Breaking Into The Cannabis Industry - Sales

December 16th 2018 photo/istock/boonchai wedmakawand

 By Roger Malespin

The path to success in the cannabis industry is a bit different than many others. In an emerging and rapidly growing industry, establishing a brand or marketing your products can feel like swimming upstream. This is where the salesperson comes in. Amidst the ocean of competition, a good salesperson will be the bridge between a business’s products and the market. While experienced salespeople are the most desirable, the good news is that many companies look for people who have the right qualities and knowledge in lieu of experience, and you can acquire many of them on your own.

 It’s common for salespeople to become disenchanted with their work, but luckily they can leverage their experience toward a job in the cannabis industry, according to Mark Friedman, director of sales and marketing for MedPharm Holdings.

 “I’m looking for sales experience first, cannabis experience second,” Friedman said. “I feel like a good professional salesperson can be taught about products more easily than you can teach someone to be a salesperson.” He also says Persistence, commitment, passion and follow-up are all key characteristics of a good salesperson. They have to be able to travel, pitch effectively, and have the ability to take rejection without being deflated. It’s a demanding job that can have a lot of pressure, but some people are a great fit for it.

 So what if you don’t have sales experience? There is still room for those who equip themselves with the right knowledge and skills. There are many companies who will hire people if they have a good interview, experience notwithstanding. To impress in an interview, candidates should have a personable demeanor, understand the state of the industry, and strategies for pitching and closing. 

 “Hiring good salespeople is a very tough thing,” said Ben Wu, president and chief operating officer of Santa Ana, California-based Kush Bottles, which sells packaging and supplies to cannabis companies. “Because ultimately these are salespeople. If you can’t talk yourself into a job, you’re probably not a good salesperson.”

 Similar to a budtender but more expansive, a good cannabis salesperson first must have strong knowledge of the products and industry as a whole. The fact is that a substantial portion of the legal cannabis consumer base is not familiar with it at all. This is especially true in the case of medical marijuana but also extends to plenty of recreational products like edibles. One has to know how a product works, its value to the customers, and the ability to craft each sales pitch to the consumer - all in detail.

By extension this also means you need the ability to quickly build a rapport with customers in order to secure long term brand loyalty. If you are people person, network a lot and build relations with people far and wide, you’re already off to a good start. Connecting with people is the key, and it’s absolutely possible to show that on an interview. Personality has to be coupled with the right knowledge, so research as much as you can about the company, the products they sell and what they do, and the state of the industry overall including laws, market trends, and political happenings.

 This sounds like a lot and it is, but a quick internet search will turn up success stories of salespeople who took a shot and found their niche. The best way to find one of these opportunities is a cannabis staffing agency. One can look on social job sites like LinkedIn and Indeed for them as well as smaller companies that recruit directly. There is a decent amount of turnover in these jobs, combined with rapid industry growth that makes for plenty of fertile ground for those looking to take this career path.

This is a job for goal-driven workhorses. If you have the people skills and can realistically see yourself in a position like this, this is a great time to start investing in what you need. Research, network, and talk to as many people in the industry as you can, and chances are that you can find an opportunity. References