Mickey and Minnie can teach plenty about your next informational interview

Mickey and Minnie. These lovely mice evoke smiles across generations and are important gems within the Disney organization. Millions of people across the globe take their families to see these famous characters at Disney World. But what brings customers back again and again to Disney’s signature theme park?  Simply put, it is the way that Disney treats its guests (Disney language for customers) from the moment they enter.  Interestingly enough, the pharmaceutical industry has taken notice and is successfully using Disney love for its proper guest: the prescribing doctor!

The Wall Street Journal, “Drug reps soften their sales pitches,” on January 10, 2012, reports that doctors are truly tired of pharmaceutical sales representatives “selling” to them with long lists of facts and data on why their drug is the best.  In showing a true about-face in sales strategy one drug sales representative said “We used to come in with our own agenda: What can I accomplish today? We’ve turned that all around. It’s what the doctor talks about.” The focus on the physician and the physician’s needs is clear.  “Increasing physician satisfaction, it turns out, is a much better way to promote a pharmaceutical agent than simply telling them to write more prescriptions or what the benefits are,” said David Ricks, president of Lilly’s global business unit.

Eli Lilly took its sales force to Disney’s Animal Kingdom to watch how Disney cast members (Disney language for employees) treat incoming guests.  The Disney approach is welcoming, where the treatment of each guest is engaging, open and friendly.  Since Eli Lilly changed its approach to doctors, satisfaction by doctors is up from 60% to 85%.  Additionally, sales of certain drugs are higher, because of this relationship based approach.

You, too, can take a page from Mickey and Minnie in your upcoming informational interview. Here’s how to treat your informational interviewee as a real Disney guest and use a relationship based approach:

  • Be your guest! – Make sure to set up the meeting at their location of choice. As they are your guest, make sure you pay for coffee, lunch etc. Ensure the entire experience is easy for them.
  • Have a positive outlook and a smile – Too often people conducting informational interviews are sharing negative information about their current situation.  You need to treat the conversation as a real interview.  Look at the glass half-full on your past employers, bosses and experiences. A genuine smile will keep the conversation moving.
  • Be curious and show interest – The person you are talking to has a wealth of information, opinions and experiences.  Ask about them and show interest in their career path. This could open up all kinds of conversation topics about their challenges, team and views on their sector/industry.
  • Treat it as a learning opportunity – Your personality, skills and motivations are an important reason for why you will land your next job.  By entering an informational interview with the mindset that it is a learning opportunity, you set yourself up to learn important information and to see if there is a fit for you with their organization. Be sure to prepare your questions in advance.
  • Show respect for the person’s time – When asking for an informational interview, be aware that the person is likely busy.  Make a small ask, such as 20 minutes.  You are more likely to get a response to your request the smaller it is.
  • Ask for advice – People often treat a potential informational interview as a box to check on their way to a job.  This transactional approach leads you nowhere.  When reaching out to an individual for an informational interview, be sure to ask for advice. It is a soft ask and most likely will be accepted.
  • Double thank you – The art of the well crafted thank you is so important. What did you learn from the conversation? What are your next steps based on that conversation? You have 24 hrs to send an email thank you and then follow it up with a written letter. You can never thank a person enough!

Your next career change could be one person away.  Be inspired by Mickey and Minnie so that you treat your informational interview as a special event. Doing so will be a great boon to your career!

To learn more about the art of informational interviewing click to view my career webinar “Interview Like a Talk Show Host – Land the Job!”