Meet Melissa Stapley, founder and CEO of MJ Hybrid Solutions.
Q: What can you tell us about the origins of your interest in/experience with cannabis?
Melissa: I joined the cannabis/CBD industry back in late 2014. After seeing the benefits of CBD on helping me get off of sleeping pills, I started educating myself and realized I needed to help educate others. I started working with CV Sciences, a CBD manufacturer as one of their first sales reps. Back then CBD was still so new so it was one of the most difficult sales jobs I’ve ever had. But I learned so much about the history of cannabis, the benefits and got a good taste of how people viewed cannabis and how to educate them based on their understanding.
Q: What inspired you to create MJHybrid Solutions as a training and education platform for cannabis operators?
Melissa: In 2016, I left CV sciences to go help build a sales team with another cannabis and CBD manufacturer. It was there that I really started working more with dispensaries and really noticed the lack of communication between the new cannabis consumer and these dispensaries as well as the lack of knowledge. I knew there was a huge need for training and development in this space. My background was heavily in sales and leadership and I absolutely loved training and developing others so I took that passion and combined it with my passion of cannabis education to develop the MJ Hybrid Training System. Since I got into this industry to help educate the world on cannabis I figured if I can take my knowledge and skill set and help train budtenders and other cannabis professionals on how to effectively sell cannabis while also educating them then I would be able to have a greater impact on educating and ending the stigma.
Q: What does MJHybrid do differently to ensure positive results and long-term growth for your clients?
Melissa: MJ Hybrid Solutions is not just a cannabis training platform, our goal is to ensure our clients get results and provide the tools and guides to be successful and implement the training. We also put a big focus on sales/customer service training. I am a big believer that you can have all the product knowledge in the world, but if you don’t know how to communicate or understand who you are speaking too then sharing that knowledge may be ineffective. I worked closely the first year with dispensaries, got behind the counter and listened and developed sales training content based on what I heard from the customer and what I saw was needed from the budtender to effectively sell cannabis. I also provide an implementation plan to really help businesses focus on the 3 areas to grow their business and set goals to achieve them. It is also important to make sure your team is engaged with the training so we provide tools to roll out the training in order to get the best results from it.
Q: From your experience, what do cannabis retailers – more specifically cannabis delivery services – underestimate/overlook when it comes to meeting and exceeding their customers’ expectations?
Melissa: I think they overlook the value of asking questions and listening to their customers, whether in person or on the phone. Especially with delivery services, when people call in to place an order, the rep will usually just assume the customer knows what they want and if the customer does ask a question about product, the rep tends to just list and talk about all the products they carry when what they should be doing is asking the customer questions to understand their needs and what they are really looking for. Most customers don’t know what they need or they choose a product based on what they saw or tried one time, so if the rep was trained effectively on how to ask questions and build rapport they would be able to guide the customer towards the best products for them which would build more confidence with the customer. Confident and empowered customers purchase more and spread the word!
I think the lack of training and development plays a big role in this as many employers overlook the value of training front line employees, especially on effective communication. And many retailers/owners think that answering the customers questions is great customer service, when in reality we as the employees should be the ones asking questions and listening to our customers needs. When you focus on those small changes, you will yield huge results!
Q: Can you explain the importance of a cannabis operator’s brand, staff, and company culture? How do these 3 factors work together to develop the customer experience?
Melissa: Having a solid brand and aligning your staff and company culture with that brand is extremely important. You want to create a place that people remember and can relate to and that starts with your brand. Making sure your staff aligns with your vision and values is crucial to keep your brand and culture consistent. When customers come back they come back for that experience and it needs to be consistent. People will purchase more because of the customer experience and that experience is created by your people, your brand and your culture. Stay consistent!
Q: How can cannabis business owners empower their own staff to succeed at their respective roles?
Melissa: Cannabis business owners can empower their staff in many ways. One, it’s important to take the time and build a relationship with them. Just like we train employees to effectively communicate and ask questions to get to know customers, owners and managers should be doing the same with employees. I always say People are loyal to People and when employees feel heard and valued they will work harder and be more engaged. Be open with them, get them involved in processes. People like to feel like their role matters so asking for feedback and getting input from them will empower them. Do regular 1 on 1’s with the staff to see how they are doing, do team building with the whole team monthly and always thank them and remind them how important they are.
Q: If there was one thing a cannabis operator can enact immediately to better their operations, what would you say that one ‘thing’ is?
Melissa: Focus on their employees and customers. It’s so easy as an operator to get caught up in inventory, products, compliance and regulations, etc. but really taking the time to focus first on the team and customers will really help create an amazing culture, happier employees which will increase sales and make day to day work better overall. When you overlook training and development, employee relationships and customer interaction as an owner you really hurt your business. Remember the 3 ways to grow your business- Get new customers, get them to purchase more and get customers to return. All 3 of these won’t happen if you aren’t focused on developing your employees and ensuring your customers’ are having an amazing experience each and every time.
Q: What are 3 concerns that you have as the industry continues to grow?
Melissa: Lack of professional development, education and liability as it relates to customers. So many consumers are still new to cannabis and it can be overwhelming. When employees aren’t properly trained or educated it can hurt consumers as they may not get what they really need, take too much and have a bad reaction. Also not understanding tolerance to THC can be a liability issue and as the industry grows I believe we will start to see more complaints and concerns over that because of the lack of proper training.
Q: What are you excited to see as the California cannabis industry continues to evolve?
Melissa: For one, I am excited to see those who have paved the way for the industry continue to thrive and overcome the hurdles they have been facing. I know some have been hurt and hope to see those who crafted the way make it through the hurdles this year and come out strong. I am excited to see some changes with social equity as well and hope we can push for those who deserve it and help those who have been incarcerated. And I’m excited to see California continue to push out quality products and push for education to continue to end the stigma and get more consumers access to safe cannabis.
Q: What are a few resources you can share with our audience? What are some of your favorite books, podcasts, software, etc. that have benefited your personal and professional growth in the industry?
Podcast: Entrepreneur on Fire, Hemp Revolution, Tony Robbins
Books: The Four Agreements, Good to Great (Jim Collins), Cannabis Revealed (Bonnie Goldstein).
Q: Lastly, where can our audience find you?
Linkedin: Melissa MJ Stapley