Only one thing can forge a successful business from the creative and complicated work of cultivators, extractors, manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers who bring incredible cannabis products to the market.
The one thing that can make or break all this effort: Sales.
The Sales function is what turns the investments in advertising and marketing into new business contacts and revenue growth.
It's why companies need to invest heavily in the power of a sales development team, especially in the first three years of the business when revenue results will predict the rate of growth and expansion for years to come.
At Alias Cann, we look for opportunities to bring proven business practices to the cannabis industry. What we've learned working with cannabis clients is embedded in our tag line: No One Grows Alone. It's especially true in Sales.
Sadly, we’ve seen too many cannabis Sales & Marketing departments spend hundreds of thousands of dollars only to fall short on sales goals. They had slick advertising campaigns rocking the inside cover of every magazine, billboard, and event they could find, but where were the sales? They got attention, raised interest and stimulated desire, but who was the sales champion turning all that marketing and branding into new business?
The sad truth is that hefty amounts of investment dollars are wasted in glitzy advertising campaigns, overpriced packaging and impressive media buys, mostly with a Field of Dreams faith that if they build something ‘amazing’, the customers will come.
It takes a lot more than a kick-ass accessory to turn heads in today's cannabis retail market. It takes solid sales muscle, empathy, and end-user education.
The good news is, with the right sales and distribution people in place, you can take your brand from zero to hero, and make all the hard work pay off big time.
Just remember these 5 Characteristics of a Truly Qualified Sales Team:
1. See the Bigger Picture
Cannabis industry salespeople must know and speak the industry, be able to predict trends, and understand differences between regional national, and worldwide obstacles and opportunities. Effective sales teams know how to find opportunity in every part of the seed-to-sale process, from cultivation, to testing, to extraction and manufacturing, to product packaging, to distribution, to how the final product gets delivered safely into the hands of each customer.
Having a sales team that can leverage sales data - knowing what's selling when, where, and for how much - can help you make better strategic decisions will directly improve your bottom line.
There are many crucial sales roles and having a well-resourced sales team by your side can dramatically accelerate your business and help you to claim competitive high ground.
2. Listen Actively
Listening can feel like a lost art, but it’s essential in sales. Do your sales representatives do most of the talking during a demo, or are they asking open-ended questions to help your prospects verbalize their needs and desires in their own words? So many times, salespeople are so focused on what they’re going to say next that they forget their job is to help the buyer. Active listening is what experienced sales managers and business development professionals train decades for. Listening isn’t just about the words a person is saying but also about the body language and behavior, including that taking place online and in social media. Does your sales process appropriately personalize its sales message to reach the point of true understanding?
Remember that sales is about listening to what a prospect is missing
and the gaps they need filled.
Every sales conversation first needs to have the prospect verbalize their desires or pain points before moving into the next phase of the sales cycle. When your salesperson can effectively relay back and paraphrase at least three pain points of their new business prospect, you’ll know your sales prospects are truly being heard. If you’re not hearing a pain point or desire, then backup and try rephrasing your question.
Simple changes to your sales script or website have been found
to increase the number of deals in a sales pipeline by 20%.
Don’t present your offer before you’ve heard your prospect express their needs in their own words and understand that online and website behaviors are a form of communication as well. It could mean the difference between a prospect walking away or signing on the dotted line.
3. Turn on Your Most Awesome Presentation and Demonstration Skills
At cannabis industry trade shows we often see inexperienced office admin staff getting overwhelmed with the chaos, with little pre-show prep or sales strategy to make sure their trade show investment pays off. The hustle and bustle of a trade show requires quick-thinking and a "sales per hour" hustle mindset with absolutely no time for in-depth conversations that are more productive after the show when deals are signed.
Good sales reps are more experienced, more qualified more
cost-effective and can do a better job selling and closing deals, than executives.
It's generally not productive to have your executive team on the trade show floor qualifying sales prospects. All that time talking to unqualified buyers means your best prospects are walking by with no engagement. Make sure you’re engaging with each and every person across all your sales channels--at events, in person, via webinars and in-person demos--any place you can grab attention and start a sales conversation.
4. Learn to Cut a Deal
Negotiating sales relationships involves building rapport, active listening, reducing uncertainty, clarifying terms, problem-solving, and the ability to make decisions when the opportunity presents itself.
Are you enabling your sales team to have the power to make decisions,
or do you hand-off leads to senior sales reps or execs?
Make sure your sales reps are from the local area so that they can comfortably interact with a wide range of customers. Sales conversations are based on mutual needs, and in some cases a prospect may be ready to order on-site, so make sure your sales reps have the training they need to negotiate contracts, sign deals and run payments on the spot.
5. Manage your Time
Skilled salespeople recognize there is a very small window to make a sale, and if this window closes, the opportunity may never be there again. Sales people should be astute to the time it takes to build rapport, go through negotiations, and close a deal by scheduling timeframes with potential prospects and closely tracking their time. Time management is extremely important to ensuring that sales quotas are met and that time and opportunities to meet other potential prospects are not missed.
Anything you can measure, you can improve, so ensure your sales team is appropriately managed to reach their targets.
The cannabis industry is full of some of the nicest, most generous and skilled sales people with long-term relationships and connections that go back decades. Sales development is an ongoing endeavor where your reps will add to their skillset as they learn and grow with your business. Use these 5 characteristics as a starting off point for successful sales growth in your cannabis business.