LanYap Networks’ Angie Tocco: Sell Relationships Before Transactions

**Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of profiles featuring Channel Partners advisory board members. Meet Tocco and the rest of the board by attending Cloud Partners, a Channel Partners event, this fall in Boston. Register here.**

LanYap Networks resides on a select list of Intelisys platinum partners, but what’s more interesting is the supporting cast it used to get there.

“We have no salespeople on the payroll,” co-founder Angie Tocco told Channel Partners. “We have some lead sources, but we absolutely do not hire sales.”

The Phoenix-based agent fills its staff with support positions instead. The strategy for the company was always to lead with service, Tocco said.

“We’re into longevity-selling – or relationship-selling – versus a transactional sale,” she said. “For us, having that long-term relationship with a customer is very important, so having the right support system in place to help maintain on a daily basis those relationships is very important.”

Tocco acknowledges that a service-centric approach might not be for everyone. Many master agencies already offer support, and for a smaller company, “it can be an expensive proposition.” She says finding qualified help and keeping up with supply and demand are difficult

“You have to be incredibly nimble when you don’t have a large sales force to keep a funnel full and keep that exposure with not only your existing customer base – but potential new customers,” she said.

And these difficulties only add to what the normal agent already faces.

Tocco says the challenge for her and other longtime partners is to stay informed on what’s trending. With the industry full of new technologies, numerous carriers are stacking their portfolios to include as many goods as possible. However, Tocco says some of those carriers are dipping outside of their areas of expertise.

“From an agent perspective, weeding through all of those to find the best of the best, or to find the carriers that you want to do business with, can sometimes can get a little murky when there are a lot of carriers out there doing the same thing,” she said.

But despite the obstacles, she and her company’s co-founder, Laura Dashney, have witnessed their company reach platinum status – $1 million in recurring monthly revenue.

A Big Paycheck

Dashney and Tocco united around the idea of a service-first approach. It was especially important to Tocco, who started her career in service jobs before being dragged “kicking and screaming” into sales in 1997. She switched from an operational job to a regional sales manager position at Mitel.

Sticker shock highlighted the differences between the two industries. Tocco recalls sitting at her desk with her first large commission check, and crying.

“I had never been paid commission before, and it was back when commissions were very, very large …

… and they were paid lump sum, versus residual like they are now,” she said.

The check was worth more than her old yearly salary. She says she was excited, but terrified.

“I kind of made a conscious decision at that time to try to take a benevolent approach to sales and sell a customer what they needed, not what I wanted to sell them for a paycheck,” she said.

Tocco spent the next 14 years at Mitel, where she met her future business partner. Dashney left Mitel for Qwest and later formed her own agency, KDL Consulting.  Meantime, Tocco began to feel the “itch” to start her own business, but she held off on the next major transition in her career out of fear.

“I had it in my mind that I was an employee,” she said. “I couldn’t do anything like this. It’s very liberating once you figure out that you can.”

She didn’t reach that conclusion on her own. Dashney envisioned bringing her former co-worker on board to re-brand KDL Consulting, and she presented that vision to Tocco over and over again.

“She kind of stalked me until I said ‘yes,’ quite frankly,” Tocco said.

She acquiesced in 2011. She and Dashney are 50-50 partners at LanYap, which is certified under the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. In that tenure, Tocco’s influence has grown, helping her get membership in groups that include the Arizona Tech Council and the advisory boards of Intelisys and Channel Partners. She co-founded the nonprofit Telecom for Change to raise money for various local charities. All of this group involvement has created a sense of belonging that Tocco highly recommends.

“Otherwise, you really have no say in what’s going on around you,” she said. “You’re just in it for the ride, and that’s not a good place to be.”

Having taken a career route that she never expected to take – into sales and leadership – Angie Tocco says some of the key principles to a successful career are a willingness “to be nimble and put your ego aside and realize things change.” She says readers should learn from her experience.

“I have an incredible business partner that pushed me to the point where I decided to do it, and quite frankly, my one piece of advice is the same advice I was given and ignored. Don’t wait too long,” she said.

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