Selling cannabis to dispensaries
Gone are the days when cannabis vendors can bring products into a dispensary for show and tell without professional packaging, lab testing results, accurate dosage information, presentable sales people, or a reliably consistent distribution system.
In the above video, Aaron Justis, President of Los Angeles dispensary Buds & Roses, reflects on his experience with vendors over the years.
Some tips for vendors. First, bring samples. Dispensaries want to try samples. And since the bud tender is your gateway to the customer, you should want them knowledgeable about and willing to recommend (push) your product(s). Good presentable packaging is also a must. Help your product stand out on an increasingly competitive shelf.
Aaron also talks about opportunity in product innovation. There are so many things missing from the dispensary shelves. Brands that can help fill a void on the shelf will find a receptive audience among buyers and decision makers.
Fortunately, when marijuana is involved, there’s not a lack of creativity among those creating new products. Innovative products are coming to market, whether it be novel delivery mechanisms, or products featuring isolated molecules such as THCA or CBD.
Thinking this type of feedback from dispensary’s would be helpful to vendors, and in turn, the dispensaries who are sold to on a daily basis, I reached out to a few dispensaries for their thoughts on a few questions. One responded 🙁
Fortunately, his comments are educational.
If others who work at dispensaries want to chime in, I’ll (try to) add your comments to whichever of the below questions you answer. Help vendors fine tune their sales pitches to make it more meaningful to all.
What makes for a good pitch / presentation from a new vendor looking to get shelf space in your dispensary? What are you looking for?
Liam Comer (Growhouse Dispensary, Nederland, CO): The very first thing I look for is their credentials. We’ve had a handful of people who come in who aren’t badged with the Marijuana enforcement division who want to sell to the dispensary, which would be highly illegal. It happens more than you would think.
From a sales perspective, it is very important to me that the salesperson knows their product. Also, they have to come in knowing all of their numbers. At Growhouse, the mark-up is typically 80-100% up from wholesale. So we immediately want to know the price-point and how it competes with similar products so that we’re not wasting our or the salesperson’s time. There are lots of great single dose edibles in our state that are sold wholesale at $5-$7. But we sell all single doses at $5. So there’s no scenario in which we will buy those.
When reviewing the product I always ask what is this product doing differently. For example, in the brownie market, I’ve only seen one company (Love’s Oven) that has strain specific brownies. The rest either say Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid. For MarQaha tinctures, their tincture is agave based, so it doesn’t have as oily and chemically of a taste as some of the other tinctures. I’m always looking for something positive I can say that distinguishes that product from all of the others that are sold in our store.
How has your evaluation process evolved over the years?
Liam Comer: When we opened, we were getting samples every day because vendors were competing to get on our shelf. Everyone has always gotten samples of everything because we have a very small staff. Usually, a couple days after we were given samples, I would ask who I was working with how it affected them, but we never developed a formal rating system.
Growhouse hasn’t really needed to go that direction in part because of where we are based. Nederland has had a cannabis culture for a very long time, to the extent that locals are not afraid of over-consuming at all. Because it is such a small town we have many repeat customers, so even though we evaluate as budtenders, the customers do a lot of evaluation for us.
For example, Edipure is one of our candy providers. Personally, I had great experience with my sample of their product. But we’ve had a few people come in and say that since the candy is coated in THC rather than infused with THC, the dosing package to package is inconsistent.
What are the current hot product categories?
Liam Comer: By far the hottest category is 1:1 THC to CBD. This comes in the form of candy, capsules, and tinctures. It may be in part because our market is dominated by people above 50 years old, but CBD is very popular despite being more expensive. The 1:1 is always a pleasant high, but also since its not purely CBD (which is far more expensive), having that 50% THC drives the price down and makes it more affordable.
Other than that, cannabinoid specific transdermal patches are a relatively easy sell for CBD and CBN. There aren’t enough products that are CBN or CBD specific to match Nederland’s demand.
What new product categories are emerging – new product types that you’re now carrying that maybe weren’t around 6 – 12 months ago? Or product categories you see coming to market in the next few months that you’re excited to introduce to your patients / customers?
Liam Comer: Although producers haven’t caught up to this yet, there is a demand for non-sweet edibles. Colorado is one of the healthiest states in the country, but edibles are always packed with fat and/or sugar. People have asked for something savory, but we have nothing to carry to meet that demand.
We are about to carry for the first time a THC infused gum, which we anticipate selling well because many people are tourists who have had bad experiences with homemade infused baked goods. I haven’t tried the gum yet, but I think people are going to buy it once it’s in the store.
On the vaporizing market we were recently pitched an oil cartridge that is propylene glycol and coconut oil free. Instead, they said that they were using cannabis terpenes as the binding agent. Customers looking into trying vaporizing for the first time always choose coconut oil over propylene glycol because propylene glycol sounds dangerous. Personally, I haven’t done much research on propylene glycol, but I know that coconut oil based vaporizers have been known to cause a disease called lipid lung or lipid pneumonia.
Can you tell a story about the worst sales pitch you endured?
Liam Comer: The worst pitch I have experienced was for a concentrate that was essentially a reprocessed shatter that had the terpenes extracted from it. When I asked why you would remove the terpenes (and thus the taste) from the concentrate, he said it was for people who liked concentrates but don’t like the taste of cannabis. I really don’t think that market exists, and when I asked him the price point he presented me with a sheet that explained that we had to give them our extra trim in exchange for them to sell us the concentrate. We don’t have any trim because we’re a wholesale buyer. So the salesperson had obviously not looked into our business or just asked us about our grow.
What is the role of the budtender in both the evaluation process (pre-approval) and the sales process (once approved) for new products in your dispensary?
Liam Comer: For the Nederland store, the budtender’s evaluation doesn’t play a big role in whether or not the product gets to the shelf unless they have a seriously bad experience with it. Like I said, budtender’s approval is very important for the product to get off the shelf. A lot of people have no idea what they want when they walk in, and since there isn’t significant marketing of anything on our shelves (because there are laws that restrict depicting infused products in marketing), they are coming in for the experience of trying an infused product rather than seeking a particular brand out. So usually, I suggest a product, and they buy the first one I suggested.
Gone are the days when cannabis vendors can bring products into a dispensary for show and tell without professional packaging, lab testing results, accurate dosage information, presentable sales people, or a reliably consistent distribution system. In the above video, Aaron Justis, President of Los Angeles dispensary Buds & Roses, reflects on…