, approachable, friendly, selfless, and willing to take on new challenges. In an odd way, the best qualities in a sales associate are things that make that person put themselves last. They need to leave any ego that they might have or any bias they may have towards another person, at the door when they walk into the retail store. This position is about the delivery of a service for which we are that service. Those elements, if not part of a great sales associate, will be blockers.

8. How would you start our conversation if I was a customer?

I love starting conversations in a couple of ways, by first making sure that I am making eye contact with the customer. Second, I like to make sure I introduce myself and clearly say what my name is. Then ask them what they’re name is. I sometimes like to provide them with a compliment or maybe an anecdote about the weather. Something simple that we can both relate to, we want to begin the conversation in a friendly manner. That usually breaks some of the ice and that person opens up, plus appreciates the level of the detail I went into when I interacted with a stranger.

9. What would you say some of the other roles and tasks are that a sales associate should be doing?

Some of the other responsibilities of the sales associate should be to ensure that the presentation of what we sell is in clean working order. If the retail floor is a mess, a customer is going to come in and feel that. We need to consistently be thinking about the next potential customer that's going to be walking through the door and the first impression they’re going to have. Ensuring that quality standard while there are no customers present is absolutely my second most important role and the tasks that come with it would be another core component to my job here.

10. What are some ways you can help the business be more successful?

Ultimately after all of the customer interactions, we’re here to sell. So making sure that I have a numbers-focused point of view can help the company. If all I’m doing is interfacing with the customers, making them laugh and having conversations, that’s not going to do much. What I can do is learn about the customer's needs and ensure I am responding to that with new ideas. My goal is to get the customer's problems resolved. That will lead to monetary gain and thus help the business be more successful.

11. Are you comfortable with sales goals?

I’m very comfortable with sales goals. If I can have some type of benchmark for which makes you, my manager, pleased with the work that I provide here, I will absolutely come to the table with results. Tracking my sales and ensuring I am on a positive path towards meeting goal is something I am very familiar with doing and would love the opportunity to be presented with that challenge.

12. What are your biggest fears about being a sales associate?

My biggest fears about being a sales associate happen to deal with customers who may want to get more physically aggressive towards me. I’ve had those scenarios unfold at times, even when attempting to be absolutely calm. I do feel there’s always this slight chance that a customer is more predetermined to be more physical and that can scare me.

13. How would you handle the store in an event of a threat?

It's important that in the event of a threat we follow store procedure. Evacuation of the store is probably part of that. Or in the event of a robbery, handling the situation calmly and complying is also part of that procedure. When escalations like that occur, it can be quite difficult to forget about any retail and store training where we undergo those types of scenarios. But, if we practice often, if they occur, hopefully, it will be second nature.

14. What are some ways you deal with stressful scenarios?

There are some really simple ways that I deal with stressful scenarios. The first one is to make sure that I am breathing, that I am thinking about the situation from an empathetic point of view, regardless of if that’s an interacting with a customer or friction I am having with a colleague. It's important to remember that everyone is human and in the moment of stress, recalling that can be quite helpful. But again, breathing is probably the best medicine. Deep, long breaths which calm the heartbeat I’ve found are my go-to with regard to any stressful situation I am dealing with. Second, is to be sure I am double checking anything I am about to say before I say it. Staying somewhat sound and being very calculated in my communication has been a savior for me.

15. What would you say a bad sales associate consists of?

Bad associates are those that carry prejudice and bias. They are also those who don’t believe firmly in the company ethos and the value we’re trying to provide. If they aren’t passionate about the message that the brand is trying to spread, then it won’t come across genuine and honest. Those are two defining characteristics in helping to make the customer experience amazing. Lastly, if the sales associate simply isn’t friendly or knowledgeable about the things that we offer here, then they aren’t going to be able to do a great job as well. Those are some more defining characteristics in what could make up a very bad sales associate.

16. Tell me why sales pleases you as well as the customer.

For me, sales are more than just selling something. I really like to get my passions behind what problem our customers are challenging us with. I find this to be not only very rewarding but something I would love for others to do for me. I’m a customer and consumer as well. And myself, much like many others, have been involved in scenarios inside of retail experiences that I wish could have gone better. By not going down that road it pleases me very much. It makes me happy to make others happy and to know that I am not providing them that very poor experience I’ve had myself. In a way, it sort of makes me like a problem solver. And I, in particular, love to solve puzzles.

17. What are some of the best compliments you’d like to hear about yourself from fellow staffers.

Honestly, I’d love to hear that they are having fun around me. While yes, this is a job and we need to be doing what we were hired to do, I also think that happiness can spread. If I can make others around me happy, when a customer comes into the store, they’ll experience that too. We need to bring joy with us in every moment of the day. When you are working with someone who simply doesn’t give you joy or happiness, then the experience of the store is going to be the same. We need to bring an energy that is positive so that our customers feel that as well. That would be the best potential review I could get from a fellow colleague, that they felt that way. Lastly, by getting that feedback, I could know that they would be genuinely happy to be coming into work when they are. And that would be a really pleasing moment for me as well as the company as a whole.

Preparing for the interview

It's really important that you spend the time to go through these interview questions and that you practice your delivery of the answer. It's also really important that you try to do your research about the businesses values before you are involved in the interview. Having that prepared in advance will do you a lot of justice in being able to have a more relatable conversation with the person who is providing you the interview. Also be prepared to talk about yourself, things that are slightly personal as well. For some people, it can be hard to speak about themselves. So, try to think about what you might like to share about yourself in advance so that there’s no awkward pauses or moments where you might be interpreted as more reserved. I hope this guide has been helpful for you. Remember that all experiences are positive ones and that no matter if the position works out or not, there will always be another opportunity awaiting you soon. Stay positive and go into your interview with a confident outlook, that positive attitude will truly carry a much heavier weight of energy than you might think.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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