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EPISODE 43 — John Ruhlin — Giftology: Cut Through Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention

John Ruhlin started out with a simple desire to make some extra cash to fund his way through medical school. He got himself a job as a Cutco Knives sales rep, and after a few short years achieved the highest sales numbers in the company’s history — a record he holds to this day.

John has since taken his secret to selling knives and turned it into one of the most successful relationship-building tools out there: Giftology. Through Giftology, John helps businesses to forge steadfast relationships with their stakeholders.

In this episode:

  • 1:52 – Humble beginnings
  • 11:11 – The art of gifting
  • 12:03 – A return on relationships
  • 24:38 – Get referrals without asking
  • 38:08 – How to give gifts to those who have everything
EPISODE 43 — John Ruhlin — Giftology: Cut Through Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention
Show Notes:

1:52 – Humble beginnings. “I’m a farm kid who grew up milking goats, and I’m one of six kids. We had 47 acres in a town of 417 people known as ‘Nowheresville, Ohio,’ about an hour outside of Canton. I grew up milking goats, picking beans, and baling hay. We heated our house with wood. It was like Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone kind of life. I grew up very lower-middle income. My mom could make $5 go further than most people made $500. She was a thrift shopper and garage sale person. With six kids, my parents were probably making around 25 grand a year, so we were getting free lunches at school, if that puts it into context. Definitely no silver spoon or access to country clubs growing up.”

11:11 – The art of gifting. “The gift isn’t about you. A gift, by its very nature, if you want it to move somebody’s heart, better be about the other fricking person. It better be about their inner circle: their assistant and their team and their wife and their kids and their pets. That’s the inner circle. The core of what we teach — people are like, ‘Oh my gosh, like there’s a whole science and an art to this.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah!’ Most people don’t realize they’re actually spending money to have a negative consequence with their most valuable relationships. You’re spending money to basically tell somebody that they don’t matter, that you don’t know them that well. Not a really good investment in business today.”

12:03 – A return on relationships. “Most people’s long game is days, not decades. And yet, if you look at most law firms, they’re building long term, multi-decade relationships with these people — but they’re not treating them as if this is going to be a 10, 20, or 30 year relationship. They’re making the investment oftentimes saying, ‘What have I gotten from that person lately? I haven’t got a referral from them lately. I’m not sending them a gift.’ And I’m like, you have it backwards. If you love on people and inspire them, then they’ll go refer deals.”

17:27 – Referrals are like gold. “Most of the people that are listening to this podcast probably don’t have an issue with retention, but most of them suck at getting referrals. The reason is because they don’t have an intentional strategy about how they’re showing up to the relationships. They’re doing the same thing as all their competitors: dinners, rounds of golf — all that stupid stuff. It’s fine, but it’s table stakes. It’s like only taking care of your wife on Valentine’s Day and her birthday and anniversary. You don’t earn brownie points for showing up on Valentine’s Day. You earn brownie points with a relationship by showing up on random Tuesday with a spa package. It’s the same thing in business. If you want to build relationships, you have to be different from your competitors. Gifting is the one thing that people are like, ‘Oh, that seems weird. It seems woo-woo,’ and I’m like, ‘Great.’ If everybody was a great gift-giver, it would just be marketing noise, but because most people suck at it and are uncomfortable with it, they avoid it. I’m like, that’s awesome. We’ll work with the two percent of people that get it and will crush all of their competitors, because nobody is doing this.”

24:38 – Get referrals without asking. “Referrals should be something that naturally happen. In the end, what we really talk about is active loyalty versus passive loyalty. Most people think if they retain a client, that’s loyalty, but we’ve all had employees that have stuck around, and they were loyal, but we actually wished they would have left. They’re actively disengaged. But a loyal employee or a loyal client or a loyal center of influence or referral partner is somebody that doesn’t just say, if somebody asked them, ‘Hey, what law firm do you use?’ When you have an actively loyal relationship, they’re going out of their way at dinners and golf outings and looking for an opportunity to bring your name up, even if it’s a little bit awkward or uncomfortable.”

31:53 – Giftology is from the heart. “I think there’s this uncomfortableness because it’s sometimes difficult with relationships to say what caused that referral? What caused that loyalty? What caused that engagement? You can’t be an a**hole and then give great, great gifts and think everything’s going to be okay. The idea that you need to be a giver is a heart-set and a mindset. In fact, I tell people all the time, unless you’re willing to commit to this for three years, don’t do it. Because if you show up as Daddy Warbucks on this gift and then go back to being an Ebenezer Scrooge, you’re going to look like a douchebag. You’re going to actually spend money to have people be like, ‘Oh, that was just a tactic. That’s not who he is. That’s not who she is.’ There’s no question that if you are going to play the long game in decades, then this could work for you because you’re going to year-in and year-out invest in your relationships.”

38:08 – Gifts for affluent clients. “The reason it’s so important to be unique, useful, to include the family, and to be best in class is it’s super hard when you’re dealing with affluent people to give them something that they’re actually going to do and keep and honor. That’s the reason that, to this day, the silly knives are one of our most popular gifts. If I can get something on somebody’s kitchen countertop — the hub of their house where they break bread with their family and friends — if I can get something on that countertop that they see every single day and maybe use two to three times a day for the next decade, that’s like 3,600 to 10,000 impressions. Why? Because I was able to get something on some of the most valuable real estate on the planet: somebody’s kitchen countertop.”

51:22 – What does being a game changer mean to you? “I kind of view life, in some ways, as a game. I want my life to have mattered. So to me it’s like leaving my mark in that dash between when I was born and when I died. Whatever I do, I want to do it 110% and go all-in or not do it at all. Sometimes, I struggle with that. I’m not perfect at it, but for me, if you’re going to gift, gift like it matters. If you’re going to be a parent, parent like it matters. If you’re going to be a business owner, be purposeful and serve your employees and change the game in whatever way you can — but go all in. Early on, I saw my mentor live his life this way, which was giving more than was reasonable, giving more than was necessary. And when you show up and you give more than you need to, whatever that is: effort, generosity, gifting, or love, good things happen.”

Davy Crockett
Daniel Boone
Cutco Cutlery
Nature Sunshine
Facebook Ads
The Five Love Language by Gary Chapman
Bose Headphones
Cutter & Buck
Bed Bath and Beyond
Williams Sonoma
Seiko Watch
Apple Watch
Gary Vaynerchuk
Motel 6
Opus One
Lewis Howes
Southwest Airlines
Daddy Warbucks
Ebenezer Scrooge
Giftology by John Ruhlin
Tony Robbins
The Notebook
Ryan Gosling
Rachel McAdams
Shawshank Redemption
Romeo and Juliet

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