Tech Sales is for Hustlers Podcast

Episode 18: Nelson Lawson

Episode 18: Nelson Lawson – Network Makes the Dream Work

“Your network is your net worth.” – Porter Gale

In the small world of sales, it’s equal parts what you know and who you know. Over the past 14 years, Nelson Lawson built a vast and strong network of peers that he often leveraged on his path toward becoming Managing Partner of DC Consulting Service, LLC. His firm is a value-added reseller and leading provider of information security solutions and professional services. In fact, some of his vendor partners today were his former coworkers.

On this episode of Tech Sales is for Hustlers, Nelson shares his experience with sales burn out, why it is vital to know your sales manager’s goals, and  how he embraced the entrepreneurial spirit to start his own value-added reseller.

Full Episode Transcript

Name: Nelson Lawson
Title: Managing Partner
Company: DC Consulting Service LLC
Exit Year from memoryBlue: 2008
Months at memoryBlue: 27
Alumni Path: Tour Completion

***Introduction***

Nelson Lawson:
Anytime you present yourself to someone, you’re selling yourself. Life is sales at the end of the day. And if you don’t love yourself, you can’t expect other people to love you. That mindset is something that helps me make decisions, even in my daily life, as well as in what I decided to do from a sales perspective, the companies I’ve chosen, and being able to have that same level of passion come through because people pick up on that immediately.

Marc Gonyea:
This week, we’re proud to have on the one and only Nelson Lawson, Managing Partner at DC Consulting Service. Nelson shares his experience with sales burn out, why you should understand your manager’s goals and how he started his own company. Hi, I’m Marc Gonyea.

Chris Corcoran:
And I’m Chris Corcoran and you’re listening to Tech Sales is for Hustlers. Tech Sales is for Hustlers is a podcast where we catch up with memoryBlue alums and reminisce about their starting high tech sales with us.

Marc Gonyea:
Let’s go get some Corcoran.

Chris Corcoran:
Gonyea, you know, I’m ready.

***Episode 18: Nelson Lawson***

Marc Gonyea:
Nelson Lawson. Welcome.

Nelson Lawson:
Thank you, Marc, Chris.

Chris Corcoran:
Coming at us from the ATL live and direct. After all these years, I’m happy to see that you still have the movie star good looks.

Nelson Lawson:
Keep it going. I’ve been told I have a face for radio. Thank you so much.

Marc Gonyea:
Unfortunately, this is a podcast. So the people listening will not be able to see Nelson’s handsome grill, but they’ll have to look him up on LinkedIn or something. So Nelson, before we get into it, let’s just set the stage. You started in January of 2006. That’s old school. Not to make you feel old, but I mean, that’s 14 years and like five months ago.

Nelson Lawson:
I still can’t believe it, seriously, because what memoryBlue is now. I mean always knew it would get there the day I walked in and I said, “Okay, where’s my desk?” And it’s right next to the CEO. And we’re all in the same room.

Marc Gonyea:
All right. So, to familiarize the people listen in with you, let’s just start off by talking a little about where are you from? Where’d you grow up? What were you like as a kid?

Nelson Lawson:
Grew up in Richmond, Virginia, had a great childhood. Parents really were focused around music. So I actually had a strong musical background growing up, played the French horn, saxophone, guitar, trumpet, pretty much any instrument out there. I learned how to play at some point during my life. So, there was a long time where my father, who was a symphony conductor and professional French horn player, really emphasized going to college on a music scholarship. So for a long time, I thought that was going to be, do you know what I actually pursued in life and what I went to college for? When I graduated, I ended up going to George Mason and you know, I had no clue.

Marc Gonyea:
I want to slow jam you a little bit Nelson. So you grew up in Richmond, obviously, musically inclined family. Were you at any point like before you got the mace? I mean, that’s a pretty interesting background to come from. And now you’re in sales. You started your own value added reseller, so like did sales kind of rear its head at any point, did you catch a nice whiff of it in the kitchen? One day?

Nelson Lawson:
Actually sales began when I was about, I wanna say seven, six or seven years old. My parents had a yard sale and in preparation for that yard sale, I decided I was going to draw pictures and I actually put a nickel as the price going to each of these pictures that I drew. So I was in my room, feverishly drawing pictures from sun up to sun down. And my parents had no idea what I was doing. I mean, I’m running through crayons like it’s nothing to get out to this yard sale. And my parents had no idea. I had all of this merchandise.

I came downstairs, sweater wrapped around my neck, polo on. I just wanted to make myself presentable at that point. And I did better than my parents actually just to get a nickel for each of my drawings. And most of the neighbors also thought that this was something of course my parents had helped me with, they were completely dumbfounded when I walked outside too. So they used to say, I think it was in my blood for a long time. And just from there, there were different opportunities, always presented themselves that I decided to get back into that sales role.

Marc Gonyea:
The clothes were making the man at age seven and that’s maybe when you kind of picked up your first inclination towards I’d like to get into kind of creating and selling things to folks.

Nelson Lawson:
Yeah, it was more so just, you know, I didn’t realize, I knew I liked money and I knew I didn’t get a big enough allowance. So I figured it would now be, I had to find a way to supplement that.

Marc Gonyea:
Nice. Okay. So, what were you like in high school? You played music a lot. Did you have a job? Were you playing sports or like, was it something else?

Nelson Lawson:
Yeah, so I was playing soccer. I was also in the band. I was working at the time. I had part time jobs, actually referee reffing soccer games. I was a soccer ref for the under 10 league and below. So all the way down to your five-year-old kicking it around on the field, I also had a job at Best Buy. That actually helped a lot with my selling too, because we were pushed to really sell these performance service plans with every single product that came through our line. And it was a matter of literally you had 50 people in line, you’re trying to get through, you had to make sure you got that sale done quickly. So it was definitely honing skills in that area.

Marc Gonyea:
Best Buy and kind of also wet your whistle a little. So you ended up at Mason. Did you go there for music originally or what’d you end up graduating with, I think I know, but tell the story.

Nelson Lawson:
Yeah. So in fact, I went to Mason with no idea what I was going to go for. I had a great GPA, 4.2 had actually done nothing, but you know, what were they called? The advanced placement classes. AP classes. Yeah. So I walked into Mason and most of my prereq’s done and still had no idea what I was going to do. So ended up actually completely opposite of school, but found myself in the party promotion business. And what ended up happening was that I’m throwing parties, but yet at the same time, I’m paying people for graphic design. Back then, of course, prior to social media, now I really sound old. You would actually physically hand out flyers to all of the parties. And I, you know, when you had a really nice looking flyer, you got a lot more attention, as well as people usually took you a bit more seriously as to the type of promoter you were and the party that it was.

Marc Gonyea:
Tell me about these parties. I want to hear about the parties.

Nelson Lawson:
Oh man. I mean they range from club parties to, I was even doing parties with various artists. From DC back in the early 2000s, which I will say was a little bit dangerous, but it was a little different back then and not what it is now. I would canvas places for years, again, canvassing parking lots, putting up flyers in people’s windshield, I mean every aspect of party promotion, that is what I had to take on the job up.

So at Mason, I ended up firing my graphic designer and taking on graphic design as a major. Why? I don’t know. But it was to really, again, supplement the money that I was making so that I could actually put it back into my pocket versus, you know, paying it out on a weekly basis. I will say I have an artistic side to myself, so I enjoyed the graphic design aspect and learning it. But one thing I also knew was that that job meant that I was not going to see people. I did an internship and I barely talked to any person in that building because they would give you your duties in the morning and everyone put their headphones on and they were just plugged into their computer all day. I knew at that exact time, this is not going to be the job for me at all. But I graduated from Mason, have this computer graphic design degree, and it’s exactly what I will never do.

So, enter ROCS, who was looking for responsible, outgoing college students. These guys reached out to me because I heard about them through some supplement on campus about these students’ entrepreneurs who had started a staffing agency. So I reached out to them just to really get a job at the time. I was like, look, I need to find something. And maybe they have something for me. Get with those guys, amazing guys, Brandon and Tommy. What they did was they, after a couple of jobs, they brought me in-house and they said, “Hey, Nelson, you actually would be perfect from a business development standpoint to help us grow the business.” Okay, perfect. Again, this is all of us in one room working. And as you know, in a startup, it takes some time to get things going, money is not flowing.

And it’s one of those things where we saw, we actually received the opportunity from a company called memoryBlue to place a sales rep in that company. And they actually asked me, you know, would this be something you would be interested in doing? And maybe I’m, even though you’d be leaving ROCS, it could potentially be something temporary while we find someone that could actually be your replacement at memoryBlue. I’m like, okay. Yeah. For the better of the company, let’s keep you moving because this was actually, maybe you all didn’t know the, one of the largest placements from a direct hire money that would come in. So this is a big deal.

Chris Corcoran:
To bring this full circle, Nelson, Special K, Sarah Klotz who’s the producer of this podcast, she worked for ROCS and we hired her recently. So it’s all full circle. It’s all full circle.

Nelson Lawson:
Okay. Look at that. Look at that. See Sarah and I also talked about going to Mason and what not, but I had no idea about the ROCS part. Yeah. Those guys are awesome.

Sarah Klotz:
Richmond, Mason, ROCS.

Nelson Lawson:
Yeah. Sarah, may, you may not even know Tommy, Brandon and I, we all used to live in the same apartment. Tommy, Brandon, those are my boys. But after coming to a memoryBlue, it was amazing. And you know, I had to let them know, it was a point in time in life where this started to fit more than the situation we had at that time. And I wish them all the luck in the world, you know, and they were happy. They were happy for me as well. So that’s kind of how I landed where I mean, with you guys in the beginning.

Marc Gonyea:
Yeah. Well, we’re lucky that we got ahold of you then, and we’re also lucky you decided to stay because you had a big impact on the business, but let’s talk about that. So you ended up, what was it like, we talked about it a little bit on the jump here, but what was it like when you started?

Nelson Lawson:
It’s an interesting concept when you walk into a sales organization and you have an idea of what sales is, but you’re really not trained as to what or how to be a good salesman. So a lot of people say, Oh yeah, you have the knack for sales. And until I got with memoryBlue, I didn’t realize how much, I didn’t know. And there was fear, I guess you could say in the beginning, because I’m like, Oh my gosh, this is more work than I’ve ever done in my life. And, but it honed a discipline that I never realized would actually be the catalyst for my success in the future. Because again, memoryBlue is what I would call a real training boot camp memoryBlue, really just separates those who think they want to be in sales from those who really want to be successful, not only in sales, but in life.

And I say that because you have to do the grunt work, you have to go through the mental I would say fortitude to just be strong enough to persevere when you think it might just be impossible. And the moment I got there, I mean, it was really impressed upon me to, you know, call stats, making sure we did the calls, being clear and concise with different tactics to, you know, keep the person on the phone or get their attention, the rigorous amount of training you guys put me through. And that was in addition to the weekly early morning calls and it goes beyond just sales training, but a discipline in terms of being on time when you were late you suffered the consequences.

And I will never forget that this was, I mean, it didn’t matter if it was 8:00 AM, 7:30 AM. And your battling Northern Virginia traffic, you found a way to get there. No matter if it meant you left the house at 6:30 in the morning. So you could be there for that morning meeting because you did not want to be that guy walking in late. And at the time, of course, I’m hating you guys, I’m like who does this stuff, I’m not coming to the, there were so many times I wanted to quit. If I tell everybody butterflies and rainbows right now, they’re going to say aw this is bull****. You know what I mean? But that’s life too. And I didn’t realize how much I was actually learning and suffering during that time, because it built me up in a way I probably never thought would make sense in the future until it did.

Chris Corcoran:
Looking back, what advice would you give yourself the night before you started at memoryBlue?

Nelson Lawson:
You know what, there’s nothing I could have really told myself to prepare myself for sales, because again, it is a discipline that you have to actually really be taught. It’s more of an understanding around what you want for yourself and what you can do yourself, because I think you all help push people to their limits. And I say that in a good and definitely in a good way, but it also brings out some of those traits in you that you didn’t think you would succumb to in terms of just the anguish or the disappointment and how you handle those things are so important because at the end of the day, you’re going to go through so many of these same scenarios in life.

And if you’re not ready because I’ve watched this happen so often in sales where people are hired, but they’re not ready and they didn’t have the opportunity to really go through a real boot camp to get an understanding of what it is you’re doing and how you need to do it. And there’s no such thing as instant gratification, we see it sometimes in life and you start to think, Oh, that’s supposed to be the norm, but the majority of sales guys out there are not just getting these Bluebirds that are setting them off for, you know, for the rest of their lives. So I appreciate that. Yeah, really appreciate that from you guys.

Marc Gonyea:
But we have to talk about the other thing too, we gotta talk about the office. Right? So first of all, let’s talk about the ride you were pushing. That thing was the best. Do you remember that?

Nelson Lawson:
The Honda accord.

Chris Corcoran:
No no no. The Lincoln.

Nelson Lawson:
I had the green Lincoln. Oh my gosh. You guys remember that it was the day I’m supposed to be at a morning meeting. My car hits the ground because the air shocks in the Lincoln gave out, I’m scraping the ground as I’m driving, but I’m still getting to that morning meeting until the cops pull me over. And they’re like, what the hell are you doing? You can’t drive this thing. I said, sir, I got to get to a morning meeting. He said I don’t care where you have to go you ain’t driving this to get there. Well clearly there was no such thing as Uber. So, I had to give you guys a call, like, I’m going to try and get in today, but I really think I’m going to have to go buy a car at this very moment if y’all want to see me again. I have to leave the car. The guy would not allow me to even like he wouldn’t leave until I physically had a tow truck there to take that thing to the junkyard. He just suggested, I call a friend, man. I can’t believe you remember that.

Marc Gonyea:
How could I forget that car? I loved it.

Nelson Lawson:
I am surprised you guys remember that.

Marc Gonyea:
This is why I remember it out. My heart would always skip a beat when I had people considering coming to work for us and they’d drive up Doer Avenue and the street would be littered with remnants from what Nelson? What was on the street usually? Do you remember?

Nelson Lawson:
I mean, it was, first of all, it was a warehouse district. So you had various place. I think we actually were across the street from a tile granite place where trucks were dropping screws, different elements of construction, pretty much littered that entire street all the time. I’m surprised people didn’t, you know, flatten their ties every other day, by hitting some sort of screw or something going. One thing I will say about the office when I pulled up, we were only in the top portion. You guys remember that? And we were about four deep, five deep to each room. Or if you can call it a room, we just made that one area as much as we could with all of the people we had. And it was such a blessing the day you all said, we got downstairs. Man, just to be able to spread out, because when you’re trying to talk to someone on the phone and you got another person beside you and another person, and we’re all, man, different levels of volume. It started to get a little rough.

Marc Gonyea:
Now we have like these noise canceling headsets and we have this, the system we put in the ceiling, which pushes down and it cuts down on the interference in the background. So when you’re on the phone, the person next to you, you’re talking to, can’t hear you. But back then in the Doer Avenue days. Yeah, we’ve got all sorts of cool s*** now. But back then the Doer Avenue days, we were basically on top of each other. And that office was like a maze. Remember that Chris and that open air, then all those stupid a** offices around the window. And like, it was a mess, but you know what, that’s what you gotta do when you’re trying to get by or early days, you know.

Nelson Lawson:
That’s it. No, seriously. I mean that, no, that definitely gave me an idea. Like, you know, everyone has a beginning. Everyone sees the fruits of your labor and it couldn’t be more synonymous with sales in general. When you first come in to where you will, at least those who persevere through that to get where you can be. Cause I always heard it. Everybody’s like, Oh, you’re in IT sales. Oh man, you gonna make a lot of money. I’m like, I don’t know where you heard this because I’ve been in it for a while now. And I just come home with headaches.

Marc Gonyea:
So you figured it out. So, so what was it like who did you work with? So who was your manager? When you started?

Nelson Lawson:
Which was even funnier. I have to speak on this. Mr. Lee Lawson was my manager and it was just so funny. Mr. dreadlocks down his back, shaved on the sides and one who you would probably assume would be an unlikely candidate in the sales world. But one, I also appreciate because he was definitely cracking the whip and ensuring that all of us kept moving. And as much as you wanted to hate him, you had to love him too, but was even funnier Lee and I also thought we might be family given where he grew up or where his family was and mine was too, but we’d never figured that out. I never did a 23 and me or anything like that, but maybe one day, who knows.

Marc Gonyea:
Who did you work with? What SDRs were on board when you were there?

Nelson Lawson:
So shout out to Jenn Zahos, Mr. Matt Genoa. Oh yeah, these guys, we were all a part of the Metastorm team. And that came as a result. Originally, I started alone on a company called Identiprize and they were identity access management. They also did municipal wireless mesh networking for these, grandiose scheme that was coming out from EarthLink at the time to the ubiquitous mesh network. So when Metastorm actually decided given the efforts by, you know, Matt and Jen to grow the account, they were actually wanting to add on another headcount and you guys decided to bring me on. So I split my time between the two accounts and man to go to business process management. I mean, I love now how much I got from being a part of different companies and learning the various technologies because I could speak intelligently about different aspects now, even today.

But yeah, those guys, it was fun because I now had competition. And I don’t know if you guys remember that little white board where we had all of the ticks on who got meetings, Matt Genoa, a beast. This guy, I remember we would get our bonus only if we hit a certain number of leads and this guy was one away. I had gotten it Jenn had gotten it. He came in on a Saturday and literally dialed until he got that last dial. But that right there was the type of just discipline you guys instilled in us when it came to hitting that quota and really understanding it, it will take everything, you know, just to hit that goal and you have to be ready to do anything to hit that goal too. So I got to give a shout out to that brother, cause he’s always inspired me from that point.

Marc Gonyea:
And that was, that was a big deal for us because Metastorm was one of our earlier clients, second client. Yeah.

Chris Corcoran:
Marc and I were the SDRs. We passed the torch directly to Jen, Genoa, and you Nelson.

Nelson Lawson:
Much appreciated that we can say at the end of the day, those two companies Identiprize and Metastorm extended offers to all of us actually.

Marc Gonyea:
Yep. Let’s talk about that. So you did such a great job and that’s how we want it to work. And remember Chris and I, we started the business, you know, we were SDRs for a while and to put whoever got put on Metastorm kind of got a little special, extra something like in a good way and a bad way. Cause that was like our baby. So the fact that we put you on there knew you knew you were doing a good job if we put you on Metastorm and then the only bad thing was you didn’t want to be the person who f***** it all up either. Right?

So, I definitely remember at the time was probably a blessing and a curse, but it also turned out to be a blessing and they loved you and Identiprize loved you too. And just the way you still talk about Identiprize I mean, you freaking obviously remember and know what they did. And that was true. That was 14 years ago. It was a long a** time ago. So from what you can remember, when it was like, Hey, we’re going offer Nelson and then Identiprize. Like, how did that all go down? What do you remember that? But also what wouldn’t you decision making?

Nelson Lawson:
So enters Chris Corcoran, we are talking about ROCS. And at that time, I think because of the interest from these companies to acquire us, the light bulb went off and Chris and he’s like, Oh yeah, this is actually where we should also double profit in the sense of we’re training these guys and then setting them up. Now, there’s a component here, Nelson, let’s talk. How did things, you know, how did ROCS work? And Hey, maybe we should consider looking at a model in terms of being able to, you know, have all of these guys matriculate to the next place, enters what I thought was spearmint rhino, but it was not. I was so off. I’m even more upset that for the last couple of years, I probably thought it was spearmint rhino, that was the name and forgot that that’s actually a nice establishment in Vegas for those of a gentleman. What was the name again?

Marc Gonyea:
Navy Horse.

Nelson Lawson:
Navy Horse. A color and an animal. Oh man. It was brilliant. I would say that it was brilliant guys. Cause from there, I really just noticed how you all really were putting together me the bone bricks of this company. Like it was now coming together in such a way where people are now starting to recognize the talent as well as willing to pay for that talent to come on board. So I actually chose to go to, Identiprize and a lot of that was due to the fact that I really didn’t like business process management that much, it was a long complicated sale. And I was also dealing in the federal government with them.

So, I was in charge of the Navy account when we were doing it. While there were some big wins, it just was not something that really, you know, did it for me. And I found that kind of moving towards the cybersecurity realm was where I started to find, you know, I had more of a knack for as well as an interest in, so got to go towards your passion too, when you’re selling something. Because if you don’t believe in it, it will come across.

Marc Gonyea:
We’ll talk about that. Why is that important? Cause that’s key. So first of all, real quick, that, that was a great move. That was a great move BPM. Even Chris and I were doing it, no disrespect to the BPM posse out there. It’s, it’s kind of a nebulous harder thing to kind of get your arms around versus cyber is something we’ve seen explosive growth, explosive growth, like across the industry in terms of funding of companies, companies going public companies growing. So it obviously interests you more, but tell listeners why you want to be interested in ideally passionate. I mean, may not be passionate, how you’re passionate about like the love of your life or maybe your favorite thing outside of work, but you gotta be passionate about what it is you’re selling and why is that important?

Nelson Lawson:
That’s it. Any time you present yourself to someone you’re selling yourself, life is sales at the end of the day. And if you don’t love yourself, you can’t expect other people to love you. I think sales is more of a psychology more so than it is anything else because it allows you to really get into making decisions that are going to be in your best interest because otherwise it exposes you at the same time. If in fact it is not something that you feel passionate about or because it comes across to the customer, but it comes across to people in just your general life.

That mindset is something that helps me make decisions, even in my daily life, as well as in what I’ve decided to do from a sales perspective, the companies I’ve chosen and the route that I’ve taken to even start my own company. This is it’s all a part of believing in yourself and being able to have that same level of passion come through because people pick up on that immediately and maybe BPM, people didn’t catch that same passion from you necessarily, but you know, it’s sales also kind of teaches you where you have to push to get to the goal necessary, but you can only do it for so long because you will burn out. And I didn’t realize that part until later on in life where you really have to take time for yourself. So you can maintain that level of passion when you’re selling something.

Marc Gonyea:
How long you’ve been developing this, like the first part, your take on the sales and the passion. When did that sort of dawn on you? I mean, certainly you picked, Identiprize back in the day for part of it, but have you just been like evolving through the years. Is this something that you think about fairly often?

Nelson Lawson:
Every day. Yeah. I mean, I’ve read a lot of books. Still to this day, I love the challenger sale, but it took me out of my comfort zone. And I think that’s what I started to have to realize is that sales is where you are forced to face the things that you may fear the most. And it’s the reason why so many people can’t do sales because they’re not willing necessarily to face that rejection. And I remember one thing in memoryBlue, you always told us, you will know, you will always remember the yes’, you rarely remember the no’s.

So, keep moving, keep moving, keep moving. And that’s stuck with me since, I mean till today, so that I’ve never had to stop cold calling, but a lot of people don’t know how, or they’re too scared to pick up the phone. I never thought that was the case. Even with your most seasoned professional sales reps, you tell them the moment COVID hit, and you can’t go meet a customer. If they didn’t know them already, they’re scared to call them. And I found that to be very interesting across the board every day.

Marc Gonyea:
Great. That’s a great answer. And that’s a good philosophy. I agree with that a hundred thousand percent, let’s talk about that other part, you hit on the burnout, but also taking avoiding it, or what you said is I didn’t realize until that later, they got to take time for yourself. Go into that for us.

Nelson Lawson:
You are the only person that will take care of or look after yourself. And you are the only person that knows your limits. What you have to do is make sure that in pursuit of this goal, you actually plan out the times that you’re going to take a break. So often I got into sales and after memoryBlue, especially where it was almost as if vacations were looked down upon, I even remember a sales rep who had a child and was maybe out a day or two. And I said, okay, your wife’s at home. And he said, well, you know, that’s her job. I’m like, okay, this is where I start. Right? He’s like, I got to get this deal. I got to get it. And I’m thinking money and life need to have balance your job. Your career and life have to have balance. And without it, I’ve actually experienced what it is to not have balance and feel just that burden on your back as to what you perceive life to look like at that point. And that’s, everything is gray. You’re kind of moping around your energy level isn’t up.

You’re not motivated, but you’re going through the motions every day to do your job. And again, that comes across to this, up to the person on the other side of the phone or in person whenever you’re having a meeting. But I did realize when I started to actually schedule my vacations, regardless, of course, I always made sure I did this in advance. So it wasn’t a surprise to anyone nor to my clients. Oh, I’ll be out of town next week. Okay, perfect. Come back. And I’m fully fresh. I’m ready to go. But the moment, I don’t want to go back to where I was when I was scared to take vacations, because I didn’t want to come across as someone who was lazy, but then realizing I was no good, no good use to that person. If I wasn’t at my best. And that required, you know, taking time for yourself.

Marc Gonyea:
That was brilliant. And it’s very important, particularly in a high performance environment like sales, but people aren’t robots, you know, you’re not a machine. Everybody needs your time off or take a break, recharge. How do you, so you’ve worked for some very reputable companies, but you also have managers at each of these companies, what advice would you have for people who are looking to advance their career at the same time, but also kind of balance that in terms of finding a manager or finding a company?

Nelson Lawson:
You really have to, the manager aspect is probably the most important. If you’re going to get with a company you want to have a close relationship with that manager yet at the same time, you really want to understand just like you would a customer, their goals. How can we work together, but have separate roles to support other best. And so often I would know what my goal was, but not consider what the manager’s goal was. What, you know, as a quota is not just the end, all in terms of what success is defined as within the company. And that starts to, that will actually, you know, anger, your management, if you’re focused more on chasing the end result. And I’m going to give you an example oftentimes, and I’ve done this before, and I’ve seen this with a lot of other sales guys. We chase the big whales yet. We’re not focusing on the small wins that we can knock out.

Forecasting is huge. Managers they are graded based on forecast, more so than they are you hitting quota and being over, you know, what they had projected. If they’re not projecting correctly, what it is that you’re telling them, and you don’t have that relationship with them. And you’re not honest with your manager, you can’t explain to them, you know, they can’t have your back when it comes to speaking up as to why things may be as a whole for the team and for you individually. So my greatest piece of advice is to really understand both goals so that you all work in tandem to reach it together. What has worked in the past for other people? What, you know, why is that person successful?

I started to also, you know, just find, you know, time with a lot of sales reps out of McAfee and just really just get close to them that helped me, you know, develop what it is and that discipline I needed to be able to go forward to. But I look back at my peers at memoryBlue, and I’m like, Jen, how are you getting these meetings? Because you’re a girl, you know, in my mind, I’m thinking, Oh yeah, she’s got that soft nice voice. They want to definitely just want to be on the phone with her. Yet, once I started listening to Jen more, Matt and I started to adopt different tactics that were working as well. And then it was like, Oh, okay, this is a much more smooth process. It’s really just about not secluding yourself. When you get into a sales world and understanding there are more people out there to help you as well as just to understand helping people is about helping them and understanding them too.

Marc Gonyea:
If people overlook that you learn as much, you mentioned it twice, you’ve made a great analogy that people can listen to. You’ve got to go find the people who are successful and you don’t have to mimic what they do per se, but you want to, it’s like, you know, I can’t tell Dave Chappelle jokes. I can’t tell his jokes the same way, obviously. Right? Greatest comedian. But what I could probably do is sit next to Jen and I can’t beat Jen, but I can, like you did, or a rep when I’m at McAfee and figure out, okay, what are the things that they’re doing? And how can I copy those? But put my own Marc Gonyea twist on them or Nelson Lawson twist on when he started at memoryBlue to make them more suitable to me. And I think that’s like the biggest challenge, because especially, when you’re new with memoryBlue, you’re trying to figure out how you’re going to be successful. And you’re like, Oh my gosh, I have to change who I am as a person to be good at this.

Nelson Lawson:
You hit on something. And this is just going to be, we’re keeping it completely candid. I’m a black man coming into a white world. One thing I will say I did not experience at all. When I came to memoryBlue, you guys, even still to this day you’re like my brothers, you know what I mean? That’s how I looked at you guys as my bosses as brothers, because that’s how you embrace everyone in the organization. But when I moved to a different place, I noticed that I was the only black guy, again, in a situation where I was not necessarily accepted as well as my counterparts in terms of different events that may have been going on or just conversations in general, they were kind of, well, you know, they probably felt more comfortable at that time with them.

You have to really get to a place where, well, for me, I started to find myself changing who I was to try and match that with I didn’t understand. And that actually took me down more than anything because I wasn’t comfortable in myself not to mention I can’t grow facial hair. So I’ve always kind of looked really young. But 14 years ago, I looked super young when I worked for some other organizations I walked in and guys would think I was the intern. Who are you to tell me about my cybersecurity platform? Like, Hey, you know, so those were two big hurdles for me. And I found myself trying to constantly focus on changing myself to fit what I thought would be more accepted. And the biggest lesson I’ve learned is self-confidence. I think that is the main thing I’ve learned in sales is self-confidence because those things don’t work. The moment you change yourself, you become unauthentic, and that is easily picked up by the guys, you know, or the people that you’re just talking to in general, as well as in life.

Marc Gonyea:
You gotta figure out a way. And obviously I can’t speak to it from as a young black man or a black man in general, obviously, and for me as a sales professional, but I see it with the SDRs. They’re struggling with like the cognitive dissonance of like getting crushed by the rejection of what sales is. And then people kind of telling you, this is how you have to do it. And you’re like, well, that’s not who I am. Like why? And that’s part of the struggle.

Now it’s two different struggles, obviously, right? One is more different than the other, but that’s part of the sales struggle, which is, yeah, you have to come to the there’s this reckoning you go through. I think in it, we all, everybody goes through certain, certain paths obviously. And I think that’s a great point and it’s good for people to hear. So you left, you went to Identiprize and then you kind of started your journey in the high tech sales world. So had a stop at Dell right. For a little while, and then you ended up at, was it McAfee at the time I got to get Intel and McAfee confused.

Nelson Lawson:
McAfee. Yeah. I landed at McAfee due to an acquisition of a company called Secure Computing. So I was the first hire of the McAfee company through Secure Computing. And shortly after, I want to say nine months after it was when Intel acquired us, but it wasn’t public knowledge. It was more so an internal acquisition. And my paychecks just changed from McAfee over to Intel.

Marc Gonyea:
As you were moving up, kind of am, I would assume, right? You move up the food chain. As you get more experience, what are some of the sales muscles you had to develop? So from a more tactical standpoint, like there’s certain stuff we just talked about, which is more holistic, but what are some of the skills you learned as you kind of started to sell more? And I guess in the traditional sense of the word, right? You were at the point where you were closing business and you were with secure computing and McAfee Intel for seven and a half years. So you did all sorts of cool things.

Nelson Lawson:
Yeah. In fact, presentation skills were probably the most important part. I’ve honed the cold calling aspect, but that’s not in front of someone. And you really have to understand your audience when you’re presenting something. Because death by PowerPoint is real. And a lot of times that’s all a lot of deals slip. Given the fact that organizations may have you present the way that they, as a corporate entity may want you to, you know, state, their way of doing the presentation, but it doesn’t resonate with the actual crowd that you’re presenting to.

So, in the beginning, you’re going to make mistakes and it’s okay. I think it just comes from repetition as well as just understanding your customer and understanding what makes sense to you. So you don’t sound like a robot from necessarily the company you’re working with, because that also comes across as an authentic, when they hear key jargon terms, whatever that may everyone in the industry is saying about something at that time, you have to get your own flow. You have to have your own flavor.

And I think the best piece of advice someone ever gave me was that if you’re talking to someone about your company, you have to talk to them in an educated way. But yet as if they were five years old, don’t overcomplicate what you’re talking about, because you’ve definitely come across you know, someone that is just drinking the juice that really doesn’t understand more so than what has been given to them. And you haven’t explored outside of what, you know, why that even exists, why that product even exists.

Chris Corcoran:
So, at what point did you leave DC, the DC Metro area for Atlanta? Was that was that a secure computing was at Intel?

Nelson Lawson:
A little bit about that. That was Intel. So I moved to Atlanta the second year after I’d gotten my first field opportunity at Intel. So I was on the federal team. So the norm or the expectation was that I would leave federal and take a federal position. I stepped out and there was a healthcare opportunity for me to take. It was a brand new team. I took it and they had given me the entire East coast. So 2012 was when I began that. And I literally had meetings one day, maybe in Maine next day, down in Georgia next day in New Jersey. Next day in Florida, I literally said goodbye to all my friends and family, because they didn’t see me for an entire year.

I had an insane quota and I hit it, but I also realized, and this is going back to what we were talking about. The quality of life, I never took a vacation. I wanted to do really well. That first year I burned out so badly. I went to my boss and I said, look, you don’t split this territory in some way so someone else can handle this. You won’t see me cause I’ll be dead, straight up. I’ve seen, Oh my gosh, I’ve gotten so many statuses on planes. And then George Clooney’s up in the air, come out it just put me in more depression. I’m not going to be that guy. So 2013 was when they split the territory and they gave me the option to either move anywhere in the Southeast or stay where I was. And I decided, Hey, quick change. I banked on two years in Atlanta and then was going to come back up to DC. And here I am, seven years later, seven and a half years.

Marc Gonyea:
You’re not coming back.

Nelson Lawson:
Bought the house and everything now.

Chris Corcoran:
Hey, so Nelson, I remember the last time I saw you physically, it was a great way to kind of when first saw you were driving that green hooptie. And then the last time I saw you, you were, you were pushing a smooth Jaguar.

Nelson Lawson:
At that time I had gotten the Honda, well actually the Honda that I had to buy as a result of the green machine leaving me. I rode that bad boy till the wheels fell off. And at that point, I said, Hey, it might be time to treat myself after all these years. I will say this while it sounds great and people are going to say, Oh man, yeah, you were making money. I had to get those types of cars out of my system because they are more stressful than anything else. Any job you can have, you hit a pothole, your whole soul leaves you and you are an automatic target for every policemen out there.

Chris Corcoran:
You’ve got a decorated sales career. What’s your most memorable deal, win or lose?

Nelson Lawson:
Most memorable was with a company called Allergan, the highs and lows with that, yeah small company. You know, they think they do this drug called Botox or something, you know? So the deal ended up being my entire quota. It was $3.2 million deal. Yeah, it was beautiful, but that deal also taught me a lot about sales process as well as trying to keep what we do is herd cats. We’re trying, that’s literally what sales is that at this point you’ve got so many moving parts in a corporation like that, where it’s not just one person making the call. And there are there’s a lot of proof of concepts that take place with the various technologies, but more importantly, trying to forecast something like that is going to be the majority deal on any manager’s forecast.

And it came down to June 30th when we were told that the entire deal was coming through and only 1.7 shows up and I’m sitting here like what’s going on? My VP literally had me on a plane. I was in Dallas at the time I was on a plane to Parsippany New Jersey. I think maybe minutes after I talked to him to figure out what the heck was going on. So, at the time I think there were varying ideas as to what they were going to do versus what we thought. And when it happened, I was blindsided as well as the organization. And that reflected poorly on me.

Now, mind you, the deal happened, but it happened in stages, not where it was necessarily forecastable at that point and understanding how detrimental that was to the forecast. I actually suffered more for bringing in still the largest deal that year on the healthcare team, because I was not able to accurately forecast or foresee the events that took place to bring the entire thing in. So we got the next 1.5. I want to say the following quarter. It didn’t make sense at that time. I’m kind of like I brought in 1.7 and my quota is still, I mean, I’m making money, but it doesn’t reflect well when your managers, because then they lose confidence in your ability to actually forecast and let them know what’s really going on. It doesn’t look like you have control of the business.

I am more hesitant about forecasting stuff until the customer convinces me they need it. I handle on the air caution almost all the time. Now when I’m in any conversation, I used to have happy eaters. That’s another thing. Any sales person listen to this right now? There’s this thing called happy ears. You cannot get excited when a customer says, Oh my gosh, it’s the best thing ever. I want to cut you a PO tomorrow.

If you do not vet that customer 50 times more and understand every single aspect of how and what needs to be done to get that PO in. Then what you have is called happy years. It’s a problem that you need to get rid of. That is what it has taught me is that you have a trail, you hold every person accountable. You maintain an understanding around when and what is supposed to happen on a specific time date. And who’s involved with that process. I mean, even going through it still to this day with in my own company, it is one of those things that I hear, but yet I don’t believe until it actually happens. Right.

Marc Gonyea:
Oh man, that’s good. That’s gold Nelson. That’s gold. So let’s talk a little bit about, so you had a phenomenal run at Intel security, part of an acquisition, running a ginormous territory, realizing what’s important to you in life, right? Besides being successful in sales, got the nice car thing out of your system. Although I still think that’s something that you deserve. Then you had a couple of runs at some startups, which it was just, I mean, Cylance is not really a startup, but you had an obviously nice two year run there. But what I want to go a little bit forward to, and you can talk about Cylance if you want, but you know, you started your own business.

Let’s just jump into that. Let’s talk about, I asked you because you and I haven’t talked in a while. People move away from DC. It’s harder for me to keep track of them. You and I just had a quick chat on Wednesday and I said, Nelson, you started your own businesses. That’s great. That’s great. And Chris and I have a lot of respect for VARs because Chris and I had, I was kicking around the idea, man. You know what to be a good business could have been VAR of our being and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But, then you, yeah, but you told me why you wanted to do it, share it, share with the audience and Chris what that was.

Nelson Lawson:
So one thing about VARS is that you have a lot of big names and they may have all started off, you know, with, they may have started off with an idea in mind that quickly gets diluted as you become larger and larger. And what is happening is that you acquire these customers that really look to you for an unbiased advice as to what’s going to be best for them. What’s new in the industry, really keeping them informed. And it’s, I mean, we know now cybersecurity is changing immensely every day, new products coming out, I was even telling you Marc 400 different companies this year were supposed to come out of Israel just cybersecurity companies. And I’ve worked with a number of them.

But what I found was that on the manufacturer side, I started to realize the politics that went on behind the scenes with a lot of resellers your larger resellers are paid by manufacturers to push their product for the individual reps are encouraged to push their products, they’re even incentivized to do so. So, what ends up happening is there is a bias that is established. And unfortunately I’ve watched so often people acquire a technology simply because they know they wouldn’t be fine. Everyone’s had heard that, Oh no, one’s ever gotten fired buying Cisco. But what that takes away from is that transparency you’re supposed to have with that customer. That level of just trust is what that customer’s leaning on you for. And this is not just small companies. People may say, Oh, well, yeah, small company, you know, these are CSOs in Fortune five. Even now they want someone that they know they can confide in because they’re going to be telling you about a lot of the issues going on, but they also want to know that you’re not just selling them something because it means that your paycheck is going to be much bigger. And that’s what I experienced every single time.

Because with startups comes a shift in mindset from the antiquated way of doing something that was accepted silence, for instance, revolutionized AV because they had an artificial intelligence platform that was able to predict malware pre execution. This is in contrast to the traditional way, which was based on signatures, signatures being when a piece of malware comes out, they write something that would be able to detect that specific piece of malware. But as they mutate, you couldn’t keep up with the number of signatures. And so therefore you’re left unprotected.

However, here I am trying to explain this to a company that’s never heard of this concept and you have a reseller that’s really pushing Symantec simply because they’re getting paid more based on the deal. I said, something’s wrong here, guys, you’re listening. Yeah. They may. Your trusted advisor is not giving you the right advice. You know, advice in general. And I said, it’s about time now that I’ve amassed all of these different contacts and built my rapport in the industry to now, you know, express to them. Here’s what I really wanted to tell you. Even if I was working at the company, I actually didn’t sell what I didn’t believe in. And that goes back to what we were talking about earlier back.

A few for instance, had a plethora of different tools. There’s certain ones I stayed away from and I was upfront with my customers about it, even if they inquired about it. Well, in this event, my reputation here is more important than you make me making the deal because next year, who knows where I might be, a lot of people appreciated that. And that is actually what has come back to allow me to be successful in my own company at this point. So that’s kind of what started it, or just influence my decision to want to just jump out on my own.

Marc Gonyea:
And so you’re taking that approach to the contacts you’ve been working with through the years?

Nelson Lawson:
Every time, because if you don’t believe it you cannot sell it, that’s just what it is.

Chris Corcoran:
Are you going in all the networks you built through the years when you were at Intel and McAfee and Cylance, are those now your customers for your business?

Nelson Lawson:
Now let’s just say a portion of them are yes. A lot of them have come from over the years and of course I’ve acquired new ones as I’ve gotten into business, just because I’ve gotten back to, you know, the cold calling too. That’s been critical.

Chris Corcoran:
That’s great. And then you’ve built these relationships with all the manufacturers and now you’re reselling their products.

Nelson Lawson:
Yeah. One thing I am blessed to say is that I was at a company back when cybersecurity really wasn’t something people thought about as much as a part of their daily lives or how much it was a part of their daily lives was that we, I worked for the juggernaut McAfee, and then you have Symantec, it’s just goes up the world. They were more on the networking side. They really hadn’t embraced the cybersecurity aspect of it nor had IBM. They were in different areas. You know, as you see those companies have now, bought into the cybersecurity realm.

But because of that, I’m with cybersecurity juggernauts who have now gone off to do huge things in the industry, started their own company, billion-dollar companies. So the relationships I’ve actually been able to bring on to as far as partners, manufacturer partners are many of my old coworkers. They’re just running different aspects of these various companies and my business partner in Boston. He’s almost amazed many times cause he’s like, Hey man, I’ve been wanting to get us to acquire this company. I’m like, let’s just make, pick up a phone, make a call real quick. And that’s a blessing. That’s definitely a blessing

Chris Corcoran:
You’ve been building that into your network for 14 years.

Nelson Lawson:
Yeah. That’s one of those things where you also have to pick and choose the bridges you burn. Because I think this is one of the most incestuous industries I’ve ever been in. They were the ones that were the VPs or thought leaders on your team. And this has also kind of inspired me to want to pursue my own company just because I see a lot of them stepping out to do the same, not to mention when you get acquired and you have a lot of stock in various companies and these companies go IPO. A lot of that seed money is coming from these guys that were, you know, in the early stages of some of these companies. And then they start their own idea. You know, based off of that.

Marc Gonyea:
You’re obviously highly self-aware. What do you do to keep your skills sharp?

Nelson Lawson:
The funny thing is when you have your own company, there’s nothing more than practice every day that keeps your skills sharp. Not to mention, I still, right behind me right now. I have an entire library of various books that I always reference I’ve kept a lot of them in digital format too, because the tidbits and sometimes you just, they are good motivators to help you realize you’re not alone in the situation that you’re in. So, I often go back to that just to get that pick me up or to help refine some of those skills.

And oftentimes as of recently, I’ve started trying different cold calling tactics to see which ones resonate, especially given the fact that I’ve had to do a lot of voicemails more so than anything, because I’m not necessarily catching that guy’s cell phone. Those are the tools, your email tools. I mean the constant way you hone your message to make it clear, concise, and as authentic as possible. That’s pretty much what I do every day now.

Chris Corcoran:
And Nelson for our listeners. What’s the name of your company?

Nelson Lawson:
Yes. Company is called DC Consulting Services, LLC.

Chris Corcoran:
DC Consulting Services, LLC. And it’s you, your business partner is it just you two? Do you have employees? Give us a sense of what’s going on with that business.

Nelson Lawson:
Absolutely. So company was actually started about 10 years ago. This was an existing reseller of mine that I worked with at McAfee. So the gentlemen who started this particular company had a previous reselling company with various partners was very successful and they had to disband. So he created this over that time. I saw him trying to do everything himself. He had acquired a couple of employees and over time it was more of a, hmm. This could be much bigger if you had the right resources around him.

So, DC consulting now, since I’ve come on board, it’s almost been about a little over a year. We actually have 103 different contractors and these, our cybersecurity specialists in various areas. And we have chosen to go the contract route versus W2. More so, as you understand, from a tax perspective, makes it a lot easier. In addition to that, we have roughly around five different sales, I say roughly, it’s actually five different salesmen on the team right now in various parts of the country. And, but our main focus has been from the Northeast down to the Southeast.

Chris Corcoran:
The Eastern seaboard. And what’s role and what’s your business partner’s role?

Nelson Lawson:
Sure. So I’m a managing partner. He is the principal. If you want to call him that? And we are peers in that position. So I own a part of the company as well. And yeah, that is my position. I pretty much wear a lot of hats, but of course that is my title. Yeah.

Nelson Lawson:
I bet. And are the salespeople rolling to you or to him or some to you some to him? How does that work?

Nelson Lawson:
We actually separated geographically. So I say below the Mason Dixon really is where he handles the sales reps up there. And I handle the sales reps down here.

Chris Corcoran:
Very good. Very good. Awesome. One more question for you. What would you say is the biggest mistake you’ve seen your former memoryBlue contemporaries make?

Nelson Lawson:
So I have not heard of anything bad from past memoryBlue alums, fortunately, because I think it takes getting into this world to understand where your strengths lie take. For instance, I actually caught up with Genoa and he is more on the product specialist side of the product over at Salesforce, not as much sales, but they incorporate that there. But I think he realized, you know, this is going to be a better place for me, given the life changes that happen.

And so, it really takes you, I would say the biggest mistake you can probably do for yourself is just being in a position that doesn’t suit you. It doesn’t take long to know that, but again, we are in a world of instant gratification. There’s not a lot of emphasis around the effort that it takes just to be successful. Most people, again, just want to see what it is that you’ve done and accomplished. And they think that you did it overnight, but it does take understanding yourself to know if this is the place for you and what it is or where you need to be to bring out the best of you. So I’d say that’d be the biggest mistake staying somewhere you’re stagnant and you’re not happy.

Marc Gonyea:
That’s great stuff, man. And you’ve kept a good mental notebook of your journeys and your perspectives on them, which is perspective on which is great. And my guess is, as you continue with your firm, you’re going to get more. So I think that’s great. And we don’t have a lot of alum that have left and started their own business or very few, very few, particularly in a space that’s so directly relevant to what their body of work. So all the things you’ve been doing up until you decided to do this a year ago, they’re all kind of culminating what you’re doing now. And that’s the beautiful thing about it. Like you didn’t go and start you know ecotourism business in Costa Rica, which you know nothing about, right?

You’re taking your, everything you’ve been working towards and you’re putting a lot of that into this and it should, the longer you to do it. There should be a compounding effect the longer you can stick in it. And Chris and I saw it with memoryBlue, people who weren’t a customer, you know, in 2006 became a customer in 2009, it took three years. But you know, you keep doing the right things with the right people. It kind of starts to snowball. Now, sometimes the snowball slows down with COVID or economic recession, but you keep it going and doing the right things to make it. You’re gonna make mistakes, Chris and I mistakes all the time, but it’s very inspiring to kind of see what you’re up to. And Chris and, I appreciate you joining us today.

Chris Corcoran:
Absolutely.

Nelson Lawson:
I appreciate you guys. Appreciate you guys. It’s been so good. Just catching up with you all. And I’m just so excited to see where memoryBlue is now you all have done an amazing job. Seriously, if only those guys could really see what it was back in the day.

Chris Corcoran:
Nelson, this was a great time, man. We really appreciate it.

Marc Gonyea:
Alright now Nelson take care.

Nelson Lawson:
All right guys.