Bacon Wrapped Business With Brad Costanzo
BWB Ruhlin | Giving Gifts In Business

The Art Of Giving Gifts In Business with John Ruhlin


The world is filled with broken entrepreneurs, salespeople, and professionals because they have not mastered the concepts of access and influence. When dealing with people in the business world, it is often through the relationships we foster with them that takes us to a much higher platform.

Access and influence are two great tools to use because figuring out how to access your audience can you create the kind of influence you want. Brad Costanzo interviews John Ruhlin of the Ruhlin Group who utilizes gifts to get access and influence with people.

As an expert Gift Giver, he explains to us the value of using Giftology or the art of giving gifts to our business relations as well as how we can get started on it. There is so much to gain from showing gratitude, and by gift-giving, you can get more referrals, drive more results, and ultimately grow your business.

Some Topics We Discussed Include:

  • What Giftology is all about
  • How John got Cameron Herold to refer him and open up doors for him
  • The art of picking the right gift and how you can make an impact with that
  • Using gifts to open doors, stay relevant, and keep the deal moving forward
  • How John built a relationship with the Cubs and other high net worth clients
  • The worst gifts to avoid

Free gift for you from John:

To learn more about John and know some of the coolest strategies to get access to influence, build access and influence and have a lot of fun, visit

About The Guest: John Ruhlin

BWB Ruhlin | Giving Gifts In BusinessAfter applying principles of generosity learned from “Attorney Paul,” John started selling the largest deals in Cutco history out of 1.5 million other reps and distributors. Yes. 1.5 million.

Not only was he gifting knives but he was being asked to speak on stages around the country to teach sales and marketing teams how to build relationships in unconventional ways. Simple but powerful things like focusing your care on the executive’s spouse, the assistant, and kids.

Ruhlin Group started in 2000 and quickly broadened gifting options and strategies, but many of the original principles never changed. Knowing how and when to give gifts is just as important as what to gift. These “minor” details and expert knowledge have been tested and proven over a decade to bring a guaranteed “wow” to any industry from financial services to manufacturing widgets.

Today John and his team have created gift packages for some of the largest companies and pro sports teams in the world, but their mission and heart is to serve and take relationships for mid-sized, privately owned businesses to a new level using their Proven Process.

The Art Of Giving Gifts In Business with John Ruhlin

I am happy to have all of the new audience who discover the show every single week and has stopped by and said, “This is great. It got me with the word bacon in the title. I didn't know what this was about. He’s sharing all these cool business strategies.”

My marketing branding prowess worked on you but big high five to you. Congratulations for finding the show.

This is my platform for talking to some amazing people who are doing cool things that I am dying to find out what's working for them, for their clients, for their customers and how they're growing their business, how they're attacking the world of entrepreneurship in completely different ways.

I never quite know where these conversations are going to go. The one thing that I'm always focused on is making sure that I learned something that I can take away and utilize both in my businesses and those with my clients.

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I have got a guest who is going to be right on point with a lot of the things that you hear me talk about on this show. Before I get to the introduction, I want to explain what that is. The concepts of access and influence, which I talk a lot about are very important to me.

One day I was taking a walk and I realized that it's access and influence. Those two threads have been the common threads of all the success that I've ever had in my life. I think of them as the little hinges that swing the big doors of opportunity.

What can I get access to? What do I have? What can I borrow access to? How can I get it, whether it's people, customers, ideas, contacts, relationships? Because once I get them, I can open a myriad of doors, but I can't do that without influence. I need access to influence and I need to build influence.

Influence can be rapport, can be persuasion or can simply be having somebody know, like and trust you. These two hinges that swing the big door, when mastered, the world is your oyster and you can go very far if you understand these simple concepts.

Unfortunately, many people don't. They tried to get access without having influence or they try to go too quickly and they try to pitch people who don't want to hear what they have to say. The world is filled with broken entrepreneurs, salespeople and professionals who have not mastered this.

One of my goals is to help people master access and influence. That's why I invited John Ruhlin on the show to talk about this because he has a very unique and proven way that absolutely anybody can utilize.

John is the Founder of the Ruhlin Group and I'll let him explain exactly what they do, but I discovered John through a former guest and friend of mine named Tucker Max.

Some of you may know who he is. He's written books, helps people write books and that's a very understated introduction for Tucker. It may be the easiest introduction he's ever had.

He's like, “You’ve got to talk to John. John's amazing.” John wrote this book called Giftology and it's all about how to understand how to use thoughtful gifts to get access and influence with people.

I'll let him explain all about that and I'm going to ask him a lot of questions about some of the coolest ways that he's either used these strategies or seen them used with his clients in order to get access to influence, build access and influence and have a lot of fun. John, welcome to the show.

Brad, thanks for having me.

It's great to meet you. We've talked about this offline in the past. You live right near or in my hometown. Where are you located?

I'm in Edwardsville, Illinois. I’m just across the river in St. Louis.

I grew up there. It was random that you live there. Do you live there or is that your office?

It is both. I'm in between Bethalto, Edwardsville and Wood River. I'm out in the country. The town has 25,000 people, but Josh Turner moved back here. He is the LinkedSelling guy. He is a good dude.

I'm looking forward to it. I love going back to see my family and a couple of my buddies from high school, but now I've got even more reasons to enjoy when I come back home and make some phone calls.

You heard me talking about this, that big theme, access and influence and it dovetails nicely into what you do.

I want you to tell a little bit about who you are, how you got started and what Giftology is all about. I want to talk about some cool examples of people using these strategies to have some amazing results, build relationships and close deals.

A lot of times when people hear Giftology, they hear gift and especially dudes say, “I don't have time for that. Is this like we’ll hold hands and sing Kumbaya kind message?”

Especially when I speak to people that are CFOs, oftentimes the oxygen can get sucked out of the room because people are like, “Is that game-changing? This is going to add money to my bottom line.”

I'm like, “Here's what we've done for many years. It's opened up doors with the Cubs and 25 sports teams that we now have as clients. We are not international.”

I grew up on a farm milking goats in the middle of Ohio. If I can leverage these tools to gain access and influence, I'm pretty sure that about anybody could.

Most people think they don't matter. They think gifting, generosity and gratitude, those don’t seem business strategies and it's because most people suck at it.

They're not very good at using gratitude as a competitive advantage because they don't believe it matters. When they do it, they do it halfheartedly and unthoughtfully. They're like, “I told you gift didn't work.”

I'm like, “You obviously didn't read the book and leveraged any of our strategies because you send a gift card at Christmas to your most important relationships and you wonder why you didn't get a thank-you note. They forgot about it in about 30 seconds.”

At a core level, what we do at Ruhlin Group is we teach leaders how not to suck at showing gratitude. Usually they walk through or hear a speaker and they're like, “You're right. We are horrible at this.

We need more referrals. We need more doors open. We need to grow our business. Our employees are leaving to other competitors.”

There's a pain point there for most companies somewhere where they'd like to grow faster. What Ruhlin Group does is we help people understand how to use gifts to drive results.

The best gifts are experiential and tangible. Click To Tweet

There are the gratitude aspects. If somebody has done something nice, I want to send them a gift and show gratitude. There's the get my foot in the door aspect of it.

There are two different levels. This isn't the sexy part, but the low hanging fruit is, “How can I show gratitude to my most important relationships, clients, employees and suppliers?” I treat my suppliers better than most people treat their best clients because I have a business without my suppliers.

Most people treat their suppliers like crap. I'm like, “You're an idiot. You could get better pricing. You could get them to run through walls for you if you'd be a nice person and show them love.” They're like, “They should be buying me dinner.” I'm like, “Screw that. I buy my suppliers dinner.”

What you said, that's what everybody else thinks. That’s the only way you can stand above and beyond. It doesn't matter if that's a salesperson. If everybody's doing the exact same thing, do something a little bit different and you'll stand out.

For whatever reason, it seems people follow the same playbook. They take people out to dinner, do the ballgames, dinners and all that stuff, which is fine. What if you took your $20 box of chocolates?

I send people $200 gifts to thank them for their time. I take probably 1,000 meetings a year and the time it takes to even have a phone call and interview a meeting, that's time I will never get back and they'll never get back.

It's an asset that we can never go buy more of. I would acknowledge people for their time to say, “Thank you so much for carving out time.” I'll send them the knife because that's one of our calling cards.

It’s the high-end Cutco knives because of our history, but also because it's something that the executive will take home to his family, they'll use it. They'll look at it and talk about it for the next 50 years.

Does Ryan Levesque have one of yours?


Did you see the Facebook posts he made? He killed the snake with it.

He took a duct tape, a pole and a santoku chef knife and chopped up a coral snake because he just moved and he's got kids.

I knew it was your knife.

Jason Gaignard is a client of ours from Mastermind Talks and he does gifting for all of his members, prospects and interesting people he meets. We execute the gifting for Jason.

I know Ryan, but not well. My company sent the knife, but it didn't come from me. I can't steal Jason's thunder. Jason bought it, but people still put John Ruhlin in the comments, so I commented on it.

What's interesting is that a little secret here, I don't know if Ryan listens to your show or not, but the plan is I'm going to follow up with another gift, a Rambo-style Cutco. It’s Ryan “The Snake Slayer” Levesque. He'll be getting that.

Ideally, he'll post that on Facebook and Instagram and give you a shout out. It's amazing how that little stuff works. People want to do that whenever they get cool stuff. That's one of those ancillary benefits that you get people showing stuff off and thanking you publicly.

BWB Ruhlin | Giving Gifts In Business

Giving Gifts In Business: The only way you can stand above and beyond is by doing something a little bit different.


Yeah, it's crazy. I already sent Cameron Herold crazy amounts of stuff. I ran out of ideas and when we moved our speaking fee to $15,000 a year ago, he referred me in.

Normally, I don't recommend saying referral gifts because it makes it more of a transactional relationship. “You send me a million-dollar client, I’ll send you a $100 Starbucks gift card.” It doesn't feel very relational. It feels very transactional.

In this case, I'm going to break my own rule and I'm going to melt Cameron's face off. I took a metal suitcase and sent them $1,500 in cash. I filled the whole suitcase and then I locked part of it. You had to pry it open. It felt like a drug deal when he got his suitcase. He posted it to 10,000 people.

I can't tell you the number of people that come up to me at conferences and after I speak at big events and they're like, “You sent that big suitcase full of cash to Cameron.” I'm like, “I don't know who you are, but yes, that is us.”

Who delivered that? You don't send that through the mail, do you?

I did.

Hopefully, you ensured that one.

I did. I sent it through the post office.

That stuff goes a long way. Years and years ago, I remember when I got this guy. It’s a long story. I was working with him, but he sent me $2,000 and he sent them all to me in $1. He sent me a big fat envelope full of $1. That was cool.

I got to take them to the bank and stuff, but it was fun to get because very few people ever see a big old stack of cash. I love how you took it to the next level and this was what you're known for.

You didn't just send them cash, you didn't put it in a brown paper bag. You sent it in a suitcase or briefcase and you didn't just do that. You made him have to pry it open. You're giving them the experience beyond, “This is a cool gift.”

The best gifts are experiential and tangible. A lot of people are good at taking people to skydive or do something, but what's the artifact? What's the item that every time they see it, use it, touch it, feel it, there's a memory triggered to what that experience was?

A lot of times people do these cool conferences and events. I'm like, “What's the trigger?” They're like, “What do you mean?” I'm like, “They're going to go to 100 conferences over the next ten, twenty years. Why are they going to remember your event, your trip, your conference or your dinner?”

It has to have an amazing experience plus a tangible trigger to be the perfect gift and to get the mileage out of the money you invest in the experience. What I love about the knife is subconsciously, they use the knives, whether it's one knife or a $5,000 knife set sitting on the counter.

Every time they use it, there's no logo on it for Ruhlin Group, which is one of our rules. I'll send out $350,000 in gifts personally this year to my relationships.

Not a single thing that I send out has Ruhlin Group or Giftology or anything about me, but subconsciously when they use a high-end item that was with no strings attached, there's a subconscious positive thread that is in their brain of, “I like John. I like Ruhlin Group. I like Giftology.”

I've had people reach out to me like, “John, I use the knives and I get pissed because I think about you whether I want to or not. These are almost evil. You're subconsciously ruling me. This is crazy.”

Saying that it’s the thought that counts is an excuse to give a lame gift. Click To Tweet

It works. You do cool things for people and it's tangible. There is that subconscious trigger and it does spark conversations with their inner circle, which are all referral opportunities. Speakers hang out with other speakers. Insurance people hang out with other business owners.

One of the ways we've grown our business and our influence is by all of these subconscious type thoughts that inspire conversations around me at all these intimate events. I don't need to have to be there. I can be with my family and these things are happening automatically.

Let's talk about some of your favorite stories, whether it’s stuff that has worked for you that you've personally given, received or some of your clients and the way people have used these. With this stuff, examples do so much power. What are some of your favorites?

The low-hanging fruit is taking care of the inner circle, the people you already have a warm market with. That everybody gets excited and sexy about going after the whale client they don't have versus spending one-tenth the amount of money in taking care of all of your clients.

Give me examples, maybe even if it's showing gratitude, where that's nice. That was a maybe either a thoughtful or creative way to do something.

Speaking of Cameron, also a former guest on the show, everybody you mentioned will probably have been a guest on my show by the way. You've been left out. That being said, are you the one who did the suits? Tell that story because I love that story.

I heard Cameron speak at an event. I determined I couldn't afford his $10,000 a month coaching and consulting, but he could be a mentor and advisor. He could be a client, but I wanted him as a part of my inner circle.

I'm sure a lot of your guests have had people that they've met that are like, “Here are the twelve pillars.” Verne Harnish talks about who are the 25 most important people that you need in your corner. I felt that Cameron is one of those guys.

I found out he was coming to Cleveland. I was living in Ohio at the time and the same night he's flying in to speak to our chapter, I have opening night Cavs tickets and go for a steak dinner, we'll be high five. I'm thinking he'll love this.

I go up to Cameron, “I hear you're coming to Cleveland. Do you want to do dinner and a ball game? I have amazing Cav seats.” His response was, “Sure, I guess I don't have anything else going on. I'll go.” I was so deflated.

A lot of our clients, they do dinner ballgame, golf or all that stuff all the time. It's not wow. I'm like, “I've got to figure something else out.” I said, “What else are you going to do in your town?” He said, “The dollar is weak. I'm from Canada. I'm going to go shopping.”

I’m like, “Maybe this is my angle,” is what I'm thinking in my head. I'm like, “Where are you going to shop at?” He said, “Brooks Brothers.”

On the spot I’m like, “I want to send you a shirt. What’s your shirt size?” Cameron was looking at me bewildered like, “Does this dude have a man crush on me? This is a weird question to ask somebody within two minutes of meeting them.”

He was polite. He told me his shirt size and I said, “Great, I'll send you a shirt. I can't wait to see you in three months when we'll go to dinner and the ballgame.” Long story short is I pitched it to my business partner and he thought it was the worst idea on the planet.

In the morning, Cameron starts texting me trying to get out of the dinner in a ballgame. I’m like, “My flight's delayed. I'm going to miss my connecting flight. It doesn't matter when you get in. We'll just hang out and we'll grab a drink.” He said, “Cool.” I called my partner back and I'm like, “We have to do this.”

I talked him into it and we went up to Brooks Brothers three hours before he arrives. I put on the Amex and then a slip of paper that had all the sizes. I said, “I want one of everything in your new fall collection, all your shirts, jackets, pants, sweaters, belts and everything.”

The guys thought I was joking and I'm like, “I wish I was, but no. I want everything.” They rang it up and it’s $7,000. I'm sweating because I'm praying that the Amex will even go through.

BWB Ruhlin | Giving Gifts In Business

Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention

That's the nice part about Amex. They're like, “Yeah, go ahead. Charge whatever you want it. Pay it back next month.”

I loaded the stuff into my Suburban and go over the Ritz, “We got one of the top business coaches in the world coming to town. Do you want to do something amazing?” Of course, it's the Ritz. They say yes. We go.

We merchandised the hotel room to look a Brooks Brothers store with sweaters there, jackets hanging in there. It was amazing. I'm downstairs drinking because I'm so nervous.

My business partner is in my ear like, “He's going to think you're a stalker. This is going to blow up in our face. This is the worst idea ever.” Cameron gets in, you tell he doesn't want to go to the dinner and ballgame. He just wants to go to bed.

I'm like, “Cameron, go take a shower. Come down whenever you're ready.” He comes down and he's floating into the lobby off the elevator. He was glowing and he's like, “I've never had anybody treat me this way. Whatever you want to talk about for as long as you want to talk about, I'm all ears.”

Over the last couple of years, he's referred me and opened up doors. The reason I'm able to charge $20,000 for a speaking engagement is that I have guys like him backing me and recommending me.

In my corner, he's a client but also every one of his clients is now exposed to what we do and he's pushing them towards working with us because he's like, “This is a no brainer.” He's done things that $10 million in advertising couldn't have done for me.

That’s an amazing experience. What about some other creative ways to get your foot in the door that you know people have done to get access to things that they may not have been able to do on their own?

What's interesting is that experience didn’t cost me $7,000. A lot of times people are like, “I can't spend $7,000 on every person.” I'm like, “You're missing the point. You could personalize every gift you give.” That experience didn't cost me $7,000 and not costing me anything. That's a story for another day.

Cameron came back to me and said, “John, the personalization, the experience, what you did for me, the way you made me feel was the gift. I can't let you buy clothes as well. One of two things is going to happen. I couldn't get all those clothes home if I wanted to. I had to buy ten suitcases.

I pick out the clothes I wanted. You're either going to tell me how much they were and I'll write a check for that or I'm going to guess and I'm going to round up by 50%. I'm going to send you a check for that.” That’s the kind of guy he is.

It also goes to show it's the thought, it's the experience that counted so much that it was at no point about the value of the gifts to him. Not everybody's going to do that, but it shows you that he could have easily said, “Thanks.”

It's the thoughtful thought that counts. Most people use, “It's the thought that counts,” as an excuse to give a lame gift. It's like the word token. “This is a token of our appreciation,” which basically means, “It's a sucky small gift and I didn't get very creative with it.”

You'd never describe a relationship as a token relationship. Why would you describe the item that's supposed to represent the value of the relationship as a token? It's only a token because you sucked. You either didn't want to put the time, the energy or the money into making it something.

It's not just about the money. Some of the nicest things that people have done for me had nothing to do with the amount of money that they spent on it, but they put a lot of time, energy and effort into doing something or creating something for me.

It’s not the money. People get caught up like, “John, I can only work with you if I have $1 million.” I'm like, “You idiot. No, I have clients who spend $10,000 with me, but they spend it shrewdly.

They have a massive impact, but they might only target twenty relationships with that $10,000 and they're willing to invest $500 a person into those people.” Because of it, most people spend $5, we spent $500 and now you get treated a king because you gifted a king.

You get treated like a king when you gifted like a king. Click To Tweet

It's an old testament proverb, “A gift ushers you into the presence of kings. The things I teach are not new, lest we've forgotten about them.” People will be talking about fasting and meditation, guess where that comes from? It’s from Buddha. It’s the oldest stuff on the planet.

Oftentimes it's those fundamentals that are absolutely ignored, appreciation and gratitude and that thoughtful thought. That may be the title of this episode, The Thoughtful Thought That Counts.

It reminds me, you know Sean Stephenson. Sean's good friend of mine. Are you familiar with the advocate circle that he does?

I'm not. I know who Sean is because we have so many mutual friends. I have never met Sean.

I'll make an introduction for the audience who doesn’t know him. He is also a former guest and a good friend of mine. He is one of the best public speakers I've ever seen in my life. He’s my mentor in that area.

One of the things he talks about is his advocate circle marketing. This is another reason you absolutely need to meet him. He picks a group of about 21 people at any time and it will change. People come in and out.

These are people who are not his closest friends that he already knows will do anything and walk through fire for him. This is one concentric circle out. The ones that he's at got a relationship with, but he wants to deepen it. Every quarter what he'll do is send people a letter.

It's not handwritten, it's typed, but he'll hand sign it and make notes on it. “Here's a little something personal that's going on. Here's something professional that's going on,” and then he'll ask a question about what you're doing and how he can support you.

The first time you ever get one, he also includes a little survey. What's your birthday? What's your favorite charity? What's your favorite restaurant? What's all this other stuff? He then sends, I'm going to call it a token, but it's not because it's a very thoughtful thought.

One day he sent a DVD of a movie that he saw. It’s a really inspirational movie that he liked. He's like, “I thought you'd get a lot out of this.” He had one of those Staples buttons that say, “BS.” He sent it to me. The package was like, “That‘s BS.” He had a little Post-It note on there.

My wife's name is Kenya. He goes, “Give this to Kenya. She's going to need this a lot.” That's bro humor because we are good friends. It was one of those things that guys do. Guys are always ribbing each other. It didn't have to be this beautiful Cutco knife.

It was funny, personal and it made me laugh like hell. I still got the thing here somewhere, but he does this every quarter in order to deepen those relationships. It's a thoughtful way. He goes, “I can't tell you how much business that has gotten me and I have deeper friendships.”

I'll definitely connect you to for that reason because you guys will be great friends, but we'll probably utilize you and some of your creativity in a lot of ways. I thought you would appreciate that.

I'm going to ask you, “Why do people need you? What makes you guys stand out from going to another store to go buy them gifts?” I'll preface it because I know you can just go send somebody, “Here's a bottle of wine, a box of brownies. Here's something cool.”

When I read your book and from hearing you talk and seeing you speak, there is an art to not only picking the right thing, but tying it in in a way so that there's relevance to the gift. Let's talk about the human element of the gift and how it all ties together and how you can make an impact with that.

The who of who you're giving the gift to is way more important than what you're sending. We're a gifting company. I'm like, “The what is part of it, but it's the details of the personalization.”

It's the details of, “I'm a gifting company and I don't send one gift between Thanksgiving and Christmas.” That $350,000 gets spent the other ten months out of the year because the timing matters. The personalization matters. The packaging matters. The handwritten note matters.

BWB Ruhlin | Giving Gifts In Business

Giving Gifts In Business: It's easier to show gratitude than it is to use a gift to get in the door.


50% of the gift is all the details around it that make it relevant, important, special, unique and tie in their spouse and maybe their kids and their assistant. There are a lot of things from a strategic standpoint that has nothing to do with the tangible item.

Even though the tangible item is that delivery vehicle, people hire us because they're like, “Amazon can send stuff, but I don't want it to come from Amazon. I want it to have a handwritten note. I want it to be thoughtful, I want it to be personalized.

I want it to be all of those things that you talk about in your book, ”I tried to go do it on my own and my team is not UPS. They suck at trying to package up on a consistent basis, whether it's 20 gifts or 200 gifts, 2000 gifts or 20,000 gifts.

It's hard to scale that level of personalization and uniqueness. The reason people hire us to do all their gifting for them, whether they're a small company or whether they’re the Cubs is that they recognize that they should go do what they're good at and they should outsource things that they're not.

There's nothing secret sauce about what we do that you couldn't do it. It takes a lot of time, energy, effort, money, resources and backend logistics.

Creating thoughtful thoughts is a lot of work behind that. Tell me about that. Is there anybody who's too small for you? Do you only work with big companies or do you work with small businesses as well?

Our minimum engagement is if you don't have a top twenty relationships, whether it's clients, employees, prospects, whatever else, if you don't have a top twenty that you're in the minimum of $250 per gift-all in with our consulting, shipping, everything twice a year.

$10,000 is our opening volley to engage people. We have financial advisors, insurance agents and other people, but we also do have Fortune 100 companies as clients that hire us to do things. We can scale, I love the mid-size company that's doing $5 million, $10,000, $20 million.

Even some of our EO clients are doing $2 million and $3 million, but they're profitable. They're a software company or whatever. They’re like, “John, we have these 50 people. If they weren't with us, it'd be bad for us.”

They’re referral partners or whatever. “We can't spend enough money on them until we ran out of ideas or we’re challenged.” I love those guys because I've been in EO for ten years, the Entrepreneurs' Organization. That's my tribe.

They're not my biggest clients, but they're people that appreciate what we do and I enjoy working with them. I love taking the David and Goliath and taking somebody that's a David going up against these big 800-pound gorillas and helping them slaughter those guys. That's fun.

That's a game, to be able to be strategic and say, “I have way less money to spend, but I'm going to spend it way better than you.” I love that challenge.

When you are working with somebody and somebody engages you, what’s that like? You guys are providing a lot more it sounds than just the gifts. You’re not just buying the gifts and delivery. You're helping take a lot of strategic thoughts.

Assume I'm hiring you. I'm putting words in your mouth, but I'm guessing you're going to ask me a lot about who I'm trying to reach and why I'm trying to reach them and maybe individually. Are you coming back with recommended gifts and strategies and ways to do this?

We walk people through what we call relationship action plan, which is a fancy word for an Excel sheet that has certain key pieces of information from their name, their spouse's name, their assistant’s names, their home address or their business address or website.

How many kids do they have? What are they into? Do they have pets? As much info as you can possibly get on those people. If those relationships are clients, suppliers or employees, that stuff that if you don't know, you should know.

You should be teaching your team to pick up on those things and documenting them in your CRM because they're useful, not just from a gifting perspective, but they're useful from building relationships, knowledge and understanding who people are.

Who you're giving the gift to is way more important than what you're sending. Click To Tweet

We walk them through that sheet and get them to start understanding who do I have to be grateful for? Who do I need to show gratitude to? The Five Minute Journal guys have mastered that idea of putting down three people you're grateful for.

Over the course of a year, that's a thousand people if they're all different. A lot of people that are in business have a lot of people they should be saying thank you to from the current, past and moving forward and they have never written them down and identified them.

We help people identify all those people and then put a value to them. What's the value of that relationship currently and what could be over the lifetime if it grew? Oftentimes people are like, “Some of these relationships are worth $50,000 in profit to me over the next ten years or $500,000.”

You start with them and I’m like, “You should be reinvesting 5%, You give me $1 and I'm going to give you $20 back. Reinvest 5%, keep the client, grow the client hopefully and turn them into a sales advocate for you.” Those are the three goals of gifting with your current relationships.

If it's a prospect, somebody you want to have in your corner, what's the value of that relationship if they got into your corner? What are you willing to pre-invest?

It’s like Gary Vaynerchuk’s style. You want to broker somebody's attention. We're helping pre-broker that and pre-buy their attention. I sent him eighteen gifts in a row in over eighteen months to get his attention and he invited me down to his house to hang out at his condo there in Charlotte.

He's become a client, a friend and advocate. I had to be willing to commit to eighteen gifts over eighteen months. Most people give up after gift two or three.

A lot of our prep work is having the right heartset and mindset to say, “This is how I'm going to operate for the next three years minimum,” or maybe even lifetime. I'm a giver. I want to be generous. Whether I'm doing it with you, Ruhlin Group or somebody else, this is who I am.

I want to show value, I want to give gratitude, I don't want to do it. I say I'm world-class and everything. I want to be world-class at this too.” A lot of it is getting your head right.

The Cubs deal for us, it took seven years of gifting to land the Cubs. The largest homebuilder in the country, it took me seven years of gifting to land them as a client. They're the largest homebuilder in the world.

When you're doing that, you're trying to get ahold of somebody, you're trying to land somebody, it's easier to probably show gratitude than it is to use a gift to get in the door. Maybe there are some mistakes going on, but you're sending out gifts quite often.

What's the strategy behind that? You're trying to get a big marquee type client, you send them something cool. How much of note is that? Do you worry about, “I'm constantly sending this?” What's the strategy behind that?

It depends is the simple answer. That's one of the reasons that we try to ask enough questions.

You can use an example, whether it's the Cubs or anything else.

One of our clients reached out to us and said, “John, this relationship is super valuable to us. We'll spend any amount of money to go after them. We've tried for two years to get a meeting and it's crickets.” In that case, we did our research and we're able to figure out something about the CEO, CFO and the CIO.

We determined to go after the CIO because we had an indirect connection there. We started gifting that person. There were knives and other things that were personalized. We landed the meeting and in that case, they paid us $25,000 to do that because it was cold.

They had tried for a long time and it wasn't we're going after twenty people where you have to vet maybe 30%. It was either hit the ball and hit a grand slam or you strike out. There's no in-between.

BWB Ruhlin | Giving Gifts In Business

Giving Gifts In Business: Gift giving is a lever that's underutilized.


We're using gifts oftentimes to open the door, but then once the doors open, how do you stay relevant and keep the deal moving forward and when people go dark?

A lot of times people have long buy-in cycles or maybe you miss out on the RFP. How do you make sure that you're in a position to get the next one three years from now?

People don't think long-term enough, so a lot of times we'll put together a plan for them and say, “This is a prospect, but you already have the door open.

What if we twice a year sent something out to them to remind them that you appreciate the opportunity for the RFP to even be involved and you want to stay top of mind in case other projects come up, you're one of the first people that they call?”

People are like, “That's a lot of money.” I'm like, “That deal, how much time did you put into it to put the RFP together?” “300 hours.” I’m like, “What do you value your time at?

If this is really an important client for you to have, then let's lay out what they're worth to you if you land them and let's take a small percentage of what that would be and invest it on the frontend over the next three years or over the next five years.”

Timing's everything. People shift positions and you just never know. Oftentimes it's not opening the door. It's how do you keep the door open and cracked for that opportunity.

That's what we did with the Cubs. It wasn't like I couldn't get the meeting for seven years. I got the meeting, they heard me speak at a conference, but I continued to drip on them with gifts to make sure that I stayed relevant, that the door is open.

Finally, they reached back out and said, “John, we're struggling right now. We're redoing Wrigley Field. It's an iconic structure and we’re ripping out this locker room that's falling apart. We want to do something with it, but we're not sure what to do. We don't want to make a plaque. That's cheesy.

Do you have any ideas? We figured this might be something up your alley that's a little more unique and different, not the standard polo shirt.” I'm like, “Absolutely.” That's when we went into pitch mode and they were like, “How about we remake the wood into a speaker?”

That was before I talked to any of the speaker companies because when I went to tell them the idea of making a speaker out of falling apart wood, they're like, “You're insane. This is impossible.” I ended up having to subcontract with a company that's not a speaker company to make these beautiful speakers.

I ended up buying that company. They're that creative. They're like mad scientists. When you pitch an idea to Cubs after seven years, you're going to figure out a way to make that freaking speaker, even if the speaker company said it's a stupid idea.

It worked. Seven years of dripping on somebody three to four times a year is an often time situation. Somebody else that reached out to us was, they had their top 50 relationships, $100 million in net worth and above. They were huge people, so it's difficult.

For us, it was a three-part gifting program to start out with to engage those people. A number of them reached out. They had to spend quite a bit of money per prospect. It's probably $2,500 per person.

It’s not insignificant, but each of the relationships when they did the math, even if we landed one, it would pay for gifts for 100 years. This is a no brainer. We're going to do this, but most people don't have real metrics tied to each relationship's worth.

They don't know what they should be investing and they feel uncomfortable doing the gifting in general. It’s a recipe for doing nothing or doing the same cold calling, conferences and tchotchkes.

Nobody's challenged them otherwise and said, “Idiot. You're investing in $1 million in a trade show. What if you took 20% of that and went after your top 100 dream clients. With $200,000 do you think you could land a few of those meetings one to one with a rifle versus doing this silly shotgun approach?”

Gratitude should be at that same level of strategy in business. Click To Tweet

Nobody's ever called people out for that. That's what we feel. Whether they do it with us or not, we've tried to shed the light that there are other ways to engage people than the typical ways.

I couldn't agree more. I've towed in the water with this stuff and I'm a big relationship guy. It is the number one thing that's driven my success.

When I have done this and I've done that thoughtful thought, it pays crazy dividends, but it's easy to get out of thinking about it from this angle.

I love the fact that you've also carved out a tremendous niche for yourself and created this market leading dominance for yourself. There are many other companies out there who provide products and tchotchkes.

Gifts and things that they can go to, but I have not seen anybody create that strategy angle and to create, “We're not just here to provide you stuff to send to people. This is much more important.”

You’re not going to spend $250 or more for a gift for somebody who doesn't matter. It sounds like you and the Ruhlin Group, the entire company recognizes that and tries to go the extra mile to make sure that they're not just sending out stuff.

As an entrepreneur, I want to invest a dollar and I want to get $2 back or $10 back. We try to spend other people's money the same way that we spend our own, which is I want results. I don't care about to check a box. I don't care about the warm fuzzy. I want things that are battle-tested that work.

I want people to feel good. People buy emotionally and then they justify logically. I want to tie into the same way you strategize about your finances or your marketing, your operations or your product development.

Gratitude should be at that same level of strategy, and for most people it's an afterthought. It's not a habit. People do it once and maybe they get a result, maybe they don't, and they feel guilty at the end of the year and do Christmas gifts, which is the worst time to give gifts.

It's not cohesive and it's not part of an overall strategy. Consequently, because nobody else is doing it, that's even more why it works. If everybody was a great gift giver, they could be part of the normal noise of advertising. Because most people suck at it, it's a lever that's underutilized.

For those people in the audience who understand this value and want to keep going, but they're not quite at the level where they'd make an ideal client for the Ruhlin Group, you've obviously got a book.

Is that one of the best resources that they can start with in order to get strategies to start to do this until they get to the point where they're able to afford to step up the game?

Giftology was written with the idea of it being a playbook. There is no Giftology 2 coming out several months from now. It's everything we've done for seventeen years. It's a short read and it’s under two hours. It's no fluff.

I tried to make it as entertaining as possible, but as also as tactical like, “Here are real things to go do.” Even before that, a lot of times people were like, “I want to know the things not to give. Tell me the pain point to avoid the sucky gifts.”

There's a PDF. If you go to, your tribe can go download it for free and on it are the ten worst gifts to avoid giving. The reason we created it was people kept asking, “What are the worst gifts ever?”

That's funny because that was going to be one of my questions and you beat me to it.

The ten worst gifts to avoid, it's not only the item. Gift cards are the worst. It's also why. It's a simple one-pager, but somebody can take it to their assistant, to their marketing team or to the leadership team.

Most of the time people are like, “Almost all my gifts are on that top ten list.” I'm like, “Whether you gift with us or not, here are some pointers, here are things to avoid.” It's not universal. There are anomalies. Don't give cash or money in many cases, but I broke my own rule.

If I break the railway, I break it big and go all in. Most people, they break the rule and they give $20 to people. It's lame. If you're going to give cash, make sure it's tangible, not a check or not money, not digital. It's like monopoly money.

If real money shows up, there's a reason that casinos don't want you walking around with $100. They want you to walk around with chips because it feels fake. They can download the top ten list for free and do what they want.

If they're like, “This is good stuff,” they can buy the book, which is $20 or whatever on Amazon or Audible or any of that stuff. Oftentimes, people want to get some meat to start with. The download is a great place to start.

If people want to get ahold of you, is there any other way to do that? What's the best website, social, email or anything?

We're on all the social stuff, Facebook and Twitter, @Ruhlin. I would say go to Ruhlin Group. It’s our core website.

John, this has been enlightening and I love it. It is very cool, the things that you've shared. I know that it brought back to my attention some of the things that I should be doing more often.

Showing more gratitude and showing more appreciation to the people to show gratitude but also strategically because I'm in business as well and you never know where it leads.

I want to give somebody that same experience you gave Cameron, that you've given a lot of people and that you've helped a lot of people give to others.

If more people did this, we'd have a lot more successful people, a lot happier people and people having a lot more fun in business and in life in general. I love what you're doing. I love the mission and I'm looking forward to the next time.

To all my audience, go check out Don't hesitate to reach out. Show some gratitude to somebody, whether you're using John and his company or whether you're putting together a thoughtful thought and reaching out, like potentially one of your favorite hosts.

That's totally cool. You can email me at and find out exactly where to send that. I may want to be careful giving out my address to the entire public.

That being said, if you enjoyed this, share it social media and if you want more, email me. Stay tuned. I've got some cool stuff coming up. John, thanks a lot for joining me on the show.

Thanks for having me.

See you next time.

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About The Guest: John Ruhlin

BWB Ruhlin | Giving Gifts In BusinessAfter applying principles of generosity learned from “Attorney Paul,” John started selling the largest deals in Cutco history out of 1.5 million other reps and distributors. Yes. 1.5 million.

Not only was he gifting knives but he was being asked to speak on stages around the country to teach sales and marketing teams how to build relationships in unconventional ways. Simple but powerful things like focusing your care on the executive’s spouse, the assistant, and kids.

Ruhlin Group started in 2000 and quickly broadened gifting options and strategies, but many of the original principles never changed. Knowing how and when to give gifts is just as important as what to gift. These “minor” details and expert knowledge have been tested and proven over a decade to bring a guaranteed “wow” to any industry from financial services to manufacturing widgets.

Today John and his team have created gift packages for some of the largest companies and pro sports teams in the world, but their mission and heart is to serve and take relationships for mid-sized, privately owned businesses to a new level using their Proven Process.


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