Nursery Sales Assistant

Train to be a nursery retail sales assistant in garden centres and plant production nurseries; for better selling by correspondence study.

Course Code: VHT103
Fee Code: S1
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to Sell Plants

“Whether dealing directly with members of the public or with other professionals such as landscape gardeners, it is imperative that nursery sales staff have sufficient plant knowledge to communicate effectively. That’s where this course comes in. A must do course for those wishing to improve their sales skills whilst simultaneously improving their awareness of plant identification, use, and care.” - Gavin Cole B.Sc., Psych.Cert., Cert.Garden Design, MACA, ACS Tutor. 
Our Nursery Sales Assistant Course has recently undergone a major update to Sales Skills in a nursery section. Many nursery sales assistants are passionate about plants, but lack the necessary sales skills to boost sales. Others have a good selling ability but lack the plant knowledge needed to assist customers and really ‘sell’ the product.

The Nursery Sales Assistants course has been developed to provide the necessary balance between plant knowledge and sales skills. Your staff will learn all about plant identification, plant care, how to advise customers and all about important sales secrets that will boost your bottom line. This course will train staff on how to ‘open’ and most importantly, ‘close’ a sale!

Lesson Structure

There are 5 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Plant Identification: Understanding plant classification and pronunciation of plant names.
  2. Sales Skills: Determining different types of customers; developing the communication skills to sell, including how to open and close a sale.
  3. Caring for Plants: Planting techniques, understanding soils, plant nutrition and pest management.
  4. Selecting the Right Plant for the Right Place: How to create different moods using plants.
  5. Advising Customers in a Nursery: Developing good communication skills, knowing your product, plant placement.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Identify a sales opening.
  • Identify and demonstrate how to 'close' a sale.
  • Demonstrate a range of sales skills in a horticultural workplace
  • Identify a range of different plants, based on their flower and leaf structures.
  • Describe the importance of effective communication and sales techniques in the retail nursery industry.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of how to care for plants, both in the garden and in the nursery.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of appropriate plant selection for a range of different sites.
  • Identify a range of plant health problems and describe appropriate chemical and non-chemical control methods to control those problems.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and use of nursery products.
  • Describe the importance of plant placement in the retail nursery.

What You Will Do

  • Read the supplied course material.
  • Undertake simple and relevant practical tasks.
  • Submit written assignments at the completion of each lesson.
  • Prepare plant review worksheets
  • Learn to sell plants and allied products.

Study Sales and Improve Marketing in Your Nursery

Marketing can make or break a nursery. There are many different ways of marketing nursery products. Some of the common systems are outlined below:


  • Shops -These are garden centres or nurseries which concentrate on selling plants, or sections within other shops such as supermarkets, hardware stores or even florists.
  • Mail Order/Online -Usually promoted through websites or catalogues and magazine advertizements
  • Specialist Nurseries -These concentrate on growing one particular type of plant which is sold direct to the public from the nursery. This type of nursery may wholesale plants also.
  • Shows -Trade shows, homes shows, Agricultural Field days and other such events can be used as an outlet for plants.
  • Markets -Markets come in all types and sizes (eg. Craft markets, fruit and vegetable markets, etc). Some nurseries find regular attendance at a market can make a significant contribution towards sales. Markets may also be used on an irregular basis to clear excess stock.


  • Truck Sales -A vehicle loaded with plants calls on retailers and usually sells direct from the truck. Some wholesalers use a smaller vehicle with samples of stock which are shown and orders are taken from.
  • Markets -Trade markets conducted by industry associations or private markets which sell to retailers, landscapers and other industry people at wholesale prices. The organizers of these markets usually charge participating nurseries a fee or commission, or both.
  • Agents -These may sell using one or several different methods (eg. Truck sales, markets, etc) and take a commission from the wholesale grower. This method can take away the worry of marketing, but it may also affect overall profit depending on how good or bad the agent is.

What Does Marketing Involve?

  • PRODUCTS  What is available? (range, quality, diversity) 
  • PACKAGING & PRESENTING the goods or services
  • MAKING CONTACT with the person you are selling to
  • COMMUNICATING Ensuring they understand about the goods or services
  • CONVINCING  THEM Presenting the "product" in a way which favours you achieving the result you are aiming for.
  • FOLLOW UP  After Sales Service, to ensuring the "buyer" is satisfied with what they get (in the long term)
Marketing can be looked at as having six stages; products, promotions, packaging, transport, sales, after sales (analysis and follow up)
This course focuses on just the "Selling" aspect of marketing.


Every Sales Person should know.....

  • Details of the product or service they are selling is, including it's attributes, it's competition, it's negative points (and how to counteract these)
  • Where and how to find the product/brochures/catalogues/order forms....or anything else relating to the sale.
  • Prices to charge and terms of sale
  • Procedure for making a sale (incl. Using cash register, filling out order book, writing receipts, etc).
  • Company policies (on returns, damaged goods etc)
  • How to package or deliver goods or services (eg: wrapping, directing other staff to deliver service or good, etc).
  • How to keep records in order.
  • How to maintain order & tidiness in sales area/equipment etc.

A good sales person should possess the following characteristics:

  • A good appearance.
  • A pleasant personality.
  • Courtesy & tact.
  • Enjoy selling.
  • A basic understanding of human nature (practical not theoretical  ability to read people's body language etc)



  • Research your customer and product first. (You need to know both the customer & the product before you attempt
      to sell)
  • Get your customer's full shopping list before you start. Gently introduce them to products that will complement the ones they want eg. orchid mix for an orchid plant. Remember that most customers are open to suggestion and want their plants to grow well so help them achieve these goals.
  • Highlight the benefits of a product...rather than the features. (Tell the customer what it can do for them personally...don't tell them what is great & unique about the product if it is not relevant to them in particular).
  • If there are objections, play it cool and try to determine, very specifically what they are...once you narrow down the objection, put it into perspective by showing something about the product which compensates that objection (eg: Yes it is expensive  but it will do more things). Don't make it seem as if you have won a point.
  • Always keep control of the conversation...don't let yourself get into a defensive position. This is done by asking questions when the customer starts to take the offensive.
  • Do not talk while giving a demonstration. Show them, then stop & talk, stop talking while you show them again...etc.
  • Handle products with respect.
  • Get the customer to try out the product.
  • If you need to, use the phone or calculator to buy thinking time.
  • Try to close the sale  ask for an order at the appropriate time, when the customer seems to be in a state of mind where he/she is likely to buy.
  • Fulfilling the customer's needs is more important than improving your own knowledge or sales technique.
  • Remember that the customer is always right  without him you are not going to remain in business.
In the nursery situation, plant knowledge and cultural information are one of the most important requirements of staff. This can be disadvantageous for new staff with low or little plant knowledge. Teach then that customers prefer to wait while information is being researched rather than be fed incorrect information. Remember, signage around the nursery will help here.

In retailing (at least), shoppers can be categorized into the following four groups:

1. Economic Shoppers
   Most interested in prices, value, product quality & economic factors.
   Not so interested in treatment by staff, decor of the store, location etc.

2. Personalizing Shoppers
   Enjoy the interaction with sales staff, preferring to shop with sales staff they know and like.
3. Ethical Shoppers
   Avoid large chain stores or companies which tend towards monopolies or deal with products which are judged unethical.  Don't shop at big supermarkets because "they are putting the small man out of business". Prefer to buy food from the bio-dynamic shop because it hasn't been treated with chemicals.
4. Apathetic Shoppers
   Don't like shopping, go to the most convenient supplier because they must.


  • Learn sales skills
  • Learn about products peculiar to horticulture
  • Understand product placement
  • Learn to answer customer's horticultural questions
  • Be a professional in this field


Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.

How can I start this course?

You can enrol at anytime and start the course when you are ready. Enrolments are accepted all year - students can commence study at any time. All study is self paced and ACS does not set assignment deadlines.

Please note that if a student is being assisted by someone else (e.g. an employer or government subsidy), the body offering the assistance may set deadlines. Students in such situations are advised to check with their sponsor prior to enrolling. The nominal duration of a course is approximately how long a course takes to complete. A course with a nominal duration of 100 hours is expected to take roughly 100 hours of study time to complete. However, this will vary from student to student. Short courses (eg. 100 hrs duration) should be completed within 12 months of enrolment. Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Awards (eg. over 500 hours duration) would normally be completed within 3 -5 years of enrolment. Additional fees may apply if a student requires an extended period to complete.
If a student cannot submit their assignments for 6 months to ACS, they should advise the school to avoid cancellation of their student
registration. Recommencement fees may apply.

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Our courses are written in English and we only have English speaking academic staff. If you can read and complete your assignments in English, our courses are ideal for you.

Our courses are designed to build knowledge, hands on skills and industry connections to help prepare you to work in the area, running your own business, professional development or as a base for further study.

This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

The course consists of course notes, videos, set tasks for your practical work, online quizzes, an assignment for each lesson (that you receive feedback from your tutor from) and ends in an exam (which is optional, if would like to receive the formal award at the end), using our custom built Learning Management System - Login.Training.

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We offer printed notes for an additional fee. Also, you can request your course notes on a USB stick for an additional fee.

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We are more learning focussed, rather than assessment focussed. You have online quizzes to test your learning, written assignments and can complete an exam at the end of the course (if you want to receive your certificate). You will not receive a pass/ fail on your course work. If you need to add more details on your assignment, we will ask you to resubmit and direct you where you need to focus. If you need help, you can ask your tutor for advice in the student room.

Each module (short course) is completed with one exam.

Exams are optional, however you must sit an exam if you would like to receive a formal award. You will need to find someone who can supervise that you are sitting the exams under exams conditions. There is an additional cost of $60 incl. GST for each exam.
More information is here

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Adriana Fraser (Horticulturist)

Over 30 years working in horticulture, as a gardener, propagator, landscape designer
, teacher and consultant. Adriana has spent much of her life living on large properties, developing and maintaining her own gardens, and living a semi self sufficient lifestyle. She has decades of practical experience growing her own fruit, vegetables and herbs, and making her own preserves. She is well connected with horticulture professionals across Australia, and amongst other things, for a period, looked after Australia's national collection of Thymus. Advanced Diploma in Horticulture, Advanced Certificate in Horticulture.

Jacinda Cole (Horticulturist)

B.Sc., Cert.Garden Design. Landscape Designer, Operations Manager, Consultant, Garden Writer.
She was operations manager for a highly reputable British Landscape firm (The Chelsea Gardener) before starting up her own landscaping firm. She spent three years working in our Gold Coast office, as a tutor and writer for Your Backyard (gardening magazine) which we produced monthly for a Sydney punlisher between 1999 and 2003. Since then, Jacinda has contributed regularly to many magazines, co authored several gardening books and is currently one of the "garden experts" writing regularly for the "green living" magazine "Home Grown".

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.

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