Reinforcing the Role of Training in Sales Success

DPA University provides online product training and soft-skills courses to the buying group's members.

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Distributors consistently tell us they need technically trained talent, but face challenges recruiting.

This was the impetus for DPA – Distributor Partners of America – officially unveiling DPA University, the group’s new online educational portal, which offers free product training and soft-skills courses to all DPA distributors and their employees.

Studies have shown that people are more likely to sell what they know; that’s why DPA invested in our distributors and manufacturers with this powerful technology.

In mid-2023, DPA partnered with BlueVolt, an industry-leading Learning Management System, to create a cutting-edge online learning platform for its membership. It was designed with the intention of enhancing employee knowledge, building DPA manufacturer brand awareness, and increasing sales.

There are currently more than 80 product specific courses on the platform, each ranging from five minutes to over an hour in duration.

This educational portal is free for all DPA members.

We are finding that “transactional salespeople” are quickly being replaced by “consultative sellers;” the end-user is willing to pay a more for expertise and problem-solving.

This is where DPA University comes in: there is a knowledge gap in the industry, and we want to help close that gap with these product training modules. DPA University courses can teach employees about which product to use for a specific application, nomenclature and part numbers, OSHA standards. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been with the company; product training is an integral part of sales growth and customer satisfaction.

Some of the participating manufacturers include Alfa Tools, AMMEX, Brighton-Best International, Coast Products, Diamond Products, ERB Safety, Impact Absorbents, Gatorback Tool Belts, International Fasteners, Louisville Ladder, Makita, Mi-T-M, Midland Metal, Murray Corporation, Newborn Brothers, PIP Safety, Radians, Rolair, Safewaze, Sqwincher, Surface Shields, United Abrasives, Voltec and many others.

In addition to product training, DPA distributors also have access to over 1,000 soft-skills courses that include customer service, sales training, workplace safety, leadership training, courses on finance, technology, time management, human resources and more.

“One of the great things about this technology is there’s something for everyone,” said Scott Rouse, DPA’s vice president of supplier development. “Depending upon your role with the company, a team member might be assigned a class on email etiquette, or the receptionist could be enrolled in courses pertaining to ‘customer service’ or ‘dealing with an unhappy customer.’ The professional development courses are applicable to any business or product channel and include everything from closing the sale to learning Microsoft Office.”

Each company employee can create their own unique account within DPA University. Owners and managers can then create and assign customized curriculum tracks and monitor course completions. Some courses reward graduates with “DPA Bucks” that can be redeemed for Amazon gift cards and other prizes. Additionally, most of the modules contain curriculum recaps and quizzes to ensure the knowledge is retained.

DPA University officially opened enrollment on Jan. 16 to the group’s Industrial, Safety and Automotive divisions — and the results have been promising: people are using it. We’ve received several emails and phone calls of appreciation, and also important feedback about what people would like to see and how we can make it even better.

What’s next for DPA University? The group is actively working with its manufacturers to add new content and training courses to its growing library. Whenever a new supplier participates, distributors are notified that those learning modules are available. In the coming months, the group plans to open enrollment to all distributors in its Janitorial/Sanitation and Packaging divisions. These would include courses such as “Selling Proprietary Hand Soap,” “Can Liners 101” and “How to Properly Mop a Floor.”

The group also intends to create sponsorship opportunities enhance the visibility of the group’s vendors, and to fund future updates to the technology.

Zac Haines is the CEO of Distributor Partners of America.

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