Nov. 6, 2021

Katrina Johnson Discusses Where Business Development and Neuroscience Meet

Katrina Johnson Discusses Where Business Development and Neuroscience Meet

Katrina Johnson shares her business development insights pulled from years of experience and her background in social and neuroscience. Learn what it takes to convince a skeptic, why creating a habit around communication is the key to business...

Katrina Johnson shares her business development insights pulled from years of experience and her background in social and neuroscience. Learn what it takes to convince a skeptic, why creating a habit around communication is the key to business development success, and a simple framework for training your mind to be less reactive and more focused on just doing the right thing instead of worrying about the outcome.


Mo asks Katrina Johnson: Tell us the moment when you realized that business development was good and worth doing?

  • Katrina’s big aha moment was when she realized that the skill of business development can be learned. She started in academia and fell into consulting almost by accident, and she enjoyed her consulting work but she felt like her hands were tied. As a subcontractor, Katrina wasn’t able to deliver the work in the way that she thought would be the most powerful for her clients.
  • It wasn’t until Katrina met Mo and learned about the GrowBIG system did she realize what was missing from her work.
  • With a background in neural science, Katrina knew that the research and material were pointing her in the right direction, but in some ways digging into the research was also a curse. Katrina sometimes falls into the habit of using research as a way to hide and avoid putting it into practice.
  • This is where her second big realization came into play, and that she had some underlying issue that was preventing her from executing. She decided to start off small and refine the process from a place of action.
  • She began by going to networking events and trying to follow up with people, most of those efforts didn’t pan out though. She landed a few speaking engagements with small groups of people and used that as a basis to create a relationship with people.
  • She embraced deeper relationships rather than looser connections and in doing so stretched herself outside of her comfort zone.
  • She doesn’t set out to get meetings with important decision makers, but that often flows from naturally deepening relationships with people and being helpful.
  • Katrina learned a lot about the value of targeting over the last year. She realized that when she can work with the management of an organization in some combination of assessment and coaching she’s at her best.


Mo asks Katrina Johnson: What is your personal definition of business development?

  • Katrina likes helping people. For her, business development is about cultivating opportunities to help people.
  • Business development doesn’t always have a great reinforcement mechanism, but having a process established makes it much more consistent.
  • Creating a habit around communication that makes it simpler, more meaningful, and consistent is what has helped Katrina stay the course.
  • Using the tools and communication methods that your client uses is crucial. Katrina tries to make her communications quick and useful when touching base with someone and on whatever platform works for them. Lots of little touches can be extremely powerful relationship builders.
  • Katrina carves out time on Mondays to reach out to people, but she also has notes on her calendar and a Protemoi list that help her keep track of communications. Just having a list of names of the most important people to you can be enough to encourage you to take action.


Mo asks Katrina Johnson: What is your favorite business development strategy from the Snowball System or GrowBIG training?

  • Instead of a favorite, Katrina wants to emphasize one strategy that often goes unrecognized for how important it is, which is targeting.
  • Targeting is critical to business development and as a student of minimalism, Katrina is always thinking about trade-offs. Minimalists understand trade-offs as an inherent part of life, but instead of thinking about what needs to be sacrificed, it’s more about what to double down on.
  • The subconscious emotional layer is what makes targeting tricky. We are evolutionarily primed to avoid loss and are naturally averse to subtraction.
  • We only have so much time in our life. We can’t just take on more, we have to target and figure out what are the things to go big on and what to let go of.
  • Mo had a similar experience with the training GrowBIG. Every time he refined his method and message and who he wanted to serve by letting go of certain markets, it was a terrifying change but resulted in incredible growth over time.
  • Working with a small niche can be scary, but it often leads to greater success as your effort is more refined and focused within your skillsett.
  • When Katrina is doing her job well, she’s often not operating at the forefront. In an ideal world, her clients are getting better and she eventually works herself out of a job.
  • When someone comes to Katrina with a referral that isn’t within her core focus, she always sets up a call with the person and leverages her own referral network to help that person. She always circles back to the person that refers them to let them know they’ve been taken care of.


Mo asks Katrina Johnson: What is a business development story that you are particularly proud of?

  • Katrina’s story occurred five years ago when she went on a trip to meet a candidate for a President role at a textile manufacturer. Katrina knew she was skeptical, but didn’t realize how skeptical.
  • After the candidate was hired, Katrina ended up working with her for the first six months and through her unique knowledge of how that particular organization functioned was able to help considerably.
  • Her relationship with this one skeptical person led to additional relationships and business.
  • To win her over Katrina did three things. She didn’t make it about her and take the skepticism personally, she got curious about why she was skeptical and what it could teach her, and she waited for holes to open for her to go deeper.
  • It’s easy to take offense from skepticism, but Katrina had to learn early on as a physician that you have to earn respect.
  • You can’t look at things from a scientific perspective when you’re stuck in your own head. Being curious about the root of the person’s skepticism makes it objective and less about you.
  • Being candid with the client and honest about her perspectives was key to building trust and winning the skeptic over.
  • Divorce yourself from the outcome and focus on doing the right thing.
  • Quieting the anxious and emotional part of us can lead to more creativity and effectiveness. Focusing on process instead of outcomes is how you can control that.


Mo asks Katrina Johnson: If you could tape a message to your younger self about business development, what would it say?

  • It would simply be one thing: Learn to walk the dog.
  • When someone walks a dog, we assume that the person is in control, but that’s not always the case. Our brains work in a similar way.
  • The dogwalker is the prefrontal cortex, and the dog is the limbic system that responds and detects threats. The big question is who is in control?
  • The truth is that the dog is in control most of the time. Everytime we stick to known associates instead of unknown prospects, or when we expect every email to get a response, the dog is in control.
  • The sooner you can learn to walk the dog, the sooner you get to do the work you care about on your own terms.
  • Even with the best tools and strategies at our disposal, most of the time we are only half as effective as we could be because we are being dragged around by our limbic system.
  • It’s not an issue of ego, as much as it is the part of your brain that has evolved to perceive threats. Threats aren’t always tigers, they can also be getting rejected, feeling embarrassed, or losing status. The first job is to get out of your own way so the tools and strategies can do the work.
  • Katrina focuses on awareness first about her emotions and experiences. A quick, simple label can be very effective in reducing the limbic system’s response. Reframing it and considering other reasons something may or may not have happened makes it less emotional.
  • Give your emotions context, label them, and reframe them. The more you do it, the better you will get at it. This is a foundational skill in business development.



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