From Sales Associate to VP--What You Need To Do.

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If you’ve been working as a sales associate to make ends meet in this down economy, there are things you can do to turn your job into a sales career. It won’t be easy and the competition for promotions and advancement will be fierce. But keep in mind that many sales associates started at the bottom. Shawn Score moved up from the sales floor at Best Buy to Senior V.P. Stuart Rose started as a pajama salesman at Marks & Spencer to become its CEO. The path from sales associate to Assistant Store Manager, Store Manager and ultimately VP or even CEO can be arduous and circuitous. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make it less so. Here’s what those who have made it to the top suggest:

Get There on Time. A sales associate’s job can be boring, often thankless and tiring, but that’s no excuse for being late for work. So make sure you religiously adhere to your work schedule. Arrive a few minutes early and stay a few minutes after your shift ends. Make sure the boss sees you.

Get on a Management Training Track. If you’re not on a fast track management program, remind your boss often that you’re eager to get on it. Apply repeatedly, even if you’ve been turned down before. If you failed to ask about opportunities for advancement during your job interview, do so now. Let your manager know that you’re ready and able to move up into a sales management. You’re in sales for heaven’s sake, sell yourself to your manager and repeatedly “ask for the order.” Lowe’s starts its retail sales associates with a 90-day onboarding program, then offers Management Development programs through the Lowe's Leadership Institute.

Get Busy. Go beyond the perfunctory job description of sales associate. Keep your area organized. Move around. Make sure your displays and merchandise are in order. Use your manager’s pet peeves about an area as a guide and pay particular attention to these areas. Be enthusiastic and helpful with customers. Avoid asking yes/no questions; instead, ask them how they are, what brings them into your store. Keep in mind that some managers will occasionally watch security tapes of your behavior to see what you’re doing right or wrong.

Get “Skilled Up.” There’s a lot to learn in sales. Selling tactics, inventory and traffic flow. Talk to senior people working in these areas. Pick their brains. Your BA in marketing is one thing, but there’s no substitute for the real-world experience these pros have picked up over the years. Ask them how they got promoted, the paths they took. Let them know your aspirations. They may just reach down and help you up someday. An article by Phillip M. Perry offers some clues as to the many the skills you’ll need as an Assistant Store Manager or Store Manager.

Get Transferred.  If you have a natural gift for selling a certain product—like cosmetics or clothing—ask your manager if you can transfer to that department. You may have a storehouse of knowledge about these products simply because you’ve been interested in them for awhile, so leverage that knowledge and interest to help you move up.

Moving up from sales associate to management and beyond will take some work, but if you persist and follow the above guidelines, you’ll succeed.


Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/


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