Bad Rep? A Q&A with Jamie Reidy

Jamie Reidy wrote the book on how to slack off as a pharma sales rep. Now, the sales manager's nightmare unveils more scams, sizes up the corporate selling culture—and reveals what finally made him care.
Oct 01, 2005

TO HEAR JAMIE REIDY TELL IT, HE'S ALWAYS BEEN THE SORT of slacker who succeeds. He did enough work to get decent grades in high school and at Notre Dame University, which he attended on an ROTC scholarship. After graduation, First Lieutenant Reidy spent three years on easy duty, much of it in Japan, where he chafed at military discipline but stayed out of bunkers, except on the golf course. When force reductions allowed him to leave the Army early, he jumped at the chance, even though he had no idea what his next job would be. Which is how he happened to be unemployed, living at his parents' New Jersey home, and answering the phone in boxer shorts when a Pfizer recruiter called.

Jamie Reidy
Reidy stumbled into a job at the world's largest pharmaceutical company, seduced more by the $40,000 starting salary than any desire to help patients. What he discovered there was an oddly

familiar military culture with rigorous training, rigid sales scripts, and an unyielding requirement to call on 40 doctors a week. But he soon realized that no one checked up on him. He worked from home, and no one knew if he started his day at 10 a.m. or even went AWOL—as long as he made his quota and enough doctors signed for samples every week. Within months, he had found a new way to spend weekdays at home in his boxers: He launched on the less-than-sterling career he chronicled in his tell-all book, Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman. He started work late and often took off at three in the afternoon. He persuaded doctors to sign undated sample receipts, which allowed him to fake sales calls. Once, he traveled to London, England, without taking vacation time, even pretending to be in an Indiana parking lot when he returned his boss's calls.

Excerpt from Hard Sell
Of course, that only worked because he was good at selling pharmaceuticals. To his own surprise, he was promoted to Pfizer's new urology division, where he eventually—based on sales recorded two months after he quit—became the number-one Viagra sales rep in the nation.

In October of 2000, Reidy began a second career in pharmaceutical sales, which he took much more seriously. He often worked a full day selling oncology drugs for Eli Lilly, where he and his sales partner also reached number one in the country. The company promoted him to oncology sales trainer—his favorite job in pharma—one he likens to the roving batting instructors of minor-league baseball. Lilly fired him when Hard Sell was published in March of this year. His next book, about the Lilly oncology years, will be called Hard Feelings. Reidy lives in Manhattan Beach, California. He is writing a screenplay, and closing a deal for the movie rights to Hard Sell.

First, let's talk about the slacking. Are there stories about skipping work at Pfizer that aren't in the book? Could this book have been 500 pages long?

There are other stories I left out. Some of them I just forgot about. Like, I was at an Army reunion in Arkansas and my friend said, "What the hell? How come you didn't tell the story about the flowers?" I had completely forgotten about our first Army reunion in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was a Friday and I was playing hooky, but I sent flowers to an office to celebrate their grand opening. I called the florist in Modesto, California, and placed the order there. So of course it looked like I went in the flower shop and ordered.

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