Exceptional Budtending

Habits & Traits of Exceptional Budtenders

Cannabis has been slowly winning its battle with prohibition, resulting in retail storefronts appearing all across the country. The industry is creating many new positions in the job market, most requiring cannabis knowledge and experience. In legal states there is no better way to enter the cannabis industry than budtending. In this article we explore some of the habits and traits needed for exceptional budtending.

What is a budtender?  A Budtender is the equivalent to a retail associate but with a twist. Selling cannabis can be an extravagant and overwhelming ordeal. In states where cannabis is legal, readers are probably familiar with basic cannabis rules and regulations. For those unfamiliar with cannabis regulation and compliance, there is a lot to learn. 

person at a storefront

All states have implemented their own rules and regulations for growers, processors and retail dispensaries. This means that even though the store may look like a typical retail environment, customers are not allowed to touch the cannabis product until after they have purchased it (in most cases). Similarly to a bar, if you want a drink you have to ask the bartender. Budtenders are the consumer’s access point to the cannabis they wish to purchase.

So what’s the importance of a Budtender? Like any physical retail store, face to face sales can have a huge impact on customer’s purchasing habits. The cannabis market is new and options to consumers are vast. Budtenders are an important source of information vital to the cannabis sales process. A large portion of cannabis consumers rely on budtenders to help with their cannabis purchases. A proficient Budtender will know how to segment customers into profiles so they can tailor recommendations to both experienced and new cannabis consumers.

With all of that in mind, this article is meant to provide some experienced insight. From best practices, like recommending products and staying legal, to critical information you’ll need to know to have a good time working in the cannabis industry.

Budtending Best Practices

If you’ve ever worked in retail or sales, there are a few basic skills that can help even the most introverted person become a helpful budtender.

For example, regardless of your cannabis knowledge or experience, behavioral soft skills are coveted amongst the public. Most people don’t even realize they are receiving this treatment, but they sure do notice when they don’t!

Here are the top four budtending best practices to perfect:

1. Greetings

Skill number one is providing an inviting greeting.

Cannabis has a history of being taboo and has a wide variety of potentially “nefarious” customer personality types. It is important to provide shoppers with a welcoming attitude and good experience no matter how eccentric they seem to you.

If you are rushed because it’s busy, respond calmly. Customers will return to your store if their experience is a pleasant and positive one. 

2. Knowledge

Skill number two is to know your store, products, and customer demographic.

If you are beginning a new budtending job, concentrate on learning where everything is within your store.

Even if you are not familiar with the individual products, being able to direct a customer to a store menu or the flower section is very valuable. After all, being able to acquire and ring up products efficiently is the main reason you are there.

Imagine if you worked in a Department store and couldn’t tell customers where the shirts are! That would cause a negative reflection on not only your competence, but the store that employs you.

To keep paychecks coming, the store has to stay open. For stores to stay open, customers must continue to shop there. Put effort into an efficient and enjoyable shopping experience, and know where the products live.

3. ID Verification

Almost all cannabis customers are required to have their age verified upon entering the store. This is a great opportunity to be patient and kind to your future customer. Stores have different policies of when you will be checking the customer’s ID, but these policies should not detract from warmly welcoming a customer.
an identification card and a check mark

Additionally, this is a great way to make sure you continue to have a job. Selling cannabis to a minor can result in a shop being shut down, being fired on the spot or even being charged with a felony.

Before you master anything in a dispensary, master the art of checking for valid identification with a smile. Being attentive and friendly during this process helps ensure a successful transaction. 

4. Equipment Practice

Inventory tracking is fundamental for a dispensary. Not only are most dispensaries a cash business, most states track every product from seed to sale.

Dispensaries usually have to keep record of every customer, product and sale that moves through the store. The word the industry uses to refer to state tracking is “compliance”. Dispensaries purchase equipment and software to help keep track of it all, so budtenders will most likely be using scanners, receipt printers and some sort of computerized sales system.

Before taking time to learn about the products your store offers, learn the equipment you will be using every day at work. This will make your life easier at work and the customer will appreciate a flawless transaction.

An ideal transaction is when a customer can walk into a store, pick a product, the product is rung up at the cash register, customer pays for the product, and leaves, in compliance with all of your state’s legal requirements, for the consumer to get home and enjoy their purchase. 

Budtending Knowledge

When it comes to cannabis, do not underestimate the amount of information there is available to you. Cannabis is one of the most researched plants in the entire world. Odds are that if you are new to the cannabis industry this will be the most overwhelming part.

The key to fitting in as a budtender is to be humble about your knowledge base and always willing to learn. If someone acts like they know more than you, they might. Listening and learning is the fastest way to understand what the customers you will be working with are looking for. Never forget that you are there to sell weed, and sometimes your opinion is irrelevant. 

Take the time to learn about the plant you’re selling, and how it’s consumed.

Differences Between THC and CBD

In a dispensary one of the key pieces of information customers will want to know will have to do with THC versus CBD, so it’s important to know the difference. Generally speaking there are a lot of technical explanations of the difference between THC and CBD. The most basic one being THC has intoxicating effects, and CBD does not.

teal lineart of the chemical THC
teal lineart of CBD molecule

If you are working in a dispensary, odds are the CBD you will be selling is cannabis derived, rather than hemp. This means cannabis plants were bred to have high CBD and low THC. It is almost impossible to have zero THC in a cannabis plant, so CBD products available online or in the drugstore currently are hemp-derived.

Hemp-derived CBD products are federally legal and must contain less than .3% THC. If a customer wants zero THC in their products, they may want to consider not purchasing from a dispensary. 

Most customers looking for CBD rich products are not looking to roll a joint, as many consumers seeking cannabis for pain or mental illness want to utilize the medicinal aspects of cannabis without the high. Topicals, edibles, tinctures and RSO are common product options that can have high CBD with low THC.

If you are uncertain what is unique between brands, instead of recommending products without knowledge, recommend the customer experiment but start low and slow, especially if they are new to cannabis. Remind customers they can always try to cut servings in half or even quarters. For vapes and RSO, you are looking for a label that shows a high ratio of CBD to THC, such as 20:1, or any number that the first number is higher than the second. This example means the product is 20 times higher in CBD than THC.

As a budtender, NEVER recommend anything for specific medical reasons/cures, or give any medical advice. You can recommend something if you think it tastes good, or it got you blitzed, but when encountering customers with medical questions educate them to the best of your knowledge.

It is ok to say “I don’t know.” This is better than the customer having a bad experience and blaming you, and never returning as a customer. 

Intake & Consumption Methods

There are five basic forms of cannabis products, categorized primarily by the methods of processing and consumption: Flower; Vapes; Edibles; Concentrates; and Topicals.

cultivation icon with sprouts and sun
  1. Flower is the most common cannabis ingestion method, and a large portion of customers will ask for joints (“pre-rolls”) or nugs/flower. For these consumers, take the opportunity to ask questions so you can direct them to what they are hoping for. Introducing current sales your store is offering is always a good and welcome ice breaker.
    Some customers will want Indica or Sativa specifically. If they request one or the other, a simple way to remember the perceived difference is indicas (“in da couch”) are often associated with a sleepy, relaxing effect with a heavy body feel. Sativas (Arriba/Stimulation) are known to be uplifting and cerebral. Now, these are not exact rules, only general guidance. Some people may feel the opposite effects, and plants can produce different effects based on the growth process. Most brands will print this information on packaging and labels, but the only true way to know is to try some and see how it feels for you.

  2. Vaping is the process of vaporizing concentrated cannabis, and is very popular for discrete and on-the-go smokers. Most vape users seem to know what they like. The most helpful knowledge a budtender can provide with a vape customer is to make sure they own or plan to purchase a compatible battery. Hardware can differ, and to avoid returns and upset consumers it’s best to make sure they can smoke what they purchase.

  3. Edibles, or infused foods, are great for the non-smoking crowd! The most important thing to remember with edibles is dosing. A high dose of THC in an edible can be extremely uncomfortable. When ingesting cannabis the experience can greatly differ from each individual because of our digestive systems and metabolic rates. These factors are unique to the individual. If a customer is a beginner, introduce edibles with THC that are lower than 5-10mg per serving.

  4. Concentrates are concentrated cannabis extracts. The world of concentrates is vast, and can be overwhelming to the non-user. A lot of sales tactics for flower can be used to help a customer purchase a concentrate. MOST concentrate users will be experienced cannabis users and in this case asking for a preferred price range or desired effect can help you help them. 
    There are terms you will hear often and the more familiar you get with your store, the better you will understand the differences and nuances between concentrates. For example, the process of smoking a concentrate is commonly called “dabbing.” Most dispensaries carry the type of dabs referred to as resin or “BHO”. Other popular concentrates include temple ball, hash rosin, keif and RSO. Pricing is a great way to differentiate between the styles of concentrates:
    Hash, Rosin, 6 star, rosin jams, and cold cure, to name a few, will almost always be on the most expensive side and should always be kept in a refrigerator. If you take a concentrate out of the fridge, be sure to return that product asap. These are some of the most expensive items in the store.
    BHO, PHO, live resin, diamonds, shatter, and crumble can range from $6 a gram to $60 a gram.
    Temple ball, finger hash, old school hash and kief are often in the lower price range for concentrates.
    RSO is one of the common concentrates that is
    not manufactured to be smoked. Due to state regulations, the potency of RSO and the basic definition of concentrate is why it is categorized as a concentrate and not considered to be an edible. Vapes are technically a concentrate but are unique enough to be able to easily identify that is what it is.

  5. Topicals are products that go on your skin, and are great for non-smoker’s body pain. Common customer concerns are fragrance and consistency. The best topicals will contain some sort of way to break the skin barrier, usually in the form of camphor, menthol, pine, tea tree, and eucalyptus. Lotions or a waxy salve seems to be the most common topicals on the market. Topicals are great for people who do not want to feel any effects of cannabis, since topicals do not deliver significant enough transdermal THC to induce a psychoactive effect. If someone wants to use cannabis for pain, but in no way wants to feel any intoxication, a topical is the answer.

Why Be An Exceptional Budtender?

two people networking

As the cannabis industry expands, the opportunity to become a cannabis expert is vast. The market need for experts is only getting larger. Budtending is considered an entry level position in the cannabis industry, or commonly known as a foot in the door. Pay will not always be the best and health benefits are few and far between. However if you are an avid cannabis smoker, socially awkward, mentally ill or battling chronic illness, the cannabis industry has a career for you somewhere.

The cannabis industry’s professionals are more often than not avid supporters, if not participate in body modification, appearance, leniency, multicultural, accepting of all personality types, and accepting that drug use might be a part of your everyday life. Make no mistake, this does not mean you won’t have to work. Some pros to becoming a budtender might be discounted products, flexible schedules, cash tips, the occasional free sample, but most importantly knowledge, experience, and connections.

If you are interested in advancing your career in cannabis, the amount of knowledge that is available to you as a budtender is priceless.

Sometimes, once people discover the role of budtender is not far off from regular retail there may be a bit of let down from the excitement of selling cannabis legally. But it is important to attempt to be a decent human in life at all times, let alone while you are working as a Budtender.

Following the best practices here can help you to be the kind of Budtender that educates consumers, helps make the industry better, and keeps customers coming back again and again.

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About Cultivera's Retail Solutions

Cultivera offers two distinct services for retailers and dispensaries in states with legal cannabis markets, such as Washington, Oklahoma, and California: 

Cultivera Market, our streamlined B2B menu and sales platform where Producers, Processors, and Distributors build sales relationships with vendors and dispensaries;
Cultivera POS, our intuitive point-of-sale and dispensary operations management system for retailers.

Want to learn more? Book a demo of either platform with the button below.

About The Author

This article was written by our POS expert, Brittni Green. Brittni works hard to keep systems and clients on track, and spends free time growing an collection of incredible glass pieces.

Follow Brittni online on LinkedIn.

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