April 23, 2017
Make that two in a row for GenNext and the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network (CVSN).
After posting excellent approval ratings for their first ever Distributor Training Expo in 2016, the two groups pulled off another valuable event this weekend in Atlanta, bringing in more suppliers and distributors while posting strong satisfaction ratings at their second ever event.
This year’s event followed the structure of 2016 but was built up to account for more attendees (175, up from 150) and training suppliers (23, up from 14). Distributors attended seven hour-long training sessions with Gold-sponsor suppliers, six 30-minute sessions with select Silver suppliers, a training lunch with their respective buying group and one hour of exclusive access to the exhibit floor.
It was a busy yet worthwhile experience, said Tyler Nelson with Midwest Heavy Duty.
“I was quite impressed. I’m new to the industry so it was a lot of learning. I tried to take in as much as I could,” he said.
Each supplier chose to use their training time differently. Some put an emphasis on parts identification and component design, while others provided guidance for online catalog use and ordering tricks.
Mike Gerrick with Federal-Mogul Motorparts said his team built its booth and in-class training around its largest aftermarket product categories, and supplemented that with information about its newest product innovations.
“We really tried to take advantage of [the agenda],” he said. “If we can train the sales people so they are better informed and have more knowledge, then they will do a better job when they go out and talk to their customers.”
Attending for the first time, ConMet’s Richard Moss said his team’s focus was brand recognition and front-end engagement.
“We’re still so new to the aftermarket. ConMet is strong and getting stronger at the OE level but we’re still trying to brush that OE dust off and get into the traditional aftermarket,” he said. “This was more us trying to educate everybody as to what are in our lines.”
Both companies said it helped that distributors were eager to learn. All attendee receptions on the trade show floor Friday and Saturday were the most active sessions of the weekend, with engaging discussions at nearly every booth.
“One customer shared a video with me on how he sells our products, and it’s always nice to see that feedback from the field,” said John Nugent at Phillips Industries.
Other attendees were equally impressed.
In Sunday’s post-event survey, 95 percent of attendees viewed the event as very satisfying (64 percent) or somewhat satisfying (31 percent), and 82 percent said they were very likely to recommend the event to colleagues. An even higher number, 87 percent, said they would attend again, with 12 percent saying “maybe” they would consider it, depending on various factors.
Point Spring & Driveshaft’s Jack Darway was one of a select group of two-time distributor attendees. Darway said he appreciated the opportunity to interact with more suppliers this year, specifically those with whom he doesn’t see on a regular basis in his store. Darway said Point Spring added a supplier thanks to a relationship created at last year’s DTE, and could see other distributors having the same experience.
Those commendations were confirmed by Sunday’s survey, as both suppliers (91 percent) and distributors (84 percent) said they would like to see more attendees in future years.
Individual aspects of the event were appreciated as well. The one-hour Gold training sessions posted an 89 percent approval rating (40 percent excellent, 49 percent good) and the 30-minute Silver trainings had a 90 score (33 excellent, 57 good). The trade show netted an 88 percent approval score (40 excellent, 48 good), with 73 percent of attendees claiming their time allowed on the floor was “just right.”
But even with strong approval numbers, Seidel said event organizers aren’t satisfied with the status quo. The concurrent class room/trade show dynamic is likely to be updated before 2018’s event.
“I think there are some things we can improve on. It’s always a learning experience,” he said. “As we’re growing the show, I think that changes the whole dynamic.”
And the event will grow again. The details of next year’s event are yet to be confirmed, but Seidel said it’s likely numbers will grow at a measured pace moving forward.
“I like the size now. I think we can grow the distributor side a little bit,” he said. “With the suppliers I think if we get ahead of ourselves we could kind of take away from what they are here for.”