educate the boss about its value.
Your best strategy, then, is to
develop a relationship with the
company head’s assistant or a well-
placed manager, to dramatically
boost your chance of making a
deal. And the best way to do that
is to give thoughtful corporate gifts.
Who are your allies? Gifts are a great
way to connect with staff members
who work hard for little recognition.
Depending on the organization, you
might find the best allies in division
heads or assistants, event planners
or junior team members looking
for ways to get noticed. Showing
appreciation and respect for their time
helps earn their trust and assistance.
Assistants make especially powerful
advocates. They’re most likely to
remember reps who send gifts
or add thoughtful touches to their
interactions, and they’re willing to
reciprocate by getting proposals in
front of decision-makers.
Internal allies can also spot the right
openings and say, “Now that you’ve
wrapped up that project, do you want
to spend a couple of minutes talking
about company X?” That will be far
more effective than sending the CEO
10 emails or calling every other week.
TO MAKE THESE CONNECTIONS,
USE THE FOLLOWING GUIDELINES
TO ESTABLISH RELATIONSHIPS
WITH KEY INFLUENCERS:
1. TREAT THEM WITH RESPECT.
When building relationships, many
entrepreneurs talk down to everyone
except the head decision-maker, and
that’s a big mistake. Employees in
junior or administrative positions are
far from insignificant, and treating the
boss’ team badly all but guarantees
that your deal will fall through.
administrators and other support staff
at the same caliber as you would
John Ruhlin is the founder of Ruhlin
Group. John’s company is trusted by the
leaders of fast-growing companies to
develop relationship-building strategies
and VIP gifting programs to increase
referrals and strengthen retention with
their most important clients, employees,
and prospects. His book, GIFTOLOGY:
The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut
Through the Noise, Increase Referrals,
and Strengthen Retention, was released in
executives. They’ll appreciate it more
than their bosses will (because
these gifts are totally unexpected),
and they’ll often want to reciprocate
by helping you get your proposal
through. Don’t overlook the people
who surround your target prospect;
they hold more power than you realize.
2. DEVELOP THE RELATIONSHIP.
IT’S NOT ENOUGH TO SEND
ASSISTANTS NICE GIFTS EVERY
ONCE IN AWHILE.
Be helpful, with no strings attached.
Help them in their job searches, or
offer to be a connector when they’re
looking for new opportunities. I
always oblige when clients’ assistants
ask for recommendations. These
people frequently act as bridges to
the decision-makers in their next jobs
I was once wooing an NBA team
head for a potentially massive
account. As part of my regular
interactions with his assistant, I sent
her a quality knife set as a gift. She
spoke so highly of my company after
receiving it that, seven months later,
she opened the door to six other
divisions within the team, and we
landed a six-figure deal as a result.
3. APPRECIATE DECISION-MAKERS’
We all have someone in our personal
lives who influences our opinions.
So, establish relationships with other
people’s personal influencers. I like
to send a special subscription gift,
such as a custom leather tote bag
or handmade cutlery, to my clients’
spouses. They’re always touched that
I thought of them, and that goodwill
deepens my company’s relationship
with the client.
Surprising people with gifts isn’t
just a feel-good strategy it’s sound
business advice. When an assistant
or spouse receives an unexpected
present from a company, he or she
develops a sense of loyalty to that
brand. These people talk it up to the
decision-maker and foster a positive
association going into sales talks or
So, in the end, CEOs may make the final
decisions, but successful relationships
begin with their inner circles. u