When it comes to growing sales through retail stores, manufacturers have countless avenues to invest time and resources — execute awareness-building campaigns, develop exciting point of sale, or increase promotional frequency and depth, to name a few. When executed well, any of these programs can have a valuable effect on sales, but it is important to never overlook the importance of partnering with retail store associates to ensure they are fully educated about your product, its use cases and typical customer questions.

Retail store associates represent an extension of your sales and marketing team; if you take the time to educate them and open up a line of communication, associates can help dramatically increase trial and awareness in a variety of ways. Here are four reasons that you should be investing time and resources in educating retail store associates.

1. Retail store associates are the final gatekeepers between a customer and a purchase.

You probably know your product like the back of your hand — you can address any objection that might come up in the buying process, and you can recite answers to FAQs in your sleep. Unfortunately, you can’t be in every store that your product is merchandised.

Instead, it is the retail store associates who are left fielding questions from customers when they are closest to buying. By providing associates with regular and simple training materials, you are effectively multiplying your knowledge across the buying universe. While you can’t be in every store, you can better extend your knowledge by taking the time to create simple training materials that can be disseminated to store associates.

2. Retail store associates represent trusted advisers to their customers and can be an extension of your sales team.

People expect associates to have intimate knowledge about the products and categories within their stores. Consider a situation where a customer is exploring a new category of dog food — they might turn to an associate and ask what product they recommend. Do you think the associate is more likely to recommend a product that they have a deep understanding of, or would they take a risk recommending products that they don’t not know much about?

Even if the other product is better, the associate is likely to recommend the product they know because it limits the risk they expose themselves to in a recommendation. By taking the time to educate your associates, you are ensuring they can speak credibly about your brand when the time comes.

3. Education opens the opportunity to receive feedback from the field.

By partnering with retailers to educate their teams, you open a valuable communications channel with the associates. This relationship becomes critical when evaluating the effectiveness of promotions, product design and positioning.

For example, think about a time that you were a customer and asked an associate about a new product — if you decided to not buy, did you give them a reason why you weren’t interested? If you were evaluating dog food, you might have been concerned that your dog wouldn’t like the taste or questioned the quality of ingredients.

These objections are critical for brands to know. By sharing educational materials with retailers, associates should be better able to address these objections in the first place, but they will also be more apt to sharing feedback like this with you down the line.

4. Education amplifies the effects of any promotion.

Ultimately, education should be a part of every business’ annual plan. Taking the time to educate associates, regardless of the medium, demonstrates a shared investment in the success of the stores. This time and attention create a greater willingness for associates to execute against plans and promotions that you run throughout the year, increasing ROI with no additional cost outside of the time and resources it takes to create educational materials.

Taking the time to educate and communicate clearly with your retail partners is a valuable tool that is often overlooked by many manufacturers. Companies that partner with stores can reap the benefits of increased trial, awareness and feedback from the associates who are operating most closely to consumers.