An updated format only helped add to the accolades for the GenNext and Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network (CVSN) Distributor Training Expo, held this weekend in Atlanta.
Arguably the fastest growing event in the independent aftermarket, this year’s training expo brought 200 distributor sales professionals from Canada and the United States together to participate in highly valuable booth and classroom training with more than two dozen top aftermarket suppliers and the industry’s buying groups. These courses were combined with a new trio of keynote presentations on sales strategies, creating the busiest and most action-packed Distributor Training Expo in the event’s three-year history.
From first-time attendees to longtime supporters, it’s clear the event continues to be a resounding success.
“This is our first time being here. I think it’s gone very, very well,” says Eaton’s Steve Case. “This was good for us to meet some of those folks we normally don’t get to see, and now we get to see if we can start fostering relationships with some of these guys who we don’t normally deal with one-on-one.”
“This year has been the best year,” says Michael Garcia of Fleet Services. A three-time event attendee, Garcia says changes to the trade show format — limiting access to the booth show to meal periods — increased participation in the show and allowed his team to interact with suppliers and fellow distributors in an open and inviting setting. “I think we’re having great conversations with the manufacturers and reps this way.”
Suppliers were equally impressed by the format change and the positive atmosphere it created for training and dialogue.
“I think this year the way things were laid out was much better,” says John Dodero at PAI Industries. “I think having [the exhibit call] closed is the way to do it moving forward.”
Closing the exhibit hall also allowed distributors more time to spend in classroom training with suppliers. Gold-level event sponsors had four training courses during the weekend; Silver-level sponsors had a pair. By the time the weekend concluded distributors said they were awash with valuable information to return with to their businesses.
“I’ve got about ten pages of notes,” says Tyler Bell from Malmberg Truck & Trailer.
Another key change to the event was the addition of three keynote presentations by sales consulting expert Jim Pancero. During his presentations Friday and Saturday, Pancero addressed how sales managers operate in the current sales climate, the how generational differences can impact sales tactics and the importance of proactive customer service.
“If I had to rank the top thing I got out of this event, he’d be it,” says Garcia. “We strive to understand the needs and wants of our customers anyway, but he kind of forced it home that we need to understand that better.”
The sheer volume of Pancero’s content helped, too, adds Garcia’s colleague at Fleet Services Matthew Hull.
“I think everybody is going to take home something different,” he says. “I might have heard one key thing and he might have heard another key thing. And then we get home we’re going to talk about all of it.”
Sunday closed the event with dual breakfasts for VIPAR Heavy Duty and HDA Truck Pride members, more classroom training and brief closing lunch.
For the buying groups, the breakfasts offer a wonderful resource to educate front-line customer-facing employees about what how the groups work and what they can offer them.
“For a lot of these folks, they don’t always know what HDA Truck Pride means to their business. And even more importantly how it can help them,” says HDA Truck Pride’s Tom Hillegas. “Our owners know how big HDA Truck Pride is, but these guys don’t. I’ll tell them, ‘You realize you have 699 other locations backing you up,’ and they don’t even know where to start with that.”
“So many people, they don’t know their building extends far beyond the front door,” says VIPAR Heavy Duty’s Mark Iasiello. “Some of these guys know they are a member of VIPAR but they don’t know what VIPAR is. Some of them think it’s like a Costco or Sams.”
A real-time survey during the closing lunch confirmed the strong reception of the event.
Seven in ten attendees said they were “Very Likely” to recommend the event to colleagues with another 23 percent saying they were “Somewhat likely” to do the same. When asked about return participation, 83 percent of responders wanted to come back and 14 percent said they would consider it.
Nearly three quarters of attendees also supported the addition of a keynote speaker, and among that group, about 40 percent suggested adding even more educational sessions at future events.
Maybe the only area where event opinions were not unanimous is length. Supplier and distributor attendees alike mentioned an expanded program Friday (instead of the half-day Sunday) might be more valuable for attendees. But doing so would require distributor employees to arrive a day early, which would require their employers to commit to another day without their best employees on the job.
Regardless of if or how the event evolves, everyone departed the event Sunday in good spirits after another phenomenally valuable event.
“I think this could be almost a mandatory event, especially for young people who are moving up into sales,” says Anthony Walter at PBS Truck Parts. “They need to come here.”
“I get so much out of this show,” says Kate Diecks with Kit Masters. “I am meeting with the guys who are selling my product and when they get home they know they are going to be able to sell it. They get so excited.”
— Lucas Deal (@lddeal85) April 21, 2018