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Onboarding a Team to Sell is Hard

Onboarding a Team to Sell is Hard

people Jan 29, 2024

Budtender leaves. Sales dip. The cycle repeats. 

Dispensary budtender turnover is higher than the average across all other industries, according to Headset. Sky-high turnover is bleeding away cannabis retailers dry - whether it’s time, money or customer loyalty. 

What if your onboarding could be your secret weapon? Transform turnover into retention. 

You’ve probably got all the basics to onboard a team, but have you coached them on how to sell? It’s a game-changer; come find out why.


What can you do?

More than warm welcomes and manuals, coaching a team to sell has to be rooted in an understanding of psychology that drives sales and enriches the customer experience. 

We'll unpack four strategies we've brought to life with our clients—a playbook to create a team that's informed, impartial, and customer-focused, setting your dispensary up for success.

First up, a topic that always gets attention is Budtender Bias.


Budtender Bias: Acknowledging and Mitigating Personal Influences

Budtenders are pivotal in shaping customer experiences, influencing product choices and generating sales. 

But there is such a thing as budtender bias.

The personal biases that unconsciously influence interactions with customers. 

What does it look like? Recommendations for products that align with their own preferences rather than the individual needs of the customer.


Pricing Sensitivity and Product Recommendation

Customers often exhibit price sensitivity when making purchasing decisions, particularly in cannabis.

Stores have a wide range of prices. 

When budtenders are consistently immersed in a price-sensitive environment, it is reasonable to project their own preferences onto customers subconsciously. 

A budtender who prefers mid-range products may unconsciously steer customers towards similar options, even if those products aren't aligned with the customer’s needs or if the customer is willing to spend more.

This leads to a disconnect between the customer's expectations and the recommended products, which can result in dissatisfied customers and negative reviews.


How to Coach to Overcome Personal Bias

To address budtender bias, you need to include self-awareness and reflection coaching in-store.

Regularly reflect on preferences, experiences and purchases and how price may impact them. This will help budtenders identify areas where their own subjective perspectives might cloud their judgment.

Active Listening: Practice what it looks like to actively listen to customers' needs, preferences, and desired outcomes. By understanding a customer's individual context, budtenders are more likely to make informed recommendations that align with the customer's specific needs.

Unbiased Product Education: Set the expectation that budtenders stay informed about the full range of products available, including their features and benefits. Comprehensive knowledge empowers budtenders to provide unbiased recommendations across different price categories.

Seeking Feedback: Coach your team to encourage customer recommendation feedback. Creating a feedback loop can help budtenders identify areas where their recommendations may be misaligned with customer needs.

Training budtenders can mitigate the impact of personal bias and ensure that their recommendations are driven by a deep understanding of customer needs and preferences, fostering a positive and inclusive customer experience.


Parts of a Sale: Product Hero vs. Impulse Purchases

Understanding the psychology of buying is crucial for driving sales and enhancing customer experience in cannabis stores. 

A sale has two key parts- the "Product Hero" and "Impulse Purchase."


Product Hero

The Product Hero is the product or group of products that attract customers to the store. It could be a category, a popular strain, a unique product, or a special promotion that captures attention. 

These are the products the customer comes into a store for and are not necessarily defined by price. 


Impulse Products

Impulse products, on the other hand, are spontaneous decisions that were not part of the original shopping plan. They are often driven by emotions, curiosity, or the desire to reward oneself. 

Impulse purchases are typically low-cost, high-value items that are easily accessible and visually appealing, such as edibles, prerolls and beverages. 

Hero and impulse products are not defined by category or price point. The distinction is when the purchasing decision is made. 


Product Hero and Impulse Purchases in the Guided Selling Process

To effectively integrate hero and impulse products into the selling process, you need to strike a delicate balance between highlighting the value of core products and enticing customers with impulse purchases.

Work with budtenders to be able to identify the product hero. 

Once the hero product is identified- complementary or recommended products become impulse suggestions. 

Quick Tip: selling impulse products by flavour is often a good trick. 

The sale keeps going until the customer pulls out their wallet. Once a form of payment is in the customer's hand- they have mentally closed the sale, and its time for the budtender to rap it up.


Product knowledge- is too much a good thing?

Your team is the storyteller of your menu. You want them to create a narrative that engages and informs customers, not just list the facts. 

Budtenders often get trigger-happy and throw too many facts or products at customers to make a sale.

It’s here where sales often slip through the cracks because the budtender lacks the selling skills and struggles to communicate what information the customer needs/ wants and when.

Your inventory is only as good as the budtender selling it. Before sending your budtenders out onto the retail floor, they need to know how to sell.

Regarding increasing spending, driving attachment rates, and gaining margins, two selling tactics truly move the needle.

  1. 2 Features and a Benefit 
  2. The rule of 3  


2 Features and a Benefit: The Power of Effective Product Communication

Cannabis is complicated. It is easy to go down a rabbit hole of features and benefits. But customers don’t remember them and easily get overwhelmed.  

Cannabis companies are guilty of using price as a feature or benefit.  

Two features and a benefit is a simple yet powerful approach to selling or educating about cannabis products. It allows budtenders to avoid defaulting to price or THC and focus on helping customers make informed choices by highlighting the product's features and benefits in a structured and informative way.  

Feature: the technical aspects of a product, such as strain, terpene profile, or cannabinoid content.

Benefit: how a product solves a problem for your customer.


Price is often mistaken as a feature of a product. However, price is not a feature because it is the byproduct of the technical aspects of the product. 

For example, let's say you're selling a new toothpaste. The features of your toothpaste include whitening and cavity fighting. These features help to solve problems for your customers, such as the need for hygiene and a fresh mouth. 

However, the price of your toothpaste is not a feature. The price is simply a reflection of the value that the product offers. 

If your toothpaste is more expensive than other products on the market, it's because it offers more value to the customer.

The magic formula for sharing information with your customers on the sales floor?

2 features
1 benefit 

This gives the customer enough information to ask more questions if they need or want to. 



Budtender: What brings you in today?
Customer: I bought some prerolls at another store, and they didn’t burn evenly. I ended up throwing them away. 

Budtender: Oh Shoot! Prerolls are super convenient but are quite difficult to manufacture well! I think we might have some good options for you!
Talk to me about when you plan on smoking these prerolls?
Customer: I am having a party this weekend
Budtender: Oh fun! Okay, I have a multi-pack of prerolls that are 0.7g (feature) and a mix of whole flower and trim (feature), which allows them to burn evenly (benefit)”

This now gives the customer enough information to ask more questions. 

By focusing on the benefits of a product, you can create a more compelling, value-driven message that resonates with what the customer is looking for. 

This concise yet impactful framework of communication allows customers to grasp each product's value proposition easily. 


The Rule of 3

Psychology of Product Choice: Why 3 is the Magic Number

When presenting product options to customers, the ideal number is 3. This allows your team to access several psychological principles that influence customer decision-making:

1. Cognitive Overload: Our brains have a limited capacity for processing information. When presented with too many choices, we experience cognitive overload. This leads to confusion, anxiety, and, ultimately, indecisiveness. By limiting the options to three, we simplify the decision-making process and reduce the cognitive load on the customer.

2. The Anchoring Effect: The human mind tends to anchor its decision on the first piece of information presented. This is why the first product mentioned often becomes the reference point for comparison. By presenting three options, you can strategically control the anchoring point and influence the customer's decision in your favour.

By offering only three choices, you create a sense of scarcity and urgency. Customers fear missing out on a potentially better option if they don't make a decision. This can motivate them to choose one of the three options presented, even if they were initially undecided.

3. The Goldilocks EffectCustomers often prefer options that fall somewhere in the middle of the options. By presenting a range of products with varying features or prices, you increase the chance that one will fit the customer's "Goldilocks zone" – not too much, not too little, just right.

Beyond the psychological benefits, limiting product choices to three offers practical advantages:

  1. Increased focus: budtenders can create momentum when selling to customers 
  2. Improved efficiency: Simplifying the decision-making process can lead to more confident customer purchases

Ultimately, presenting three products to customers is not just a random suggestion; it's a strategy rooted in psychology and practical considerations. 

In practice, this looks like budtenders only presenting 3 options to a customer at once. If the customer hesitates, one needs to be removed for a new one to be introduced. Your team can ask the customer which one they are not interested in, and introduce something new.

If you're looking for more insights on how to build a high-performance cannabis retail team look no further, check out our blog post from November on this very topic.


What does it all mean?

Turnover is a persistent challenge in the cannabis industry, but with the right strategies, it's one that can be managed effectively. 

By understanding the nuances of budtender bias and pricing sensitivity, cannabis retailers can ensure their team's recommendations are customer-focused and unbiased. 

Integrating concepts like the "Product Hero" and "Impulse Purchase" into the sales process can transform casual browsing into confident buying. By teaching your team the art of "2 Features and a Benefit" and leveraging the psychological power of the "Rule of 3," they’re not only going to communicate effectively, they’re going to connect with customers, giving them confidence in their purchase decision and with each interaction driving them closer to loyalty.

Active listening, unbiased product education, feedback loops, and effective communication will reduce turnover and create a team of budtenders who are engaged and drive your bottom line.

When budtenders understand the products and can confidently navigate customer interactions, you’re onboarding them in a way that empowers them to sell more than just cannabis; they sell an experience that keeps customers coming back. 

Are you eager to elevate your team's sales expertise following this read? Make sure to get on our Train the Trainer waitlist. You'll gain access to critical cannabis industry insights and learn the key signs of success to boost your profitability.


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