High event satisfaction, support for growth key message during another successful Distributor Training Expo

Distributor Training ExpoAnother GenNext and Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network (CVSN) Distributor Training Expo concluded to rave reviews Sunday.

The fourth annual event, held at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, welcomed 200 inside and outside sales associates from more than 50 independent distribution businesses across the United States and Canada for more than 16 hours of intensive hands-on, classroom and engaged discussion training across the three-day event. With 25 suppliers, both buying groups and distribution expert Dr. Al Bates on hand, this year’s event earned an impressive 94 percent approval rating (58 percent of attendees were very satisfied and 36 percent were somewhat satisfied) during Sunday’s closing ceremonies — showing once again that’s there’s no shortage of interest for quality training throughout the aftermarket.

“I was impressed [Saturday] when we asked how many distributors were here for the first time. It appeared like every hand went up,” says Minimizer‘s Steve Hansen, outgoing DTE chairman. “That’s good because sometimes we hear from the supplier side that they feel like they’re training the same guys. This year that was totally not true. It was a whole new crowd.”

After updating the event’s format in 2018, this year’s expo was built around a rich classroom education schedule that enabled distributor associates to attend ten supplier training courses, enjoy up to six hours of hands-on product training at a supplier booth show, learn more about their respective buying group associations with two separate lunch presentations and take in Bates’ engaging keynote address on how pricing decisions dramatically impact profitability.

GenNext President Nick Seidel of Action Truck Parts was pleased by the event agenda and execution, noting most of the weekend’s festivities went off without a hitch.

“I think we’ve worked out a lot of the kinks,” he said. “I think this year’s event was pretty seamless.”

Distributor attendees were impressed by the entirety of the event.

Tidewater Fleet Supply’s Nathan Powell had high marks for the condensed training sessions — “the classes were relatively short so it wasn’t overwhelming,” he said — while Wofford Truck Parts’ duo of Rubin Pinon and Cesar Medina were impressed by Bates’ financial-centric presentation.

“We’re all in this business to make money,” said Pinon. “We have to make sure that we price our products right and sell them with the right gross margins.”

Bates received an 80 percent approval rating (43 percent excellent, 37 percent good) during Sunday’s closing ceremonies.

Suppliers were equally impressed.

Tectran’s Mike Behney and Pat Davenport were pleased by strong engagement during Friday’s booth show and capacity crowds for Tectran’s classroom training courses. A first-time attendee, Davenport specifically noted how receptive the distributor audience was to Tectran’s messaging throughout the event.

“We had guys coming up who didn’t know we had brass cabinets like this asking for parts numbers,” he said while pointing to the components.

“It definitely seemed to be busier this year than last year,” added Dorman HD Solutions’ David Baker. Attending for the second time, Baker said Dorman HD Solutions values DTE because of the direct connection it provides the supplier to its front-line sales associates. Baker and colleague Brett Delp focused on showcasing new or lesser known products during the event in hopes of expanding sales relationships with Dorman’s existing aftermarket customer base.

“We focused on product awareness and availability,” Delp said.

Speaking on behalf of Minimizer and the DTE supplier community at large, Hansen said, “We always have new content to talk about. Even if [a distributor] was to send the same person every year, I think that person would still be hearing about new things.”

That strategy meshed well with a distributor audience that came seeking new information.

“I’ve been in the diesel industry for a long time; I know the parts and I know what they do. I know the technical side of the business,” said Medina. “I came wanting to see what else is out there.”

“Same for me,” added Jesus Gonzalez with Grande Truck Center. “I wanted to see other vendors. See what else is out there we can take back to our store.”

Powell and Tidewater Fleet Supply colleague Terry Hunzinger were first-time attendees at this year’s DTE, though other Tidewater associates have attended the event in prior years. The duo says they didn’t know much about the event before coming but will try to spread the word when they return home. Both also acknowledged they’d return in 2020 if provided the opportunity.

Those comments linked well with Sunday’s exit survey, which revealed 86 percent of distributor attendees would like to attend again in 2020, and 92 percent of those same distributors said they are very likely (66 percent) or somewhat likely (26 percent) recommend the event to a colleague.

That acceptance is important, organizers said, as it demonstrates to the distributor executives who sent their employees to the event that their investment was worthwhile.

And Seidel added that growing the event in 2020 or 2021 is not out of the realm of possibility. Sunday’s survey determined 64 percent of suppliers and 73 percent of distributors would like to see the event expand in the future. Seidel said he heard the same in his conversations with DTE’s vendor partners.

“I think from an aftermarket perspective we need to leave it open to anybody, moving forward,” he said. “I think we could have 300 distributors next year, we would just want to add more suppliers to cover the cost.”

Though even if DTE does expand, Hansen doesn’t anticipate major changes. The event’s strong reputation indicates a successful, repeatable formula benefitting the supplier and distributor community.

“I don’t think you change a lot,” he said. “You tweak some things here and there. When you have a recipe that works I don’t think you want to adjust that recipe too much.”

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