John Ruhlin is the #1 sales rep in the 70-year history of Cutco, with almost $10 million in personal sales. He pioneered the idea of leveraging Cutco as a high-class gift for clients and employees and has since developed that idea into the creation of the largest business gifting company in North America, the Giftology Group. His clients include major corporations across North America and at least 25 major pro sports franchises, who leverage John’s ideas to increase client retention. John’s best-selling book, Giftology, is bringing his concept of “radical generosity” to readers all over the world.


Q: Please share a little about your background and what lead to you starting to work with Cutco many years ago.

  • I grew up on a farm in Ohio. 1 of 6 kids. Milked goats every day.
  • I wanted to become a doctor but needed to pay for school.
  • Friends sold Cutco and was starting a Branch Office.

Q: What are some of the moments that stand out from your early years and what were some lessons you learned?

  • I learned the power of being genuine and excited about something and transferring that energy to another human being.  Humans beings buy from other human beings.

Q: What are some other traits you think make for a great sales person?

  • Learning to spend my time with qualified prospects was one reason for my early success.  I also connected with my customers at a really deep level.
  • I’d rather go meet with one CEO that could order $500,000 over the next 5 years than go see 50 people that can order a paring knife.
  • Be willing to play the long-game. Relationships take time to develop.
  • Focusing on adding value first and over and over again,

Q: What was the experience where the gifting idea really clicked for you and how did you develop it?

  • In many ways it was my original mentor, Paul’s, idea.
  • I was pitching Paul the idea of giving his employees pocket knives for Christmas when he told me “I don’t want to order pocket knives, I want to order paring knives.” I couldn’t understand why he wanted to give his clients, mostly CEOs who were men, something for the kitchen. What he said next blew me away…
  • “In 40 years in business, the reason I have more referrals, access, deal flow, engagement, loyalty, you name it, is I found out one simple truth… if you take care of the family in your business relationships, everything else seems to take care of itself.”
  • Everyone wants to be liked, trusted, and top of mind.
  • I’m not going to be a knife salesman, I’m going to be a referral machine.

Q: How did you take this idea and expand it into The Giftology Group and what are you doing now?

  • It’s been a 19 year evolution that started originally with knives.
  • Today we get so much junk mail and junk emails that it’s really important to stand out and gifting physical things is one way to stand out.
  • We developed a gifting system and shifted from being sales people to being gifting consultants.
  • Understanding who you’re giving gifts to, why you’re giving gifts, when you’re giving gifts, and what the real desired outcome is.
  • There’s a recipe and if you cut corners in any area the outcome won’t be what you want.

Q: What are some other parts to your gifting recipe?

  • Personalization is massive.
  • Aiming your gifting to the client’s inner circle (wife, family, etc) can lead to their inner circle being your advocate.
  • Tapping into people’s humanity, we’re able to deepen the relationship.
  • It’s how we show gratitude and how we deepen a relationship, the gift is just the tangible reminder of the value that you placed on that relationship. And referrals and deal flow comes with it as a byproduct.

Q: Aside from Cutco, what are some other things on your top 10 list of gifts?

  • I like things that tie into the kitchen because that’s the hub of the house. If you want to connect with someone at a deep level, that’s where you break bread together.
  • We like a specific reclaimed glassware company. Those are cool.
  • We also give this super nice wine opener.  It’s the same one they use at the French Laundry or the Bellagio and every time the person who receives the wine opener opens a bottle of wine and they pull it out they’re subconsciously reminded of you and your relationship.
  • We also walk our clients through the top 10 worst gifts to give people.

Q: What are some other ways people can utilize the personalization aspect of your system?

  • Using the recipient’s favorite quote (that they wrote or that they’ve based their life on), favorite bible verse, etc.
    • Any time you can tie into someone’s core values or who they are and what they value most.
    • And if you can tie in the person’s spouse and/ or family, that’s when things get crazy.
  • How can I spend less money but go all in on a detail that most people think doesn’t matter?
  • When you gift like a king, you get treated like a king.
  • The personalization of a gift is what gives the gift value in the eyes of the person who’s on the receiving end.
  • We don’t need more things but we all have room for an “Artifact.” Something personalized and useful.

Q: As you look into the next 5-10 years, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your business or in your life?

  • I’m spending more time with my family now than I ever have so we can make more memories.
  • We’re starting to partner with other vendors to create more Artifacts.
  • There’s a book called “The 5 Love Languages” and I would like to partner with Gary Chapman and write “The 5 Love Languages For Business.”  Giving is one of the 5 Love Languages.
  • If I can influence 1 million CEOs to treat their relationships differently; their employees, family, and business partners. If I can get people to love on those relationships, the trickle down effect would be incredible.

Q: What are some ways people can get in touch with you or follow you?


  • Radical generosity
  • Gifts are about the recipient not the giver.


  • Branch Office- a Cutco office usually run by a college student during summer break.
  • Fast Start- a contest for new Cutco sales reps for their first 10 days of sales.

Show Notes provided by Carlo Cipollina.

To learn more and get access to all episodes, visit our podcast page!

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