Steven Reinemund, the former CEO of Pepsi and now dean of the Wake Forest Business School, led the charge when Pepsi started closing the gap with Coke during the Cola Wars. He also helped PepsiCo increase their market cap in ways that had never been done before. Reinemund was fanatical about building the highest performing sales organization on the face of the earth. He is well-known for his quote, “If you want development in products, you must first have development in people.” 



In the context of sales and sales coaching, “development in people” means that sales managers need to be more than cheerleaders and super sales people who swoop in to win the deal. This is especially challenging for organizations that lack a strategic approach to sales management and sales development. In these organizations, it’s common to promote high-performing sales people into management ranks, only to realize that the behaviors that drove strong individual performances could actually work against these stars in a management capacity. 

For example, sales managers who lack coaching skills and processes default to push “go get ’em” behaviors. These behaviors are reminiscent of a famous scene from the original Ghostbusters movie. The ghostbusters are chasing their very first ghost in the library in New York City and Bill Murray’s character says, “Hey, I know exactly what to do.” He sneaks up on the ghost and tries to talk to her: “Hey, who are you?” She replies, “Shh-hhh.” He goes back and they says, “Aw, the usual things aren’t working.” That’s when Bill Murray steps up and says, “I know right what to do.” He gets close and yells, “Get her!” Then the ghost chases them out and they run into the park. One of the ghostbusters says, “Get her? That was your plan? Get her?” 

Most sales managers who lack proper training push their people to “Get ‘em!” without providing sufficient direction on how to actually achieve the task. They are hoping that their sales people will miraculously figure it out on their own. Then, when this looks shaky, they turn to gimmicks such as contests, changes in the comp plan, motivational speakers and campaigns. While these can sometimes provide temporary bumps in performance, they are expensive and don’t create lasting change. 

This same type of poorly trained sales manager also can’t resist the urge to jump in and take over a deal, the way they did when they were sales people. In doing so, they relegate the sales person to a largely administrative role and remove the sense of accountability from the sales person. They also focus time and energy on winning the business as opposed to developing a sales team that can win the business. Again, this might drive short-term results but the super sales rep approach is not scalable or sustainable.



Sales managers that are good coaches will help sales people to identify where they want to be, then teach them how to draw on their own energy to get there. These coaches help sales people identify goals and obstacles that stand in their way. Coaches also provides motivation, support and solid guidance that will help the rep be successful. Also, rather than telling the sales person where they could use improvement, the coach will help them realize where the highest priority opportunities are for improvement. This creates a much greater sense of ownership and accountability in the sales person. Finally, the coach holds the sales person personally accountable for doing what’s necessary to accomplish agreed-upon improvements.

This approach helps drive meaningful and sustainable sales performance improvement. It also helps create a tremendous sense of loyalty to the sales manager and organization. Finally, it increases the likelihood that the sales person will be more successful and stay with the organization longer.


You have written an excellent piece. I do not say that lightly

VP of SALES, $3 Billion Revenue Co.

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