By Mark S.A. Smith

Selling retail cannabis is different — very, very different. Treat it like a traditional retail product and you’ll miss an amazing opportunity offered by every person who walks in your store. If you’re staffing your cannabis dispensary with people from traditional retail stores, you’re probably not getting the best sales performance from your team unless you have made the effort to do some sales behavior retraining.

Let me explain why selling cannabis is so much different. When you walk into a typical retail store and the clerk asks, “May I help?” your most likely response is, “Just looking.” They generally respond with, “Okay, let me know.” That’s not sales, that’s a door greeter, like they have at Wal-Mart.

Not Your Average Retail Experience

Most retail salespeople behave like order takers, where the customer selects goods of their preference and makes a purchase. If customers have questions, it’s about location of stock, not much more. The most challenging question the clerk asks, “Is that cash or credit?” Selling becomes pitching the store credit card, not the stocked merchandise.

Most retail stores carry mass produced, commodity products. Shoppers have a pre-established preference of a brand that fits their personal vision of themselves based on well-established, broad marketing campaigns.

That’s not the case for 95 percent or more of the visitors to a cannabis dispensary. They are there to figure out what they should buy because very few established cannabis brands currently drive consumer preference.

Even celebrity endorsed brands don’t fully translate to a specific product experience, other than you get to party – in your mind – with the celeb. Do you really believe your favorite rapper is smoking $25 weed, even when it has their name on it? That’s as likely as the Kardashians driving a Buick. Because of this market situation, your retail team’s job is to figure out the customer’s buying motivation and direct them to the products that best satisfy their desired experience.


Questions First, Product Second

How can you turn the members of your retail team in to real salespeople? By using a simple assessment-based sales method that leads to a recommendation. Don’t start by pitching a product because you’ll confuse the average buyer. In cannabis sales, as in medicine, prescription before diagnosis is malpractice.

First, discover what experience the consumer wants and direct them to a selection of products that can deliver that experience. Then make two recommendations, one higher priced, and one lower priced. Then make sure they have all the accessories that they need to have a positive product experience.


Consider the following questions:

Are you looking for something specific?

    “Yes” -> take them to that section of your store.

    “Just looking” -> “We have so many products, it’s almost overwhelming. What results are you looking for from this product? To relax? Focus? Pain relief? Party?”

“What have you tried before?”

“Do you want more of that or something different?”

    “More” -> “What do you like best about it?”

    “Different” -> “What do you want to experience?”

“How do you want to consume it?”

“How will you know what to choose?”

“What else do you need to make your experience complete?”


With just these simple questions, you can help your customer rapidly find what satisfies the experience they want. And once you start doing that, you’ll enjoy both customer loyalty and a growing business.


Mark S. A. Smith helps business executives create disruptive and comprehensive business strategies and marketing plans. He publishes weekly business articles on LinkedIn ( and just launched, a weekly podcast. Contact
him at