A budtender can wear many hats in the dispensary environment. As well as having a thorough knowledge of products, including numerous strains, being a good salesperson is definitely a key component of the budtender equation. Budtending is retail sales plain and simple—it’s cannabis retail sales, but retail sales nonetheless. It’s good to never lose sight of that fact while working in an exciting and emerging industry.
The legal cannabis industry allows for a somewhat relaxed demeanor, which shouldn’t be confused with an unprofessional manner. Customers visit a dispensary to spend their hard-earned money, and a lack of professional customer service can easily be equated to rudeness. Part of the reason there is a huge turnover in dispensary staffing is due to unrealistic expectations on the part of new employees. Being a budtender can be an amazingly fun and rewarding career with plenty of opportunities for upward growth for those who understand that their first objective is to sell. There is a certain finesse required for effective sales practices, and being a pushy hard-seller has no place in a dispensary.
Thorough product knowledge that’s shared in a friendly and engaging manner is the best way to sell and provide effective customer service. Being a good budtender sometimes translates into being a good people person. The good ones make it look easy, partially because they genuinely enjoy conversing with customers and sharing their cannabis knowledge.
While the cannabis industry is accepting of casual attire, this can vary from one dispensary to the next. While some dispensaries allow casual t-shirt attire, the next may require a collared shirt or even a uniform. There’s really no right or wrong answer to proper dispensary attire. The cannabis industry is at a stage of growth where individuality is acceptable in a number of areas, ranging from a wide variety of floorplans and exterior designs, to company names that are quirky and creative or refined and elegant.
When a budtender is on the dispensary floor selling, their exact wardrobe is less important than an overall appearance that’s orderly and not disheveled. While casual clothing is often okay, it should never be controversial or in any way risk offending a customer.
For example, in Colorado there’s a popular shirt sometimes seen for sale on clothing racks in dispensaries that reads, “No one cares you’re from Cali, bro.” Is it funny? Yes! Particularly if you’re from Colorado. However, a budtender on the sales floor donning the amusing shirt may risk offending a customer from California (or a California transplant living in Colorado). It’s probably best to wear more neutral tees on the dispensary floor and wear the “No one cares you’re from Cali, bro” shirt outside of work.
A good budtender should know their dispensary inventory inside and out. Since most budtenders are also cannabis enthusiasts and aficionados, this part of the job should come easily and be a pleasure to learn. Many legendary strains are dispensary standards found industrywide.
If you’re a budtender, you need to learn them, know them, and (hopefully) love them. Whether it’s Bubba Kush, a prime cut of OG Kush, Granddaddy Purple, Jack Herer, Durban Poison, Golden Goat, Bruce Banner, or one of the seemingly countless other strain that have been around for years and are likely to be seen in a dispensary, it would behoove any budtender to know them and be able to speak intelligently about them. Know the genetics behind them. A good budtender shouldn’t have to look up whether a given strain is indica, sativa, or a hybrid—and, if it’s a hybrid, whether it’s sativa- or indica-dominant. Plenty of online resources will provide the answer, but this should be done outside of work time. Seedfinder is an excellent resource for looking up the genetics of various cannabis strains found throughout the industry in both recreational adult-use stores and medical dispensaries.
If you work for a dispensary that’s part of a vertically integrated business model, very likely your company grows its own flower. If it does grow its own flower, it probably will produce its own unique strains and market them under its own names. Many dispensaries do this these days, and these proprietary strains are found nowhere but at the company’s dispensaries, or dispensary. These are the strains you should proudly introduce customers to and explain the genetics that went into creating them. Even the most knowledgeable cannabis customer knows these strains, because they’re found only at the dispensary at which you work.
Inventory knowledge includes every item for sale in the store. If your store sells edibles, learn the various dosages for both medical and recreational edibles. Likewise, stay informed about all the smoking and vaping devices, and be able to discuss them intelligently.
Introduction and General Customer Inquiry
As with anyone working in a retail store, a good budtender should greet customers with a smile and an introduction. Next should come a general inquiry asking what they came to the dispensary to buy.
As every budtender learns, many customers know exactly what they want when they walk in the door. Some of these customers will most likely want to skip the questions and conversation and move directly to the products they want.
Usually, it will become apparent fairly quickly if a customer is interesting in chatting about products. It pays to remember that some customers will be veteran cannabis consumers, while others may have never set foot in a dispensary and may be shy because of their lack of cannabis knowledge. If you sense this may be case, it never hurts to ask about a customer’s cannabis background in a friendly, helpful way. Never be condescending or smug. That type of behavior has no place for those involved with customer service and sales.
Cross-Selling and Up-Selling
Dispensary sales should borrow from other retail sales practices—which includes both cross-selling and up-selling. This isn’t difficult, and although it may not seem unnecessary and unlikely to result in any sales, all retail sales employees should do it as part of their jobs—especially if your company tracks individual employee sales as part of its point-of-sale (POS) system, and most of them do.
Cross-selling is easy and painless. Once you and your customer are close to finalizing their purchase, a polite inquiry about similarly or lower-priced products that enhance the purchase is helpful and may result in additional sales. For instance, if a customer purchases a quarter-ounce of flower, ask them, “Do you need a pipe or some papers to go with that?” or “We’re having a sale on flower vaporizer pens this week. Can I show you some?” The worst thing that can happen is the customer declines the offer. Sometimes, however, they really do need a new pipe, a lighter, or a pack of rolling papers.
Up-selling is similar, but slightly more challenging. For the quarter-ounce flower sale just mentioned, a good approach to up-selling would be to inquire, “We just got in some amazing glass bongs. I’ve been thinking about buying one of them myself. Can I show you some of the better ones?” Again, this may result in a sale that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
Being a good budtender can be a great career opportunity that can lead to other opportunities within your company. Performance and product knowledge are what matters as a budtender—just as with any retail sales position. A polite, outgoing demeanor and customer engagement are also important. Sales and customer service skills don’t come naturally to many people, but with a concerted effort, budtenders can master the necessary skills to become valued members of the dispensary-floor sales team. The personal satisfaction and rewards that come with being a successful budtender are well worth the effort.