Read Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman Online

Authors: Jamie Reidy

Tags: #Non-Fiction, #Business, #Azizex666

Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman (4 page)

BOOK: Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman
ads

We spoke no more about pharmaceuticals. Twenty minutes later, we both seemed surprised when Brandon Riley, Class of ’68, knocked on the door, indicating that our interviewing time was up.

“Where do you want to work?” the regional manager asked. This caught me off guard; I had been readying myself for the all-important “Do you have any questions for me?” question.

“Uh … South Bend,” I replied, thinking the words sounded strange. He smacked the desk.

“Sounds good,” he said, standing to shake my hand. “Good luck out there.” I hadn’t even gotten the chance to close him.

That was it. I got a job in pharmaceutical sales, not because of my qualifications, but because the HR guy went to Notre Dame, and the man who did the hiring had spent three days at an obscure army post in Japan forty years before.

I ended up losing a girlfriend because I took a job I hadn’t sought—in a town I hadn’t considered—all because my daddy told me to do so.

CHAPTER

Two

BOOT CAMP

H
AVING BEEN HIRED WITHOUT SALES EXPERIENCE
or a science background, I was in serious need of training. Fortunately, Pfizer took its training very seriously.

Although the circumstances could not have appeared more different, I felt the same queasiness in my stomach walking into the hotel for Pfizer Initial Training as I had experienced five years earlier while climbing onto a bus headed for boot camp at Fort Knox.

The two situations were not without similarities. For starters, just as I hadn’t planned on working for Pfizer, I’d never intended to join the army. Having put my family on the hook for $45,000 in unexpected tuition costs by quitting
navy
ROTC three weeks into my freshman year—because it “was a hassle”—I felt a nagging sense of guilt, one that my more business-minded classmates did a superb job of heightening. “Dude, your dad is a broker? He must’ve gotten
wrecked
by the stock market crash in
’87!”
Uh, yeah, I guess I remember his being a bit moodier than normal that autumn.
Apparently, at the time, there were more important issues on Planet Jamie—trying not to set a school record for dropped passes and wondering why none of the cheerleaders would date me, to name two.

After becoming the fifth of five Reidys to recognize the drain I’d become on our family, I applied for a two-year army ROTC scholarship in 1990. I didn’t receive one, but I was given the opportunity to spend six fun-filled weeks in Kentucky, competing against six hundred other juniors-to-be for a scholarship. That June, the only thing heavier than the humidity in the Blue Grass State was the weight on my shoulders. I rallied, though, and won the $20,000, which my mom promptly spent on a new car. Which I was not allowed to drive for a year.

I didn’t feel any pressure as I entered Pfizer training—I already had the job this time—but I did have the same “What the hell am I doing?” chorus running through my head. Curiously, boot camp and Pfizer training each lasted six weeks, an ominous parallel. In both places, I was told when to eat, and my dining options were severely limited.

The strangest similarity, though, concerned my parents’ behavior prior to my departures. Drinks in hand while reclining on chaise lounges, my mother and father somehow concluded that what I needed most in my final hours of unemployment was to hear
every
sales tip they had ever learned. They could have filled an entire Ken Burns
documentary called
Sales.
Listening to them drone on, I flashed back to driving with my dad to the airport for my flight to Fort Knox. He talked continuously for the forty-five-minute trip, relating tales from his Marine Corps boot camp, tips on how to handle drill instructors, and so forth. He meant well then, just as they both had good intentions in the backyard lecture series, but these occasions called for less, not more. Having learned through years of product testing that my parents hadn’t come equipped with a “less” switch, I decided to get to Pfizer training early.

It didn’t take long to get there. In a nice twist of fate, training was held at the Marriott Hotel in Park Ridge, New Jersey—ten minutes from my folks’ house. This proved extremely convenient when my fellow trainees and I wanted to do laundry for free or enjoy gratis Oreo Blizzards courtesy of my sister, Anne-Marie, who worked at the local Dairy Queen.

A cacophony of voices greeted me at the lobby of the hotel; 150 salespeople make quite a racket. Sizing up the crowd, two thoughts came to mind: “Wow, more guys who look like me!” and “Check out all the babes!” As I skirted the group’s edge looking for a place to break in, I sensed a commonality among my classmates, a uniformity that seemed familiar but which I could not place. Men and women of differing nationalities and ages filled the room, but they had something identifying them as a group, as part of the same team. Then it hit me: Everyone
was
in uniform,
yet another similarity between the army and Pfizer.

Not that a camouflage-clad regiment had invaded the Marriott. Rather, the males were dressed alike, as were the females: “business casual.” Resembling the cast of extras in a Dockers commercial, the guys—myself included—all sported golf shirts or button-downs with their pressed khakis. The ladies appeared to have been invited to a different party. They wore business suits with scarves (Pfizer girls love their scarves), unless they were from California, in which case the fashion daredevils traded pants that matched their suit jackets for skirts that matched their suit jackets. Later that night, a woman explained the disparity in dress in this way: “It’s total bullshit, to be completely honest. There’s just no way for us to dress casual without looking slutty, so we have to wear what we’d normally wear to work, which means that even though they say ‘business casual,’ it might as well be ‘business standard’ ’cause that’s how it ends up. Yet, you guys get to look like you just walked off the eighteenth green.” This would not be the only time in my career that I would hear, in no uncertain terms, about the injustices suffered by women in our male-dominated world.

Having exhausted all delaying tactics, I took a deep breath and approached the first cluster I saw. Extending my right hand toward an attractive, dark-haired woman, I leaned in, read the name tag hanging from a cord around her neck—yet
another
military parallel; everyone had to
wear name tags—and introduced myself to my first Pfizer pfriend. This began a series of introductions that lasted approximately three days. With few exceptions, every one of my 149 classmates was impossibly friendly. I had never spent time with so many people who were as chatty as me, and it was fairly annoying. When would I get to talk?

My chance arrived soon enough, allowing me quickly to shove one of my size-twelve loafers squarely into my mouth. Standing in a group of five, someone tossed out the conversation starter, “How about those interviews?” Three people rolled their eyes and nodded knowingly. Not sure why they had nodded knowingly but certain that I did not want to be the only one not doing so, I nodded knowingly, too. “One after another and they just kept getting harder,” a woman offered, sparking a flurry of comments around the circle, all of which focused on the number of interviews each of these people had endured. Finally, a guy trumped everyone by revealing he’d had
seven
interviews. Jaws dropped in empathetic horror. I could no longer contain myself.

“Yeah,” I began, wanting to join the crowd. “Mine was a
killer
.” Four confused looks came my way.

“What do you mean, ‘Yours
was
a killer’?” the topic originator asked. “Didn’t you have more than one?” The eyes of the group bored holes in my forehead.
Bridge out. Turn back! Turn back!

“Uh, no,” I laughed. Alone. “I had only the one.” Word of the “one-interview guy” spread faster than pinkeye
through a kindergarten. Had I not snagged a beer cooler from my dad’s garage the next afternoon—fifteen of us played volleyball after class every day—I may not have made any friends.

Ah, if only that had been my sole blunder in the early days. When I met Gina, the director of initial training, who, with her blond bob, glasses, and striped button-down shirt, looked as though she had just fallen out of a Brooks Brothers ad, I did not thank her for the opportunity or ask for a pearl of advice on successfully completing what would surely be a challenging month and a half. Ignoring all the signs screaming “Caution: ultraconservative ahead!,” I told her, “The beers in the hotel bar are four dollars apiece! I was thinking maybe you could talk to the manager and explain that, with over a hundred and fifty of us drinking here for the next six weeks, we deserve a Pfizer discount.” Gina peered through her glasses at me for a long moment before suggesting that perhaps the price of alcohol should not have been the most important thing on my mind on the eve of training. Apparently, she did not see the humor in this. There was another person who did not guffaw at my request: my district sales manager, Bruce. My
Mormon
district sales manager.

Of course, I didn’t realize he was Mormon right away. If I had, maybe I would’ve tried to cut down on my cursing a bit. Not that it would have been easy; after three years in the army, I couldn’t complete a sentence without tossing out, at a bare minimum, three “F Bombs.” See,
soldiers didn’t listen to anything that was not preceded by and finished by a profanity, preferably a strong one. “Shit” barely rated as a curse in the army. Conversations with troops went something like this:

Me: Sergeant Santiago, did you get me the colonel’s personnel file like I asked?
Sergeant Santiago: (No reaction at all. Since I hadn’t followed standard operating procedure by saying “fuck” within the first five words of the sentence, he did not process the question.)
Me: Sergeant Santiago, where the fuck is the colonel’s personnel file?
Santiago (Head turned toward me, eyes registering the briefest recognition): Did you say something, sir?
Me: Holy fuck! I need the fucking colonel’s fucking personnel file. Fucking Santiago, why is it not on my fucking desk like I fucking told you fucking yesterday?
Santiago: Look under the
Sports Illustrated,
sir.

So, having succeeded in that colorful world, I transferred that style to the real world, where it wasn’t necessarily embraced.

I hadn’t met many Mormons in the army, and there hadn’t been a large number of Latter-Day Saints majors at Notre Dame, but I was familiar with the basics: They were all great quarterbacks from Utah who lived
according to some
Footloose
-esque rules prohibiting dancing, drinking, and fun, in general. Although Bruce had never enjoyed a cocktail with me or cursed in my presence, he didn’t fit “the profile.” A taller, bug-eyed version of Michael J. Fox, he displayed a materialistic vein, wearing Polo clothes as though his dad was Ralph Lauren. He could quote any line from
Raising Arizona
and Andrew “Dice” Clay’s first HBO special. Finally, his extensive music collection contained lots of angry young men (the Cult and Nirvana) and few happy young men (the Tabernacle Choir). This guy was a Mormon? Regardless, complaining about “four fucking dollars for a Bud Light bottle” was not the best way to begin a career with a new manager. Fortunately, I was able to blame my fellow trainees for my gaffe. I mean, one of the, like, eight hundred other Mormons in my class could have warned me.

Pfizer
loved
its Mormons. Allegedly, more than one-third of Pfizer’s entire sales force could sing the BYU fight song. I heard different theories explaining this high percentage, with the best one stating, “If you can sell religion door to door in a foreign language, you can sell
anything.

Almost equaling the number of Mormons, though, was the number of former military officers in the group, hence the bevy of short haircuts I noticed upon entering the hotel. I commented on the coincidence that Pfizer had hired all these ex-military guys, and one of our trainers, a former naval officer, revealed that it was no
accident. “We need self-starters, people who can be counted on to get up every morning and go to work and be trusted with an expense account and a car. People who are used to managing people, but will now manage only themselves.” This would later prove to be a
teeny
crack in the system.

Pfizer prided itself on being a company for the twenty-first century, and the demographic makeup of the remainder of my class reflected that attitude. In addition to the Mormons, military guys, and attractive women, there were sizable percentages of black, Asian, and Indian people. Our trainers joked that the sales force was comprised of the “Three M’s”—Military, Minorities, and Mormons—and it was easy to believe. An extremely diversified group entered “boot camp” that day in August 1995, emerging six weeks later not as trained killers, but as trained closers.
Highly
trained closers.

ADS
15.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
READ BOOK DOWNLOAD BOOK

Other books

Princess In Denim by McKnight, Jenna
Grey by Jon Armstrong
Tiranosaurio by Douglas Preston
Salvaged (MC Romance) by Winters, Brook
A Fair Maiden by Joyce Carol Oates
Crooked by Brian M. Wiprud
SpaceCorp by Ejner Fulsang