Because selling weed is awesome
Let’s face it, selling weed for a living is a pretty amazing job. And we have some serious admiration for the #DopeSales pros who are killing quota in the cannabis industry.
We love that our customers find value in Pistil and use our platform daily to get into more dispensary doors, put more products on shelves, displace competitors and drive more business and revenue for their brands.
Sunny Simms is VP of Sales for Albert Einstones. His career in cannabis and his love of the plant have taken him from South Carolina to California, and from consumer sales at the retail dispensary level through to retail sales on the brand side of the business.
We chased him down to learn a bit more about his journey as a sales professional and to find out how Pistil helps him build deep relationships with his customers.
How did you find your way into cannabis sales?
Sunny: My history with cannabis goes back to high school. I was smoking weed, selling weed, and I fell in love with the plant. After graduation, I made my way to Southern California in 2010 and landed a job working at a medical cannabis dispensary in Hollywood. This was pre-2018, so only medical cannabis was legal at the time, but I found it intriguing that doors and minds were opening up to the concept of recreational legalization. I went on to run my own delivery service collective for a few years and in 2018 transitioned into the new Prop 64 recreational market, still working in retail. In 2019, one of my friends from that old Hollywood dispensary reached out about their small startup Albert Einstones. They were only in a couple of dispensaries at the time but I immediately fell in love with the team's brand vision and ethos, and it prompted me to move out of retail and into manufacturing. So now, rather than working in retail selling to the consumer, I’m working on the brand side, selling to retailers. My extensive knowledge of retail gives me an advantage. I was that guy in the dispensary that was a stickler for quality, so I know what matters. As a brand, I recognize the product offering has to be perfect because if there’s any imperfection, retailers will call you out.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Sunny: Wow, that’s tough to answer, because I love so much of it. I love being in the field and seeing the innovation happening amongst new retailers. I was there in the early days and remember well the ugly green walls, the ball jars, and the shake joints rolled in the back. It’s amazing to see how the industry has evolved and to see how people are pushing the boundaries. There are some gorgeous retail locations these days. Chains and mom-and-pop shops alike are offering amazing atmospheres with incredible displays that create a truly awesome, engaging consumer experience.
I love getting out and into the store to meet and educate budtenders about our brand. It’s cool to see that people are now moving beyond basic education and getting more into their knowledge of the plant. They are diving deeper than ever into conversations about the minor cannabinoids and terpenes. It’s a real evolution of thinking and as a manufacturer, you need to be there with the very best product so you stand out.
What’s the hardest part of cannabis sales?
Sunny: We’re a start-up and small company and team. I cover most of Southern California, my colleague covers Northern California, and we have a couple of brand ambassadors. We’re serving 350+ retailers across California and Arizona, and that presents a challenge because resources get spread thin. We want to build and maintain deep, intimate relationships with our customers and it can be a challenge to do that with every dispensary and team.
There’s a lot of turnover that happens in dispensaries. We find ourselves often having to reset the account relationship. That said, the relationships we do build are super strong. Our team takes our responsibility to the customer very seriously and we want to be engaged. Our distributor Kiva is very helpful in extending our reach and in maintaining those strong relationships. We lean on them for delivery, logistics, cash collection and so forth and they are extremely reliable. That allows my team to handle in-store education and brand support, demos, and other deeper relationship-building activities.
What is your #1 sales pro tip? (the secret to your success)
Sunny: Our CEO and COO have always emphasized over-communication in business as the key to building strong relationships. That doesn’t mean spamming people with emails. It means staying in contact, keeping the communication flowing, and not making assumptions because that can be deadly in business.
It’s also important to meet people where they are at and use the communications channels they are most comfortable with using. There are a lot of brands and not that many dispensaries. Our customers are overwhelmed and swamped. So if someone wants to communicate by text, that’s great. If they want an email, that’s cool. If they want to get together face to face for a drink, that’s awesome. Whatever we can do to accommodate those who are building our brand. This is where a CRM becomes vital. You need to keep careful track of those relationships and those customer preferences.
How does Pistil help you?
Sunny: We’ve used Pistil for just about a year now. It replaces the man-hours we have traditionally spent doing product and prospecting research, like searching WeedMaps, Dutchie, and in-store menus. We need to know what products are doing well, which ones are doing poorly. Pistil is invaluable because it brings all that information directly to our fingertips. It’s been great for helping a small team juggle all the tasks on our plate and stay at the top of our game.
The biggest benefit we get out of using Pistil is that it helps us keep track of active inventory. This is some of the hardest information to come by as a sales professional. Pistil gives us the most live and up-to-date inventory levels and tells us where we are with our most popular products. We also feed that information back to our brand support team. If something is not hitting with a SKU. If the customer doesn’t understand the product or if they aren’t aware of it, then that’s on us. Pistil is gathering all that intelligence on the back end and that’s the very best scenario for everyone. It allows us to know where our retailers stand which saves us time and it saves our retailers time because they don’t have to gather up information or send us reports.
I have to also say, that one of my favorite things about Pistil is the responsiveness of the team. They are constantly in contact, extremely over-communicative and any suggestions we have are implemented quickly.