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By Bill Playford on Aug 14, 2011

How often is it that your non-automotive friends want to do something related to your automotive career? Besides helping take a few layers of rubber off a new Camaro SS, probably not

Colored lenses that often. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when some of my non-automotive friends enthusiastically asked me about going to the Driving Sales Executive Summit. That’s right: the same folks that silently plead for me to shut up about the car business actually want to attend a conference for the car business.

Despite the fact that this will read like a commercial, it’s not intended to. The fact of the matter is that I support any retail automotive event that seeks to help dealer personnel become better at what they do. While some events cover the basics, and others seek to introduce new solutions, DSES always offers a glimpse of the future. Moreover, it seems to take into account the consumers’ angle. Since I’m pushing a decade in the car business, and my experience is 99.9% digital, I don’t like being stuck in the echo-chamber. It’s one of the few automotive conferences that get me excited (and oddly enough, doesn’t have a military theme).

What makes it exciting? Two words: thought leaders. While other conferences take pride in featuring automotive legends, DSES consistently features up-and-comers from the business community at large. Although some may call it highbrow, it’s a place where you might get social media advice from someone with 900,000 followers versus someone with 900 followers. You might get business advice from leading business school faculty versus someone who inherited a turnkey operation. You might get technology advice from those who work in Silicon Valley versus those…who are, um…really good sales people. It offers the perspective of business professionals speaking about automotive versus automotive professionals speaking about business.

As you start to plan the fall conference season, and you are forced to pick & choose, evaluate what you need to get better at. Do you need to get a broad spectrum of basic concepts? Do you need solutions that can be implemented today? Do you need to evaluate new tools? Do you need to learn more about changing consumer habits? Do yourself a favor, and evaluate the speakers and their content before you decide which conference to choose from. Better yet, ask your non-retail-automotive friends (I know you have a few) who would they rather see. After all, you are not selling cars to car salespeople: You're selling cars to real people.

Post script: I have to give a shout-out to the folks at the OTHER conference for cajoling Erik Qualman into being the keynote speaker. Since you are probably like me, and will be attending both conferences, you'll get to see Gary Vaynerchuk, Aaron Strout, Jason Falls, and Erik Qualman speak (along with the usual suspects) in the same week! Who needs SXSW?!

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