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EPISODE 180: JK Moving Sales Leader Vince Burruano Said This Early Realization Helped Take His Career to New Heights
VINCE’S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Don’t give up. Follow up and persevere – show that grit. Those people who continue to forge ahead will always find a measure of success. Those that give up, they’re making their own choice to not be successful.”
Vince Burruano is the VP of Commercial Sales for JK Moving.
Prior to coming to JK he held sales leadership positions at Oce, Icon and Ricoh.
Find Vince on LinkedIn!
Vince Burruano: I grew up in the New York area, I moved down to the DC area with my wife and son about 20 years ago. It was a great opportunity when I was working at Oce selling engineering equipment, it was a promotion opportunity come down to this area they took advantage of. Very thankful, lot of friends even though I left some family but lot of friends down here and it’s been great.
I’ve also been fortunate, I spent a lot of time doing volunteer work. Originally it was a volunteer farm up in New York and I got to do a little bit of that when I came down to DC. Then I switched over to spending more time with my son coaching young kids and coaching his teams from youth baseball and football all the way up right through middle school.
Fred Diamond: Did you follow the New York teams or the DC teams?
Vince Burruano: I followed both. Still a Yankee fan but I love the Nationals, so a little bit of both.
Fred Diamond: We’re doing today’s podcast interview from the headquarters of JK Moving right outside of Dulles Airport. We have listeners around the globe, so a lot of the people who are listening to the show have seen your trucks all over the place. We’re excited to tell a little more about the JK story and how you go about some of the sales efforts. Tell us a little bit about what you sell today, tell us what excites you about that.
Vince Burruano: JK commercial has a partner which is JK residential. We focus on everything that has to do with businesses and large organizations and we’re very fortunate to partner with organizations, some really interesting moves whether it’s large Fortune 500 companies or government agencies. What I’m most excited about with JK is that we’ve really earned over the years a great reputation for being of service to our clients.
More than moving or helping with installation or projects like that, we’re involved with change and we’re coming into organizations and helping them have a good experience around the change whether they’re moving just their desk or their office or they’re moving from building to building or locations. There’s a lot of stress around that, so we’re fortunate that we’re able to help companies experience change seamlessly with less stress. There’s really an interest in that.
Fred Diamond: A lot of people who listen to the podcast like to know who our guests sell to. Who is the consumer, who actually buys the commercial moving services from the companies that you sell to?
Vince Burruano: That’s a good question, it really depends on the size of the company. In a lot of cases we find the people are voluntold to run the move, that’s your office manager, maybe somebody in human resources. The smaller company is moving and they’ve been volunteered to lead that effort. On the flip side, we often work with people from facilities, management or real estate who have gone through this all the time, they’re experts and they’re looking for a partner that they can trust and handle that part of the project for them. There’s some real diversity in who is our customer.
Fred Diamond: JK Moving has a tremendous reputation, you’re an impeccable company. What are some of the differentiators of JK compared to some of your competitors? Why would someone invest in you guys?
Vince Burruano: Great question. I think the biggest reason is our full-time vetted employees, is really the big difference. A lot of other companies used either day labor or contractors so they’re really not employees of the company. At JK on the commercial side we occasionally use some specialty contractors but our movers, our drivers, our project managers are employees. We vet them both background and drug screen as well as ongoing checks, so you can feel comfortable having them in your space, they’re good people.
Fred Diamond: Tell us a little more about you, how did you first get into sales as a career?
Vince Burruano: Long before there was the internet we had to job search by newspaper and I graduated from Catholic University, the school of philosophy. I thought I wanted to go to law school, I didn’t have money to go to law school so I had to find a job and as my father used to pass me in the kitchen while I was going through the New York Times want ads, he’d say, “Is anybody hiring any philosophers today?” and I would say, “No.” Eventually I came across and found some opportunities in sales, there seemed to be a lot of jobs in sales and a lot of what I had learned about reasoning and argumentation, about public speaking, about writing good arguments in philosophy seemed like they would lend themselves to success in sales. I eventually applied and got my first job in sales up in New York.
Fred Diamond: What were some of the things you did? Where did you work in your first few sales jobs?
Vince Burruano: I originally started off working for Minolta Business Systems selling office copiers and office equipment. Funny story, I’d gone to interview for the job and met with the sales manager and he expressed an interest and I was supposed to now meet with the general manager. A day went by and no call and I would call and I would follow up and another day went by. My mother said to me, “Listen, go put your suit on tomorrow morning. You drive down there and you demand an appointment.”
I did and I got an appointment for the next morning. I went down there to see the general manager, I sit down and he looks at me and he goes, “So you’re the freaking boa constrictor that’s been after me all week?” and I almost peed myself. I’m like 21 years old, first real job interview and he looks at me and he goes, “That’s exactly the kind of person we need in our organization” and he hired me on the spot. It was a great – although traumatic – it was a great experience.
Fred Diamond: Just curiously, we have a relationship, the Institute for Excellence in Sales with Catholic University of America. Have you ever used your philosophy degree in the sales process?
Vince Burruano: All the time, I do credit that background with helping me, with the fact that writing skills and coming up with proposal strategy and just the amount of writing I had to do. I work on a lot of proposals and edit them here today and through my other positions. It’s been a huge advantage, they didn’t have a business school when I went there obviously years ago and now they do, which is great. It’s a great expansion.
Fred Diamond: What are some of the key lessons you took away from some of those first few sales jobs?
Vince Burruano: Interesting. I think the biggest one was that I started to realize that it was really on me. There’s a lot of jobs and I had friends who had other positions where there’s somebody there all the time to manage you, but with sales you’re out and about. You really have to make that decision and I did after a couple of jobs, was whether this was a job or a career. When that mental lightbulb went off where I said I could really do this and make this a career and be successful, all my behavior started to change.
When I first got hired you had to be there at 8 so I was there at 1 to 8. You could leave at 5 so everybody left at 5. When you finally realize it’s a career, you take ownership, you’re not watching the clock, now you’re just worried about doing the right things the right way. It was a bit of a transformation for me after a year or so. A lightbulb went off and then that really changed the direction. I went from not making any money and having my parents wonder if they wasted all this money sending me to college to in short order, my father was like, “I don’t know how you’re making all this money, you’re making more money than me and you’ve only been doing this a few years.”
Sales is one of the jobs you can give yourself a raise whenever you think you deserve it by working a little harder.
Fred Diamond: Vince, tell us what you’re an expert in. Tell us a little more about your specific area of brilliance.
Vince Burruano: I don’t know if I have an area of brilliance, I have a huge interest in learning and continuous improvement and I’ve been working very hard at all the positions I’ve worked at to share that love of learning. I think in some ways people get a job in sales and they go, “I’m done.” Like, “I’ve got to learn the product” or, “I’ve got to learn the service” but they don’t think in terms about learning about the profession. What I’m trying to do with our team here whether you’ve been doing sales for 20 years or you’re new is you’ve got to continually learn and you’ve got to be open to both reading and group learning.
I try to mix it up here, we all do some book club type things where everybody reads and we’ll discuss books. I do some other things where I’m reading some material and creating some training, that might be an hour or two hours, sometimes it’s a little bit longer. We’ve done some things where we’ve watched some of the videos from IES as a team, we’ll bring in breakfast.
I want to encourage people to be learning, I think it’s a shame that a lot of professions don’t have this accreditation that goes on and on. I think we need to do that because what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow and just being aware of the changes, it would put you in a much better position to be successful.
Fred Diamond: I’m just curious, we’ve interviewed a lot of people in technology and services and media and hospitality. You’re obviously the first sales leader that we’ve interviewed from the moving services industry, if you will. For the Sales Game Changers listening around the globe, what are some of the challenges that are inherent in selling what you sell, in selling commercial moving services?
Vince Burruano: I think the biggest thing is that what we sell is the same as what everybody else offers in the moving industry. JK Moving does a great job about differentiation and trying to sell what’s different, but some guy is coming in a truck to move some items, where are you going to find the difference in that? I impart on my team that where you find the difference is in what’s important to the customer.
You do that by doing a really good job in discovery. Everybody wants to get to the close, everybody wants to make the sale and then there’s all this talk about handling objections. What people fail to understand is that the reason that it’s hard to close a sale is that you probably cheated in the discovery. If you spend a little bit more time in discovery and really understand the client, they’ll probably tell you all you need to know to help them buy. Nobody wants to be sold but everybody likes to buy. We’ve done a lot to try to change the way that we interface with people and have an experience and a journey that we’re helping the client through. We don’t show up with the idea of just making a sale, we show up with saying, “We want to make sure this is a good experience for you, how can we be of help?”
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you tell us about an impactful sales career mentor and how they impacted your career?
Vince Burruano: It was back when I was at Oce. There was a gentleman, his name was Dom Memoli, he was the sales manager who hired me. To put it into perspective, he was about the age of my father and I was 23. What I loved about Dom was that he had five kids so he managed a sales team a little bit like we were his extended family. He wouldn’t yell at you if you did something wrong, but he would call and talk to you and say he was disappointed and that was almost worse than getting yelled at. I had come from an environment where people just yelled at you and whatever, you move on but if he said he was disappointed, that was more painful than getting yelled at.
He was great at the concept of noticing when you’re doing things right and giving you a pat on the back, and then when you were doing things that maybe you shouldn’t be or weren’t correct, he had the patience of a mentor to redirect and to help. You knew that you could always go with him with any question about anything and get an honest answer, and I really do appreciate the time he invested in me. He didn’t have to do it, it made a huge difference in my career. Eventually he promoted me a few times to more senior sales positions, eventually to management down here as he was moving up the ladder. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what I’d be doing, I’d be probably still selling copiers up in New York somewhere.
Fred Diamond: You also have managed a lot of people in your career, do you like the mentoring side of sales leadership?
Vince Burruano: I do. He said something to me when I first was thinking about going to sales management. Basically what he said is, “You’re going to have to learn to move from the I to the we, it won’t be about you. When you’re in sales it’s about you and that’s okay, that’s what it’s about but when you’re in sales management it’s about the us, the we. Your focus and you will have to appreciate seeing others be successful. That’ll really be your reward, so if you can learn to find success in other people’s success because you helped them while letting them have the spotlight and you’re in the background, then you’ll do really well.” I have over the years found that to be very true.
Fred Diamond: Vince, what are the two biggest challenges you face today as a sales leader?
Vince Burruano: The two biggest challenges is talent acquisition and talent development. It’s finding the right people and for us, we’re looking for people who are going to be a cultural fit, who are smart and bright and then once we attract them to the organization, it’s their development. What are we going to do to have them learn our specific business, our process but also on a personal level, how are we going to help them develop? Everybody’s different so those learning plans really need to be developed at an individual level which has some challenges in a small organization where you don’t have a full-time training staff or something of that sort. It puts some extra effort in thinking about how I can impact the career development of everybody who works for me.
Fred Diamond: For people listening outside of the DC area, you see JK Moving trucks all over the place whenever you’re driving on the beltway or even in downtown DC, I see JK Moving trucks all the time. Is having the big brand in moving, has that been really helpful in your sales process?
Vince Burruano: Absolutely, it’s great to be known so you don’t spend a lot of time explaining who you are. I’ve worked for companies even though they were physically larger that weren’t a well-known brand, so you spend half the conversation trying to explain who you are and where you come from. We don’t have that issue here at JK. The flip side is that you get your target on your back because all the other companies that we compete with, us being the largest, they’re coming after us. When you’re not in first place your view doesn’t change, you’re always chasing down the leaders. We have to do what we do every day well, we can’t take a day off.
Fred Diamond: You’ve worked for some great companies, you’ve had some success along the way, obviously. Why don’t you take us back to the #1 specific sale success or win from your career that you’re most proud of?
Vince Burruano: It’s funny, I had a hard time thinking about this and I had a couple of different things that came to mind. Going back to talk about my sales mentor, I had an opportunity when I was selling up in New Jersey. I was selling engineering equipment, basically machines that make blue prints, technical drawings. I was making a presentation to a VP of Engineering and for the two machines that they needed, the least payment for 60 months was $10 thousand dollars a month, and this is almost 25 years ago. I’m looking at this number and I’m going, “$10 thousand dollars a month?”
This is, at the time, a giant number and my boss Dom looked at me and he goes, “It’s a big number for you because you don’t have any money, it’s not a big number for the VP of Engineering so stop worrying about it. Let’s finish up the proposal and you go there and present it.” I went in there and I presented it and I gave him the information, I went through, he looked at me and he said, “Okay, if that’s what we need to do” and he signed off on it. It wasn’t a big number for him because he had maybe a hundred or two hundred people working for him, $10 thousand dollars was not a lot. It was a real learning moment about perspective.
Fred Diamond: Interesting, did that change you forever? Did that incident help you understand the value of money to you versus the value of money to your customer, and after that was there no problem getting the customer to write you tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth?
Vince Burruano: Absolutely. As I told people on my sales team, I said they’re all a bunch of zeros, they don’t mean anything, they’re zeros. Don’t focus on it, let’s focus on, “Are we bringing some value beyond that to our client and are we doing the right thing by them?” and the numbers take care of themselves.
Fred Diamond: Did you ever question being in sales? Again, you’re a philosophy major at the Catholic University of America. Did you ever think to yourself along the way, “It’s too hard, it’s just not for me”?
Vince Burruano: I did. In the first couple of jobs I had there were times where things weren’t going well, I wasn’t making any sales, I wasn’t earning commissions and I said, “Is this for me?” What I realized whether it was sales or another profession is I’m responsible, it’s on me. I can be as successful or unsuccessful as I want if I decide to apply myself and then just do it. I think once I had that mental self-awareness, things got easier and then I haven’t looked back since.
Fred Diamond: Vince, what’s the most important thing you want to get across to the junior selling professionals listening around the globe to help them take their career to the next level?
Vince Burruano: That’s a good question. There’s a lot that goes on and I think there’s a lot of things you can learn, but the one thing that I would focus on with the people that are new in sales is learn to do the right things well. What I mean by that is that often times you’ll find that people either won’t be doing the right activities or they’ll do the right activities, they just don’t do them correctly.
Both of those things work against your ability. Often times in sales it’s not about how much you work, it’s how you do the work and if you’re doing the right things and you’re doing them well, you’re going to find success much sooner than other people. The other thing I would encourage people starting off like the people on my team is to be open to learning, to want to learn, to want to get better.
That’s one of the things we love about the IES, I love sending my team down there every month because I want to expose them to different thinking. I don’t have all the answers, I can tell you what I did, for what that’s worth and I try to share some best practices but the world’s changing and you’ve got to be open to change. You’ve got to be flexible and you’ve got to always be learning.
Fred Diamond: Speaking about that, what’s a selling habit that you have that has led to your continued success?
Vince Burruano: I would say perseverance and I would say follow up. I think one of the things that I see today more than anything else is the lack of follow up and I know that some of the speakers that have gone have talked about this including John Asher, among others. You might have to call on somebody X number of times and you find that salespeople will call somebody twice, and if they don’t get the response they’re looking for, they stop. What they don’t realize is just the one more time.
I have a quick funny story about that: when I was up in New York, I was making cold calls one day and it was the end of the day, it was almost 4 o’clock and I could cut out or I could make one more call. I go in and in those days we did a lot of cold calls in person, so I went in to call on this engineering company and the receptionist looked at me and she said, “Oh my god, you stay right here and I’ll be back.” I said, “Oh my god, she’s going to run to the back to get somebody to come and yell at me” because often times these unsolicited appointments are not appreciated.
This guy comes running up with the receptionist and he goes, “You, I’m so glad you’re here, our machine just died and I need to buy another one.” I got a quick sale, $5-$6 thousand dollar sale out of that but what it really taught me is to go make that one more call. It’s really easy to go home but it was just as much fun to make that one more call, so sometimes when you’re down you just don’t know what’s behind the next door.
Fred Diamond: If things aren’t going well, one of the best things of course is a sale.
Vince Burruano: Yes.
Fred Diamond: Especially something like that, you’re in the right place at the right time, you weren’t quite sure what to expect. Vince, what’s a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success?
Vince Burruano: We’re doing a lot around integrating our CRM system with our marketing campaigns. Without getting into the details or the weeds on that is one of the things that we’re looking to do is to do a better job with the information we collect when we’re out meeting people to do follow ups, to stay top of mind and that when people have a need that we can support or something relative, that they will think of JK. Keeping that top-of-mind, tip-of-tongue, word-of-mouth philosophy is really important to us and we’re making some big investments in that working with our marketing department to achieve those goals.
Fred Diamond: Before we ask you for your final thought I want to thank you, Vince for all the great content today. I know you’re a student of sales, we’ve talked about sales for the people listening to the podcast, Vince’s office is replete with books, all the latest, greatest and I know you’re an avid reader. We really appreciate your commitment to the profession, I really like where you said in the very beginning that you learned it’s really on you and that your success is really dependent upon you. Before we ask you for your final thought, just one last question. Vince, sales is hard, we talked about some of the challenges. People don’t return your phone calls, they don’t really want to hear you, they don’t want to be sold to – they want to buy, thought. Why have you continued? What is it about sales as a career that has kept you going?
Vince Burruano: I think it’s the competition. I used to like – although I wasn’t great at sports – but I like the idea of competition. I think that what it’s taught me is a lot about grit. Angela Duckworth wrote a book recently about it, I recommend it. It’s that perseverance and again, a lot of things look as if they’re really easy. Sometimes we look at somebody else and go, “Look, they’re successful, that must have been easy.” It wasn’t easy for anybody, the truth of the matter is that you’ve got to persevere. You’ve got to do some of the things that aren’t fun that need to get done. I like that phrase about the difference between salespeople who are successful and unsuccessful is the successful ones do all the things the unsuccessful people don’t want to do. It doesn’t always have to be fun, find an efficient way to do the right things correctly and you’ll get the return on investment.
Fred Diamond: Again, I want to thank Vince Burruano, you’ve given us some great insights today. Vince, why don’t you give us a final thought? Again, we have Sales Game Changers listening around the globe. Give us a final thought to inspire them today.
Vince Burruano: I would say not to give up, I would say to follow up and persevere, to show that grit that we talked about and those people who continue to forge ahead will always find a measure of success. Those that give up, they’re making their own choice to not be successful.