Strategic Gifts are what we call “Thoughtful Thoughts.” Giftology author John Ruhlin tells us about the science of strategic gift giving and how it can galvanize your business and personal relationships for years to come.
About John Ruhlin
John Ruhlin is the founder of The Ruhlin Group, a gift logistics company that helps clients like the Chicago Cubs, Wells Fargo, Caesar’s Entertainment, Miami Dolphins, Morgan Stanley, and The John Maxwell Company execute year-round gifting strategies.
John’s unique approach to relationships led him to become the #1 salesman for a $250 Million direct sales company. He now speaks widely about strategic gifting and relationship building and helps CEOs and sales teams drive referrals and open doors to elusive decision makers.
John Ruhlin’s Story
John Ruhlin grew up on an Ohio farm milking goats. An overachiever all his life, John didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do. All he did know was that he didn’t want to be working on a farm for the rest of his life.
John Ruhlin says it only takes one mentor to change your life. As a young man, his mentor was his girlfriend’s dad who showed him what happens with acts of radical generosity. When John got an internship with the Cutco knife company, he achieved great success, not by selling knives, but by applying the psychology of deepening relationships by giving strategic gifts.
Now John Ruhlin sends out $250,000 a year in gifts, spending $200-500 per gift. This may sound crazy, but he says that his prospects’ time is worth that much. His small eight-person firm has landed monstrous companies by radical generosity, and when you take into account how much you might spend on restaurants and events entertaining prospects, Ruhlin’s gift expenditures are not so out of proportion. Colleagues, associates, and clients may not remember the steak they ate or the wine they drank, but a treasured gift will make them remember you again and again. It may be mind-blowing, but it’s actually smarter to reallocate resources for generous gifts instead of spending on trade shows or expensive dinners.
The Philosophy of Giftology
Did you know that giving strategic gifts can make a huge difference in your work and family life? For most men, trying to think of thoughtful gifts feels awkward. This is why guys usually ask wives to choose the gifts. So how can you choose a gift that will leave a meaningful impression that lasts?
The last thing people need is more crap. Most of us are overwhelmed by stuff we don’t need or want. But we all have room in our lives for more artifacts – the types of gifts you would save from a fire or pass down as an heirloom. This type of gifting is not a new idea. It’s old school. Our grandfathers and fathers did it. We’ve just forgotten.
- Get the spouse and family in on it – Knives are used every day in a family’s home to prepare food. This is a very intimate ritual and that is why John has had such success in selling engraved knives. His gifts became part of people’s lives. He says “try to find a gift that becomes part of the fabric of the being of that person.”
- Make everyone look better – Giving gifts that make an executive look like a hero in front of his wife will win you extra points. Likewise, giving your wife an extraordinary surprise in front of one of her friends will amplify the effect of the gift that much more
- No logo or promotional slogans – Adding branding or contact info to a gift defaces it.
- No strings attached – Don’t cheapen the thought be hinting at getting something in return. Make it about the other person and they’ll put the spotlight on you.
More Strategic Gift Tips
- Personalize the gift with the recipient’s and the spouse’s or family’s name.
- Make sure the gift is accompanied by a handwritten note.
- Make sure the gift is the best in its class and will last a lifetime or more.
Gifting your family
It’s more difficult to gift on a personal side, and John Ruhlin admits that he was horrible at gifting his wife, but he also says that men don’t really suck at gifting. They just suck at putting time and attention towards it.
Strategic Gift Tips for Family
- Gift according to love language – Does your spouse appreciate your time, experiences, time for herself? What are those things your kids always want to do that you never have time for?
- Gift outside normal times – Giving a gift on Christmas and birthdays is expected. Giving gifts on a random day has more impact because it’s not obligatory.
- Take notes throughout the year – John Ruhlin listens to his wife and kids whenever they mention things they might like and uses Evernote to save gift ideas for later.
Parting wisdom on being a good dad
John Ruhlin is a traveling entrepreneur and a husband, but he also has three little girls all under the age of 5. As a family, they devote a lot of time and attention to cultivating faith.
He, like many parents, sometimes wondered if it’s sticking, but he has seen the power of pouring in core values at a super early age. His advice is that children’s minds can process much more complex concepts than we give them credit for. “Don’t treat them like they can’t understand.”
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