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Feb 20, 2018

John Ruhlin, master gift-giver, owner of Ruhlin Group, and author of “Giftology,” teaches gifting strategies to drive sales growth. Today on the EO Podcast, John discusses how showing gratitude and appreciation (and knowing how and when!) will open doors, build relationships, and skyrocket your business to heights you never thought possible. Tune-in to learn how an Ohio farm boy became Cutco’s greatest seller in history and now uses his Proven Process to take business relationships to the next level.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 00:33 – John is an “Ohio farm boy” who became the greatest seller in Cutco’s 68-year history by understanding the value of gift-giving and relationships
  • 01:22 – John’s “Brooks Brothers experience” opened more doors than $10M in advertising could ever do, and his principles of generosity led him to sell the largest deals of Cutco history out of 1.5 million reps and distributors
  • 02:30 – He was gifting knives but also speaking around the country to sales and marketing teams about how to sell and build relationships in unconventional ways
  • 02:39 – He teaches about focusing care on executive spouse, assistant, and kids
  • 02:44 – Ruhlin Group started in 2000 and broadened gifting and strategy; how and what to give as gifts
  • 03:09 – His team has created gift packages for large companies and pro teams; they serve and help mid-sized privately-owned companies to take them to the next level
  • 03:20 – They have a proven process
  • 04:13 – Everyone wants to be “green,” but putting your logo on a bunch of stuff from China that’ll end up in a landfill isn’t very green
  • 04:45 – The book Giftology
  • 05:20 – Story about John’s engagement
  • 06:08 – John had a rough spot in 2007-2008; he got engaged to his girlfriend at that time
  • 06:30 – He decided to recreate The Notebook; she was living in St. Louis, he was in Ohio
  • 07:11 – The Notebook summary
  • 07:45 – He wanted to recreate The Notebook; he dressed as an old man and knew her flight so he’d be on it while she was reading his recreated notebook on the plane
  • 08:37 – She was supposed to get the notebook from his brother, who was also going to film the whole thing, everything was going as planned until John collapsed
  • 08:47 – There was blood everywhere, they thought he was acting, FBI showed up because he was in disguise, he was unconscious, his girlfriend was watching
  • 09:20 – They couldn’t stabilize him; they shocked him and took him to the ICU, he wakes up the next day
  • 09:58 – He got a low blood sugar seizure because he had cut out carbs; 4 years ago he realized that his wife doesn’t like surprises and his “awesome” engagement story was more for himself than for her
  • 11:18 – Moral: Most people give gifts how they’d like to receive them, not the way the other person would like to get them
  • 11:25 – How did Cutco put their best salesman onstage?
  • 11:38 – Cutco is more of a sales training company with a culture and personal development component
  • 11:58 – Top performers are put onstage to extract knowledge and learn; personal development training and growing took Cutco to another level
  • 12:22 – At first, Cutco thought his success was fraud and he was getting audited; once they saw it was real they thought “What if we could have 100 John Ruhlins?”
  • 13:04 – They still own a distributorship and move massive amounts of Cutco; he’s still directly related with Cutco despite running Giftology
  • 13:31 – They (Giftology) use product to drive revenue, sales, and loyalty
  • 13:40 – In college, he was doing 1000 times more than the average Cutco rep; he went to companies that bought large amounts of product
  • 14:38 – What triggered the idea to go to businesses?
  • 14:50 – His mentor (his girlfriend’s dad) was an attorney, connector, and very generous; he had his hands in everything in the community
  • 15:32 – He pitched him to buy knives and dropped $2,000-3,000, and wanted to buy paring knives for all his clients
  • 15:58 – Why paring knives?
  • 16:17 – He said the reason is because, “If you take care of the family, everything else in business seems to take care of itself”
  • 16:27 – Paul was a master relationship builder and John realized he could use knives/gifting as a unique way to stand out and build relationships and drive revenue
  • 17:05 – Use gratitude as a competitive advantage in business
  • 17:12 – John is a true farm-boy; he milked goats, split wood, baled hay, etc.
  • 18:05 – John’s parents got divorced when he was young, his mother got remarried when he was 7, and his step-dad helped on the farm
  • 18:22 – His step-dad was a water engineer, tree trimmer, and ran the farm
  • 18:45 – John’s relationship with his real father
  • 18:50 – He’s been in the hospital for 4 years, his father worked for him for about a decade selling Cutco; he especially loved working with the Amish
  • 20:13 – What drives John?
  • 20:16 – Dad wounds, fear/pain or opportunity; there are definitely some deep rooted things that have caused him to double-down or go the extra mile
  • 20:52 – What is the Proven Process?
  • 20:58 – A repeatable process year-round and establishing who you want to appreciate in your business
  • 21:40 – Grow relationships by knowing who you are sending gifts to and the value of those people; gift accordingly
  • 22:32 – He met with someone in banking who manages $50 billion dollars in relationships and they gave their clients a box of chocolates; the gift didn’t match the value of the relationship
  • 23:23 – Boiling down the Proven Process
  • 23:23 – Identify the value of your relationships as strategically as you do any other part of your business; it’s all about people and showing them that they matter
  • 23:43 – As leaders, one of the most important things we can do is engage people with gratitude and appreciation; in gift form, it’s a tangible reminder of that appreciation
  • 24:08 – You need to tap into that emotion; we all make decisions emotionally then back it up with data and logic
  • 24:35 – Don’t send generic gifts
  • 25:08 – How to do it
  • 25:10 – Take your top 20% and determine what to reinvest (5% of net profit); concentrate your effort to do one really nice thing
  • 26:24 – Tie in something that is important to them and connects to their circle (family/assistant/pets/spouse); the paring knife example
  • 26:48 – Know your people and their circles; sometimes pleasing the wife is a better way to leverage a “common hot button”
  • 27:40 – Last year he spent $300,000 in gifts and $200,000 of it was knives; he sent knives to wives knowing that if he gets the wife, he has the husband, too
  • 28:20 – Something original, thoughtful, and strategic creates a deeper impact; it acts as a trigger
  • 29:15 – Gifts that aren’t thought out can even have a negative consequence
  • 30:16 – In the Giftology book, he goes over great gift ideas like knives, leather portfolios; it doesn’t have to be the sexiest gift, but it can be crazy-thoughtful
  • 31:38 – It’s not about the spending or the gift, but the thought behind it
  • 32:10 – If you are interested in a story mug or making an order, contact John directly at
  • 32:42 – Cameron Herald’s Brooks Brothers experience
  • 33:08 – John offered Cameron dinner and a basketball game; Cameron wanted to shop at Brooks Brothers while he was in town
  • 33:54 – His flight was delayed so he couldn’t go shopping; John ordered one of everything at Brooks Brothers to have in Cameron’s hotel room when he arrived, a $7,000 tab
  • 34:32 – He went to the Ritz and they merchandised his whole room; he didn’t want to go to dinner or the game at first, but after seeing it he was ready to talk/do anything
  • 35:25 – He got John his first $15,000 keynote and is John’s advisor, friend, and mentor
  • 36:10 – He connected the dots and figured out what John had done for him; it was silly, ballsy, and crazy...but it worked
  • 36:50 – Cameron appreciated the experience and the thoughtfulness but didn’t want John to buy it; the entire experience ended up costing $0
  • 37:35 – Boxers or Briefs

Key Points


  1. Gift-giving correctly can lead to increased sales, profit, and loyalty.
  2. As leaders, one of the most important things we can do is engage people with gratitude and appreciation.
  3. We all act on emotion and follow it up with facts and data; use thoughtful and strategic gifts to tap into people’s emotion while simultaneously expressing your gratitude.