All Things Start Up (pt 2)

In this second of a two-part series for Entrepreneur Exchange, President of Friendly Folks, Inc. Scott Kochman talks about sales and marketing, offers some key business management tips and shares the words that inspire him most:

What marketing strategies have you found to be most successful in growing your business?

Getting customers on the phone and providing such good customer service that they think of you as a friend, not just a “business.”  Our goal is to develop a relationship with people, not “sell” to them.  In this economy, it’s called the value proposition.  A great example is Zappos.  Everyone should learn as much as they can from that business.

What on-line, software or other resources have helped you the most in managing all aspects of your company?  Why and how have they been helpful?

Quickbooks has been instrumental.  Also, now that online applications are everywhere, using Microsoft exchange for email and an easy-to-use CRM (customer relationship management) has helped me keep things organized.

What did you do before you decided to become your own boss, and how have those skills helped you in your current business?

Well, I was in music and management.  But for me, the MOST important skill to have is to be able to deal with people.  If you get along with other people and are focused on what you need to do, you’ll be successful.  There’s no big secret out there.  We need other people to help us with every step of our journey in business.  And if people like you and you’re generally a pleasant upbeat person, you’ll do well.

What process do you follow to successfully close on a lead and make the final sale?  Any tips?

First off, I do NOT try and sell people.  I become their friend and give them as much information as they need to make a decision.  I actually like talking to people, so it’s natural for me.  I think I got that from my mother.  She can talk for hours on end without stopping!  But how I get them on the phone is important.  You must remember that people are getting bombarded with sales calls from all kinds of companies.  They have a wall up and do not want to talk to anyone, regardless of what company they’re from.  If they don’t recognize the number, they won’t answer.  So I try and develop a rapport through email first.  I need people to realize that I’m here to help and not to just make a quick sale.  Once people realize that, they’ll get on the phone with me, and then I can get to know them.  And once I do, I’ll recommend something for them based on my discussion.  Many times, if someone does not have a lot of money, I’ll recommend our least expensive package, and I think that surprises folks.  They always think I’m going to try for the expensive one.  But I want people to be successful because ultimately, that’s how my business grows.  I want a long-term customer, not just a one-time sale.

If you work from home, what are the greatest benefits to doing so?  What are the drawbacks, and how do you manage them?

For me, working from home is tough.  When I first started out, I walked around in my underwear all day (seriously), ate constantly, took naps, watched tv and cleaned my apartment.  Then I took a small area, cornered it off and put everything related to business in that one place.  This way, it was like my small office.  That helped a lot.  I think some people thrive from home and some don’t.  I love having an office to go to everyday.  I’m much more productive.  And these days, the good news is that unless you live in a big city, you can get a small one- or two-room office for a couple of hundred bucks a month.  You can even lease some space from an already existing business.  I think each person is different and if you can manage the distractions, working from home can be amazing.

What is your favorite motto and/or quote when it comes to business?  Any words of encouragement and/or inspiration for the budding entrepreneur?

Zig Zigler: “Help enough people get what they want, and you’ll get what you want.”  I love that, and it’s so true in today’s economy!

About Scott: A NJ native son and having attended music school at Syracuse given his passion for the trumpet, Scott Kochman always figured he’d wind up a symphony musician.  However, that duel major in business along with his entrepreneurial spirit won out when he started a personalized keepsakes and music production company more than 14 years ago.  Today, Friendly Folks, Inc. is one of the most respected companies of its kind in the industry and still growing strong!

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