In the dynamic landscape of the Canadian cannabis industry, where regulations, products, and consumer preferences evolve rapidly, the success of a cannabis sales rep hinges not only on their knowledge of the products but also on their mastery of sales fundamentals. While product knowledge is undoubtedly essential, it is the sales foundations that truly differentiate a good sales rep from an exceptional one. I can tell you from my own experience transitioning from retail to rep, that the importance of training and coaching cannot be undersold. Not just for individual career growth but also for fostering a thriving and sustainable industry. 

“When I started as a sales rep or territory sales manager, much of my training and onboarding was informal. My first couple of days were spent in front of my computer, learning about products, and asking questions. The questions of what a sales rep even does, still lingered long into the first few weeks of my transition. While I had plenty of knowledge of cannabis and how to sell to customers, I did not know anything about selling to decision-makers. It was not until about 3 weeks, when I had a ride-along, that my manager at the time informed me that I was doing an excellent job of educating but I was not actually selling. I was talking about weed, not selling it.”

Understanding the Shift in Focus 

Traditionally, the cannabis industry has placed significant emphasis on product knowledge. While understanding the intricacies of various strains, consumption methods, and effects remains crucial, there needs to be a shift towards prioritizing sales fundamentals. Quite simply, the expectations of sales reps to move the needle in such a competitive landscape are too high to rely on only product knowledge. There are too many products, and more being released weekly across Canada for reps to be able to rely on only the product stats to help them sell. Furthermore, it is the results that comes from having a consistent routine in sales often referred to as the sales journey or process that brands are increasingly demanding from sales reps. Many sales reps are not getting the training however in these fundamentals but often (like myself) are forced to seek out information on their own time through books, podcasts, networking and more. When reps are asked to visit 35- 60 stores in-person a week, do pop-ups, create and post social media content, and do administrative tasks like reporting and expenses, it makes it incredibly difficult to find the time for professional development during what is left of their personal time.  

Elevating Cannabis Sales

The Pitfalls of Overemphasizing Product Knowledge 

While product knowledge is undeniably important, solely relying on it can lead to several pitfalls. Sales reps may become overly focused on pushing specific products without considering the individual needs and preferences of the customer or retailer they are pitching too. This one-size-fits-all approach can result in missed opportunities and relatively shallow relationships with their retailers. Often sales reps get stuck in a routine of regurgitating product information, handing over sellsheets and hoping a retailer will bring in the product. There is a lack of focus on consultative selling which prioritizes asking thoughtful questions about the store, customer base and business. These questions should be the priority while actively listening and using those answers to inform which products a rep pitches makes for better relationship building and ultimately more distribution and sell through. The right products, in the right stores with the right information for budtenders and customers alike. Without taking the time to ask questions, sales reps are increasingly ill-equipped to effectively overcome objections and challenges.  

The Power of Sales Fundamentals 

On the other hand, sales fundamentals provide a robust framework that empowers sales reps to excel in any sales environment. From effective communication and active listening to objection handling and closing techniques, mastering sales fundamentals equips sales reps with the skills needed to engage retailers authentically, identify their needs, and provide tailored solutions. Additionally, sales fundamentals emphasize relationship-building and retailer-centricity, fostering trust and loyalty among retailers—a crucial aspect in an industry where education and transparency are paramount. Many across the industry have pre-conceived notions that a focus on sales fundamentals leads to greasy car salesmen who make people uncomfortable and are not successful. This stereotype does nothing but hold back the cannabis professionals who want long-term success in both the cannabis industry and sales.  

Alexandria Nuttal

Addressing Turnover and Building Career Development

High turnover rates have been a persistent challenge in the cannabis industry. By investing in training and coaching focused on sales fundamentals, companies can mitigate turnover by nurturing the skills and confidence of their sales teams. Providing ongoing professional development opportunities not only enhances job satisfaction and retention but also cultivates a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Sales reps who feel supported in their career development are more likely to stay engaged, motivated, and committed to their roles, contributing to a more stable and productive team. At its core, prioritizing sales fundamentals is about elevating the standards of professionalism within the cannabis industry. By equipping sales reps with the tools and knowledge they need to excel, companies can elevate the retailer’s experience, drive sales growth, and enhance the industry’s overall reputation.  

Conclusion

In conclusion, while product knowledge remains a cornerstone of success in the Canadian cannabis industry, it is the mastery of sales fundamentals that truly propels sales reps to new heights of success. By prioritizing training and coaching in sales fundamentals, companies can empower their sales teams to excel in a competitive market, reduce turnover, and contribute to the growth and maturity of the cannabis industry as a whole. Ultimately, investing in the professional development of sales reps is not just about driving short-term results—it is about building a brighter future for the industry and the communities it serves. 

If you would like to invest in your sales team or grow your own opportunities for career growth through sales coaching, reach out to info@cannaprofessionals.ca or visit www.cannaprofessionals.ca 

Alexandria Nuttal

Alexandria Nuttal

Alexandria's experience in the cannabis industry from retail manger to sales rep, provincial then later national sales manager, inspired Canna Professionals Consulting. With 5 years of industry insights, they offer tailored business consultation, process development, 1x1 coaching, and team training for cannabis sales.