Building solid relationships is the cornerstone of every career, regardless of industry, and gifting is a great way for leaders to nurture those relationships. But entrepreneurs who last sent or received corporate gifts around Christmas are on the wrong track.

Entrepreneur, author, and gifting expert John Ruhlin argues that gifting shouldn't be limited to one holiday a year. He believes entrepreneurs need to harness the power of thoughtful gifting year-round to strengthen their networks. Even when money is tight, a carefully chosen gift will show an organization's genuine appreciation for its clients.

One great personalized gift could mean the difference between an inked deal and a dropped one. It could save a critical bridge from burning or act as the final push to secure a mentor.

But how can entrepreneurs truly use strategic gifting to their advantage?

Below is an excerpt from Ruhlin's book "Giftology," published in 2016 by Lioncrest Publishing.

Would it shock you to know that I’m all for killing Christmas? It might seem odd, especially given my Christian faith. But here’s what I mean: I’m a firm believer that you get the best response from people when you gift them at unexpected times.

The Ruhlin Group sends gifts on Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day. By doing this, we cut into any sense of entitlement because the gift never becomes an expectation. It’s always a surprise, and it always makes an impact.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. If I tell you that I’m going to bring you a pizza for dinner next Tuesday night, already in your mind you’re thinking, “It better not be Papa John’s. I hate Papa John’s, so it had better be from Domino’s. And you know what? I’m on a no-meat diet right now, so it better be all veggies. He should know that I love double cheese, too.” Before it’s even happened, you’ve already outlined in your mind a set of expectations, because the pizza is no longer a surprise but an obligation.

It’d be an entirely different story if I showed up at your house unexpectedly with a couple pizzas and a six-pack of beer on a random Tuesday. You’d be overjoyed! You’d welcome me in and say something like, “I did not want to cook tonight. I don’t care what’s on the pizza. I’m so glad you brought something over! And you know what? I hate Bud Light, but let’s have a Bud Light.”

It’s a silly example, but it’s true. If you surprise people, it’s amazing what comes off as a “ten out of ten” gift versus the attitude of: “Here’s what I want and how I want it, and you had better not mess it up.”

Take that bottle of really good wine that you were going to give at Christmas time, and send it in the middle of the winter tundra of February instead. I guarantee the response will likely be, “That was the best gift! It was the only thing I got in the mail that wasn’t a bill this week!”

I call it “planned randomness.” We lay out a plan of action with regard to our gifting, but the employee, the customer, the prospect — they don’t know what’s coming when. So when it does, they are nothing short of surprised and delighted.

Essentially, when you surprise and delight, you’re acting in the interests of the other party. With no clear “What’s in it for me?” available, it’s more likely your actions will be perceived more genuinely.* When things happen unexpectedly, the receiver typically recognizes that this effort is for the relationship itself, no strings attached.

Depending on what the receiver is going through and what is needed, things with normally minimal value become immensely valuable when given with thoughtful intention. In fact, many studies have shown that things of relatively low value can trump things of monetarily high value.

*The value comes from uncertainty, which has often been examined from a risk perspective, but there are many positive outcomes from uncertainty as well. In this case, the unexpected positive event removes a potential “strategic imperative” assumption (Wilson et al 2005).

Author's Bio: 

John Ruhlin is the founder and CEO of the Ruhlin Group, a firm that specializes in high-level gifting plans to build relationships and acquire new clients. The Ruhlin Group’s partnership with Cutco has enabled it to become the No. 1 distributor of Cutco in Cutco's 60-year history. John is a sought-after speaker on the topics of C-level selling, relationship development, and strategic gifting; he is also the co-author of the best-selling book, “Cutting Edge Sales" and the author of the recently released book, "Giftology."