John Tigh Into Cultivating Relationships, Acts of Service, and Gusher Connections

By Mo Bunnell

John Tigh shares the business development lessons he learned in the trenches working with top-10 pharmaceutical companies and digital transformation.

John Tigh shares the business development lessons he learned in the trenches working with top-10 pharmaceutical companies and digital transformation. Learn why business development is a heart-centered sport and why empathy is key to connecting with someone, how to look for disturbances in the force that indicate where you can contribute the most value to people, and get a crash course on the most important growth-focused conversation framework there is.


Mo asks John Tigh: Tell me of the moment that you realized growth is great.

  • Eleven years ago, John was bit by a radioactive statement of work and has since gained the superpower of bringing in business.
  • Being a consultant is all about having one foot in the work and the other in finding the next gig. John considers himself a relationship person rather than a salesperson.
  • The better you can cultivate relationships, the more likely it is that you will have a chance to be of service to those people in the future.
  • Business development is a heart and people centered sport. For John, if he can be of service to someone, that really energizes him.
  • In the first meeting, John is looking for disturbances in the force. John is on the lookout for something that the other person hesitates about or expresses disappointment in a particular area. Those are places to dig deeper.
  • Mission, Vision, and Values should apply at all levels of the organization. At the top of the enterprise, within the work group, and at the level of the individual. Where the gaps are is where John can help the most so that’s where he focuses his effort.
  • John is looking for moments of clarity and polarization. Whether you’re selling ideas, products, or services, asking how you might be able to get it done together gets buy-in and accelerates momentum.
  • John is a collector of interesting people. You can’t talk heart-centered without being empathetic, and you can’t get into someone else’s shoes without being curious about them. John believes in connecting others. By giving away information of value, he generates reciprocity in the future.
  • John goes out of his way to connect awesome people with other awesome people because it makes everything about those relationships better.
  • By connecting people, you can generate potentially dozens of interactions.


Mo asks John Tigh: What is your personal definition of business development?

  • For John, business development begins and ends with acts of service. It’s all about following up and finding ways to help people.
  • The fastest way to build a relationship is to deliver value and not necessarily in a commercial fashion. By being useful and helpful to other people, there are often second, third, and fourth order connections that come as a result of that.
  • John aims to put a pause in people's fight or flight response when they hear the word sales, and just focuses instead on being human.
  • By asking what makes someone special and giving them space to answer, John is trying to help them identify where their T-shape uniqueness is and how he can broaden the conversation from there.
  • People always have areas of commonality. The more John knows about what makes people unique and special, the more opportunity he has to connect them with other people that need their products, services, or talent.
  • Whenever John finds one person that they believe should know another person, he goes out of his way to find them interesting people to connect with. He sends an email that he refers to as a gusher about what makes those people awesome and why they would be even greater if they knew each other.
  • If you think of business development as acts of service, it’s about learning what’s important to the other person and that creates a great buying process by showing you're trustworthy and you care.
  • The habit that John tries to cultivate everyday is around being uncomfortable. The practice of discomfort and stretching his personal and professional boundaries is what put him on the growth path he is on today.


Mo asks John Tigh: What is your favorite science, step, or strategy from the GrowBIG Training or the Snowball System?

  • John has been involved in the Snowball System for a long time and the Gravitas Model is a strategy that he uses every single day.
  • It’s the perfect framework for taking any conversation where you want to go. It has an incredible level of flexibility and imparts a character to your conversation that people can’t help but enjoy. It also gives you the ability to keep the conversation going.
  • When you ask great questions, you get a triple win. With the way the Gravitas Model is designed, they light up the pleasure center of the other person’s mind when they are sharing their personal perspective, you learn their priorities in their words, and the questions highly correlate to likability. The more they talk and the less you talk, the more the other person will like you.
  • John’s perfect buyer is in the C-Suite or someone dealing with content creation. During a conversation with his perfect buyer, John would talk about what they have in common, the challenges they experienced in the past, and their current role and their current projects.
  • Typically, the goal for each meeting is to secure the next meeting.
  • By addressing the base level mechanical questions, John can take a conversation up to higher level vision-based goals. He often asks people how calm the seas are and what they think the future holds, with a hook at the end about any questions that John didn’t ask but should have.
  • John is always looking for an opportunity to offer value in some way or to make a connection or introduction for the other person in an effort to secure the next meeting. The framework is simply built around looking for ways to make the other person look good.
  • Once you get the Gravitas Model in your bones, it really does help every kind of conversation, whether that’s spoken or written.


Mo asks John Tigh: Tell me of a business development that you are particularly proud of.

  • During John’s time working as a consultant while working for a top-10 pharmaceutical company. He had a chance to meet another top-10 pharmaceutical company and help them implement a new technology.
  • John had a productive initial meeting but hadn’t really heard from them for two years. Eventually, John was contacted to pick up the project after another consulting company dropped the ball.
  • Disaster struck and the leader that was meant to guide the project left the company. John put his hand up to help them move the project forward as long as they were willing to trust the team to get things done. Over time, the team grew and John ran that project from the outside for three years and grew the business to the tune of multiple millions of dollars.
  • All of that came from one initial meeting and building trust by offering some expertise and help with no strings attached.
  • He was the one who wrote the strategy that transformed the business as well as the leader and operations person who helped make that happen.
  • John’s biggest achievement during that time was in overcoming his own inner critic. By learning about and practicing meditation each day, he learned how to get out of his own way.
  • Having a moment at the start of each day to throw off the doubts and the worries and focus on doing what he can do has changed the rest of John’s life.
  • One of the biggest blessings of a high performing team that has your back and believes in you is that they can help you manage your own inner critic.


Mo asks John Tigh: If you could record a video for your younger self around business development, what would it say?

  • John would start things off by telling his younger self to be quiet since he wasn’t always the best listener.
  • The other thing he would say is that everything is about growth. Everything is sales related, and it all has to be articulated to get any kind of traction.
  • Listen first, and then find ways to be helpful.
  • John looks for liminal spaces within conversations. He uses pauses to ask for invitations to speak because getting permission is a much more productive way to speak.
  • There is an energy around change, so it’s usually best to try to slow things down and build in pauses to reduce the tension. Pauses and asking for permission can also increase curiosity.
  • In dealing with externalities, reacting is not always the most effective way forward. Stopping and saying, “that’s interesting, tell me more” gives you space to respond instead.
  • It’s okay to ask someone to restate the question. Being vulnerable shows that you actually care about what’s being said and what the other person is trying to communicate.