PR Salutes: Hats off to senior sales reps

November 1, 1998

Pharmaceutical Representative

Have you ever wondered what pharmaceutical sales was like 50 years ago. Do you think it was vastly different or quite similar? Well, it was a little different back then.

Have you ever wondered what pharmaceutical sales was like 50 years ago. Do you think it was vastly different or quite similar? Well, it was a little different back then. Sales reps still traveled - leaving home on Monday morning and returning Friday or Saturday. Sales reps furnished their own cars and were reimbursed 2 cents per mile and $1.00 per day for operating expenses. Even if you were the number one rep in your district, there was no commission. Training? That was something you did yourself. But being fashionable was still part of the job, and if you were a male (and most of the sales reps then were), that meant wearing a fedora.

Ed Holscher, Parke-Davis

That is a glimpse of what pharmaceutical sales was like when Ed Holscher began his career as a sales rep for Parke-Davis on October 2, 1944. "At this time it was extremely difficult to find salespeople," Holscher said. "The pharmaceutical sales profession was not considered a desirable career. Pharmacy degrees were required until the mid 1950s, and not all pharmacists made good salespeople."

"We didn't have a lot of coaching or training in those days," Holscher said. "You saw your boss maybe once or twice a year, and you were pretty much on your own to develop your presentations, selling skills and itinerary."

Holscher married his wife Lois on October 3, 1948. Extensive travel was required then, and the busy life of a sales rep produced tensions in his family. "My dedication to the job frequently put her in second position, which was wrong," Holscher said. "I recognize that now. Many times, [Lois] was short-changed in our married life just because I was dedicated to doing the job for Parke-Davis. She put up with a lot of late dinners and a lot of spoiled steaks."

In 1964, Holscher was promoted to regional manager. He and Lois and their two daughters moved to St. Louis. While in St. Louis, Holscher had the opportunity to hire and train individuals locally and in the field.

"In St. Louis, I had the good fortune of hiring some important people for Parke-Davis - Harry Oberkfell, who became president of Parke-Davis and Jim LaMartina [director of training and development for Parke-Davis and president of NSPST]. They have been stars, and I had the opportunity to get them started. They made me feel important."

Holscher's district manger, Matt Slappey, said Holscher has made an impact on him. "His word is gold," said Slappey. "There is nobody else with that kind of experience. He is the perfect gentleman and team player on all occasions." According to Slappey, Holscher has lots of experience and is always willing to share it with reps.

When asked what he would share with his younger, less experienced peers, Holscher offered wisdom on how to make it in the field.

"This is an unsupervised type of job," he said. "If you are not a self-starter, self-motivated and disciplined with time, you will probably be less than successful."

"If [reps] are not organized and don't learn those kinds of things in their training program, they may flounder and perhaps not make it," he continued. "If you can forget the commission, [and] the salary and [focus on] how your product and services can help the physician, or even better, a patient who is going to benefit from your product, then everything else will fall into place. Unless you see the user [doctor and patient] as the beneficiary of your product's features and benefits, you're not really doing the job justice."

Even after 54 years in the industry, Holscher still finds the time to give back to the community that has given so much to him. Holscher and his wife have been Bible study teachers in the Lutheran church for more than 40 years. Holscher also volunteers at Open Arms, a hospital that works with fragile babies, many of whom are born prematurely, addicted to cocaine, are unwanted or are born into a family that can't care the child.

"We take them into open arms and give them 24-hour care," he said. "We bond with them and work with adoption agencies that are involved with the organization. With love and tender care, you can see them blossom."

In the past, Holscher has also worked with the Alzheimer's Association, one of his favorite volunteer activities. "Thinking of other people instead of myself makes me feel better at the end of the day," he said.

So, to what does Holscher contribute his long-term success? "Well, in a nutshell, if people are looking for how to be successful, they have to work," he said. "I have good work ethics. I'm concerned about skills and personality, but work ethics have always been a high priority."

Enthusiasm and a proper sense of priorities have also carried Holscher a long way. "I'm so enthused about this business and the work that I'm doing," he said. "It's been such a terrific career for me, that I brag about it whenever I can. And it helps other people.

"Even though it's a long work day - 50 or 60 hours a week - there's still time to do community activities [and put] family first."

Jim Bogue, Pfizer Inc.

James Bogue has changed in some ways since he joined Pfizer 50 years ago. In those days, he loved to hunt and fish. Today, he said, he prefers growing things to killing things, so in his spare time he joins his wife, Doris, in their garden. There isn't a lot of spare time though. Because in one big way Bogue hasn't changed. At 78, he still represents products for Pfizer.

Why? "I still enjoy it," he said in his straightforward way. "I'll keep doing it as long as I keep enjoying it, and as long as I keep getting the job done. I still call on doctors just like always. I call on anywhere from 15 to 30 doctors a week. Of course, some of them are the grandchildren of the doctors I used to call on when I started."

Bogue grew up in tiny Falkville, AL, and spent most of his life in the northern part of his home state. A graduate of Memphis State University, he went to work for Roerig as a sales rep in 1947. Pfizer bought Roerig in 1953, in part because of the strength of its sales force, which was considerably larger than Pfizer's. Bogue was a natural salesman, and he worked hard. At one point his territory covered all of Alabama and Georgia and part of South Carolina.

He and Doris, who shared the driving and helped keep his books, would pack up the car, close up the house, and hit the road for a month of sales calls. Bogue works out of Decatur, AL, today. And instead of covering three states alone, he has one Pfizer sales rep 30 miles away in one direction and another 50 miles away in the other direction.

Pfizer promoted Bogue several times over the years. He became a supervisor, then a district manager. Eventually he was based in Atlanta, in charge of most of the United States east of the Mississippi. He has trained many other Pfizer reps - sometimes officially, more often unofficially, by setting examples or offering a quiet word of advice when needed. One of his grateful trainees was Hank McCrorie, now the senior vice president of sales in U.S. Pharmaceuticals.

"Jim Bogue certainly played a role in my success," Hank said. "He provided a lot of encouragement and a lot of sound advice. And he did a lot of role-playing with me to get me ready for my first big sales presentation."

Hank said there's no telling how far Bogue could have gone in the company if he hadn't decided to step out of management. But Bogue is an extraordinary guy, Hank said: "He's always been very comfortable with himself, and with who he is."

After his son, James Jr., was born, Bogue wanted to spend less time on the road and more time with his family. In a rare move for 1960, he asked to be reassigned as a sales rep, and he went home to Decatur to spend time in the woods with his son, hunting, fishing and camping. Bogue helped with Boy Scouts, and he and James Jr. spent many autumn Saturday afternoons together rooting for Bear Bryant and the University of Alabama football team. Looking back, Bogue has no regrets about stepping off the management track. "It was absolutely the right thing for me," he said, and he credits the time he had with his son for the close relationship he has today with James Jr., a cardiovascular perfusionist in Rome, GA.

The importance of personal relationships dominated Bogue's professional life, too. "I really enjoyed, and still enjoy, my professional relationships with the doctors," Bogue said.

Bogue has no plans to stop building relationships with physicians. "I really appreciate that Pfizer has let me have such a long career," he said. "There aren't a lot of companies that would let me do this. The other reps I know are envious of this company's kindness. It makes me think Pfizer believes I've done a pretty good job. But you know what? It's been fun."

Bogue paused, reeling in his listener. "And you know what else?" he asked. "It's still fun." PR

Jim Bogue's story was originally published in "Team," Pfizer's internal sales publication.

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