TUPELO • When he started working for PepsiCo 1982, Greg Langston thought it would be a short-time gig to earn a few bucks for college.
“I never left,” he said with a laugh some 39 years later.
Over the years, Langston, 58, learned how to do just about every job within the company’s Tupelo operation. Along that journey, he learned to sell and service Pepsi and its family of products very, very well.
He recently won the company’s Circle of Champions award, which is based on not only meeting, but exceeding, sales goals. And it’s Langston’s second time to win the award, having received the honor in 2002.
“This year, we had something called Service Advantage that’s for customer’s equipment and stuff, and my team took an aggressive approach to that and signed up a lot of customers,” he said.
The Chairman’s Circle of Champions Award is highly coveted, earned by only 0.1% of PepsiCo’s 198,000 employees worldwide. Langston was one of 198 people the company recognized with the honor this year.
In other words, Langston is among the best of the best working for a global powerhouse.
As of January 2021, PepsiCo included 23 brands with sales of more than $1 billion. The company has worldwide operations, distributing to more than 200 countries with sales of $70 billion. It is the second-largest food and beverage business in the world, behind Nestlé.
But selling to his customers — which include restaurants, schools and retailers — during the pandemic last year made things a little more challenging.
“It made it tougher to go and see folks, but people were more receptive because we were willing to come in,” he said. “A lot of times, when they couldn’t find somebody to work on a hot dog warmer or a tea urn or something, but we were able to do that type of work on their Pepsi repair.”
Langston never intended to stay long term with Pepsi in Tupelo. The Rienzi native was going to be just a helper on a route truck those many years ago, but the appeal of working for the company was more than his desire to do anything else.
“The company has been extremely good to me,” he said. “From helper, they then let me have my own route; then I was a pre-salesman; then a district manager; then an on-premise manager. I’ve been market equipment manager for the past 14 years.”
For what it’s worth, Langston also won a company sales award when he worked the other division for the company. So he’s a triple crown winner for Pepsi.
In his current duties, Langston has a vast swath of territory to service, from Jackson, Mississippi, north to Memphis, covering thousands of customers.
Langston said the key to his success has been to sell himself alongside the products and service.
“Customers want to know you’re going to be there for them when they need it,” he said. “People learn you and trust you, and your customers become like family. You just learn a lot of people.”
Customers, he said, make his job enjoyable.
“I love to go out and see them every day,” he said. “And it’s also the people I work with. I’ve got a great team of people surrounding me.”
And although he’s stayed with Pepsi a lot longer than he initially planned, Langston said he’s in no hurry to retire.
“I get asked every day how long I’m going to stay, and I tell them 12 more years, but I guess I know when the time is right,” he said. “But the time is not now.”