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Rising Stars: Living and Loving the World of Sales

By Kristin Eisenzopf

For anyone that meets Steve, it doesn't take long to realize that he's personable, passionate, motivated, and just great to be around. It's these qualities, coupled with ambition, charisma, professionalism, and optimism that help drive the continued success Steve sees in his career and his current job as a Sales Manager for Coca-Cola Enterprises.

Name: Steve Crudo
Years Out of College: 10+
Title: Home Market Sales Manager
Company: Coca-Cola Enterprises
First Steps

Deciding to take an opportunity that presented itself to him, Steve embarked on his career without attending a 4-year college. Steve truly enjoyed his first job as a merchandiser for a gourmet food company. He was able to learn hands-on about the industry and the professionalism and paths that would lead to success in it. His first job groomed him for his next job with a competitor who sold the same brands, flavors, and items. "I realized that I wanted to go in the direction of working with people, creating value and solutions for customers, building rapport with them and becoming instrumental in their success. I realized I was very ambitious and always wanted more out of myself to excel to the next level."

From Then to Now

Without a degree, Steve had to utilize his talents to get to where he is today. "I present myself with integrity, create trust and build loyalties. I always maintain a positive and upbeat personality. I do this by holding myself accountable for things done well as well as things that need improvement or could have been done better." Steve makes it a point to take ownership and follow through with what he says he's going to do. "I do my best to be a morally good and honest person." It is this attitude that helps Steve rise to every occasion and build relationships. In sales, of course, this is a key component of his role and he is a natural at it.

Several years selling in various industries made Steve realize he was eager to get back into the food and beverage industry. This is when he got a call from Coca-Cola Enterprises--the moment he would ultimately look back on and consider his big break. He went into the interview, received an offer, and took the position. "Upon receiving the job, I went into it with a frame of mind of doing everything I could to move up the ladder as quickly as possible. With that daily attitude, I've been promoted twice in less than four years and now manage 28 sales reps."

In those years, Steve has been moved three times within the Coco-Cola Enterprise--from Boston to San Jose to San Raphael. At each farewell party, his coworkers gave him a lot of praise and positive feedback. "It was a good feeling to know I did a good job and was going away on a great note." But Steve never works alone: "It wouldn't be right for me to take all the credit. Each and every person I worked with in each location was a tremendous help to me as well. I have been and continue to be surrounded by great, successful, and positive people."

Challenges Faced

"Everyday is a challenge, has been a challenge and hopefully will continue to be a challenge." As a sales manager, Steve is responsible for managing a lot of different personalities and building trust with each individual--not only those who report directly to him, but also those that report to his subordinates. Steve has to keep track of the many company initiatives happening at once--new item launches, local promotions, overlay promotions, price points and increases, customer concerns, staffing. Prioritization and multi-tasking are key.

My Experience

Steve's typical day starts bright and early. His alarm goes off around 5am, and shortly after he heads out either to the office to handle any administrative work or out to spend time in the trade with his team. "Developing and coaching are two key initiatives, so it is imperative for me to be with my people, getting them ready for their next step."

It's hard for Steve to identify one thing that excites him about the job. "There is NEVER a dull moment, and ALWAYS something to that can be done to impact our business, my team, my own professional career, or someone else's career. I enjoy seeing people on my team be successful, and move up."

As a sales manager and leader of a team, being an inspiration is a key component of his role. It takes motivation to help get the team through the ups and downs of numbers, goals, etc. "I don't ask of anything I wouldn't do myself. I stay upbeat and positive no matter what the situation. I focus on what can be done, not what is in the way and holding me up from being successful at whatever task I am trying to accomplish." Steve only hopes that his work ethic and his efforts to help people recognize and perfect their strengths will have an impact on someone.

Next Steps

While Steve has seen great success in just a few years, his ambitious nature keeps him looking ahead. He would like to advance to a more corporate level of sales by calling on key accounts or headquarters. Specifically, he would like to be more closely tied to the sales role again, such as Manufacturer Representative, or Food Broker Representative calling on distributors.

While Steve doesn't see school in the picture right now, he wouldn't mind going back to get his bachelor's degree. The lack of a degree is proving to be a potential obstacle with some companies when it comes to consideration for senior level advancement.

Did I Ever Think I'd End Up Here?

Steve is where he wants to be. He attributes his success to being focused and approaching each day with a goal of where he wants to go. Is he surprised? "Not one bit, and there is only up from here."

Advice for Others

Steve is full of great advice, but its much of what he learned from his parents at an early age that seems to stick. "Always be respectful first, treat people how they treat you, and don't expect to be treated any certain way. Look past ethnicity and religion."

Ironically, while Steve feels very confident in the steps he took to get where he is today and has been very successful, if he could change one thing, he would have stayed in school to obtain a bachelor's degree. While he doesn't necessarily feel it is the road you have to take, he does believe that not having a degree will hold you back because 1) it is such a heavily-weighted requirement amongst job seekers today and 2) because it is often an obstacle in advancing to a senior level.

What advice would Steve give other students starting on a similar path? "I would say never be afraid to succeed. Don't ever doubt that you can do or achieve a specific initiative."

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