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Dealer Issue Extra: Superior Industries’ John Garrison shares insights on dealer training

By |  June 23, 2020
John Garrison headshot, Superior Industries

Garrison

With Pit & Quarry publishing its second annual Dealer Issue this July, the magazine’s editors connected with a number of manufacturers for perspective on a variety of dealer topics. John Garrison, vice president of sales at Superior Industries, visited with P&Q to share his insights on the importance of dealer training and tips for how to best execute it.

How involved are you when it comes to dealer training?

We’re very involved in making sure dealers are getting trained, very involved in making sure that it’s scheduled. In fact, we hold annual meetings with our dealers and toward the end of the year, right after the first of the year, we sit down and set our goals for what’s to come the following year and review the success of the prior year. During that time, we highlight people in their organization that need training, what type of training.

We have a lot of different products across Superior, from crushing, screening, washing, conveying [and] portable plants, so we offer different schools for all of those different products. We tailor training toward whatever the dealer’s needs are.

Then we have our service department that would schedule, plan and conduct the service training, which is where you’re physically in our factories, seeing machines being put together, getting hands-on training. We have more market-facing trainers, product champions that will travel around to dealers or host regional events with us to do more of a sales and application-type training. We’re very involved in all that.

Could you share more about those events dedicated to educating and training dealers, as well as if you have any dedicated facilities or spaces to conduct training?

There are two types of training. I’ll start with the sales and application side. This would be training for our dealer salespeople, the people that are out in the field visiting customers and going to sites, getting them trained up on features and benefits of the product applications. So really, how to size the right equipment, what type of equipment to use, for what stage of the process or things along those lines.

Those trainings are managed in a couple of different ways. We would host people back to our factories. We have five different manufacturing facilities where we host these. Some are very specific to a product line. For instance, washing schools would be held in Columbus, Nebraska, which is our manufacturing location for those products. We would typically rent a large hotel conference room, bring folks in, do some hands-on training and then take them out into the facility and walk them around to where they can actually see the products, touch them and understand what we were training them on.

Our training facilities are [in] Columbus, Nebraska, for washing and screening. We’ve used Pekin, Illinois, for crushing over the years. We have conveying classes and schools up in Morris, Minnesota, which is our headquarters where our conveyors are built. We’ve been able to do regional schools, and we also have a manufacturing facility in Arizona where we host schools out that way for the folks who are on the West Coast so they don’t have to travel as far to the Midwest.

The product and application classes are done a couple different ways. We’ll host people [at] the factory. At times, we’ll partner with the dealer to do it at their facility – even where they will bring in end customers. So they’ll bring in some of their larger customers, and we’ll conduct tailored training there. Or a lot of times if we’re signing new dealers, we’ll just go to their facilities and host a couple-of-day training events right there with their sales teams locally.

With so many other brands and product lines out there that dealers can actively sell, how important is it for dealers to be as up to speed as possible on your brand?

I think it’s very important. For any manufacturer, you’re only as good in the market as your dealer. It’s up to us to train our dealers. Really, it’s up to us to make sure we’re putting a good amount of content out there. Keep them up to speed on all latest products, make sure they understand the features and benefits, how to apply them, how to troubleshoot them, install them, service – all those things.

We typically would hold schools early in the year and then late in the year in the fall. We hold anywhere from 12 to 18 schools throughout the year. Recently, with a lot of things going on, we’ve been increasing our online or video training. We’re doing more webinars and Zoom calls, which actually helps you reach a larger group. They work out quite well. It’s not as good as being in person, but we’ve been really increasing our content.

Is that an option that you would look into post-pandemic?

Yeah, we were already working on some of that. That’s part of the reason we had solid content available. But we learned it’s easy to catch people at different times. You can have classes in different time zones. You can prerecord some of the content and make it available online password-protected, so dealers can log in and watch it at their convenience. So it really does help.

What advice would you give to manufacturers wanting to invest more in dealer education and, on the flip side, dealers who would like to get more involved in these events?

[For] any manufacturer that’s planning or thinking about getting into training: It’s very critical, especially with the industry and the way things are today. There’s so much new technology. There’s so many new products and updated products that are coming to the market that you have to constantly push that message – and that information – out there to your dealers to keep them educated and keep them up to speed. Whether it’s hosting in-person schools or having field trainers, it’s definitely worth the investment.

From the dealer side, sometimes it’s hard when you have a large dealer network to get everyone trained. And [from] what we’ve seen: Some of our dealers over the last few years are selecting a couple of people from their organization to come to our factory schools. Sometimes, it’s financially difficult to send a dozen people to a school. They’ll send a couple of key people or folks that are pretty well-versed on products. Then, they’ll take those training tools back and actually do presentations to train their wider sales.

Dealers are always looking for training. They’re always looking for more content on products and tools and tips that will help them in the field, so that’s something that’s been effective here in the last two years.

Carly McFadden

About the Author:

Carly McFadden is associate editor at Pit & Quarry. She is a graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and a native of Cleveland, Ohio. McFadden can be reached at cmcfadden@northcoastmedia.net.

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