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THE PODCAST BEGINS HERE
Fred Diamond: TJ, when we first interviewed you, it was September of 2021, and I was beginning to do some shows with the convergence of Lyme disease awareness and sales performance improvement. I had learned of you, brought you on the show, you did a great job telling people what your Lyme experience was. Then more importantly for my audience, or just as importantly I should say, we talked about how you excelled as a sales professional and things that you put into play to enable yourself to grow and to keep performing as a sales professional, while also battling this very serious disease. A lot of people who listen to the Sales Game Changers Podcast know that I’ve also written a book on Lyme disease awareness. It’s called Love, Hope, Lyme: What Family Members, Partners, and Friends Who Love a Chronic Lyme Survivor Need to Know. I also kicked off my second podcast, the Love, Hope, Lyme Podcast, of which you are also going to be a guest on.
First off, I’m excited because it’s been 18 months since we had you on last. For people who are watching this live, most of you who are listening or reading the transcript, you look great. You look like you’re in great shape. Look like you’re feeling well. You wrote the book, Walk the Lyme. First off, it’s been 18 months. We had a very graphic discussion about how Lyme disease and related co-infections had affected you and how it really made it challenging for your health. Yet you also created and run a very successful business selling home solar solutions. Great to see you. Tell us how you’re doing. Tell us why you wrote the book.
TJ Nelson: These days, doing really good. The Lyme journey, it’s an up and down thing, so it’s like a stock that keeps going up. Although right now, people are probably not liking their stocks. Up and down, but the overall trend is up. Now, there’s a lot of days I wake up and I just have actual gratitude, I’m not faking the gratitude, I’m actually grateful for how I feel. The next question was why I wrote the book. Is that what you said?
Fred Diamond: Yeah. Tell us the book, Walk the Lyme, clever title. I’m a Johnny Cash fan. Tell us why you decided to write the book, first of all, and for people to know this, when I first decided that I needed to learn more about Lyme and how it affected somebody who I cared deeply about, there were three types of books that I found out there. There were books that were about an inch and a half thick written by doctors or people in the medical profession. How Can I Get Better? by Richard Horowitz is one of the more well-known ones. He actually wrote the foreword to my book, very deep detailed description of every possible type of tick, every possible type of co-infection, and how you can prepare yourself. Then there were what I called the third-party books, which were herbals in Lyme, keto in Lyme, mindfulness in Lyme. Then there was a third category, which I call my battle with the tick books. People who were writing their first-person stories about how they discovered they finally had Lyme disease after years, possibly decades of medical challenges, how they overcame it and recommendations for people out there.
You’re actually quite vocal. We were introduced by someone in my network who said, “You need to meet this guy.” TJ, we’ve become LinkedIn friends, Facebook friends. You’ve been on my podcast. You’re mentioned in my book, Love, Hope, Lyme, based on the podcast interview we did, and you’re not shy about telling your story. Tell us a little bit about the book. Tell us what the benefit is the people will get from it, and how did it help you to write this book?
TJ Nelson: Actually, it was when COVID first came out. I got a really bad case of it. That’s when it was a little gnarly. I had a nebulizer on my lungs and all that stuff, and people had always told me, “Write a book,” and I had a moment where I was like, “I’m probably not going to die, but if I was going to die, what would I regret?” The first thing that came up to my mind is I never wrote the book. I sat down after that, wrote the book. I just wrote the whole thing in about four months. But then it took two years to get it edited and all that. If I was to write another book, I would do a different process.
But the whole point of it was, with my Lyme journey there was a lot of mental anguish, mental suffering, and those are the taboo type of topics. Writing it was risky. I knew everyone that knows me is going to read it. My family’s going to read it, my friends are going to read it, and they’ll know a lot. But it came down to, “All right, you got this one life. At the end of your life, are you going to wish you played full out and tried to make an impact or played it a safe? Cool, let’s publish this thing.”
The whole point of writing it was throughout my Lyme journey, there was a lot of loneliness. Like you said, there’s a lot of books about Lyme, but it’s those thick, “This is what Bartonella is, this is what this is, this is these treatments.” I didn’t find one, there actually were, but I didn’t come across something that had the, “Hey, this is my journey. This is how I got better” so there’s ideas in there, and this is the raw honest truth of what happened. I wrote it basically to my previous self. I had my previous self in mind of, if I would’ve read this, would it have helped me be validated, not feel alone, and get some ideas to move forward at the same time? Because you become crazy.
At the beginning of this call you said, “Hey, you look really good.” I’ve looked good the whole time. That’s the thing. With Lyme, you can feel very bad, very horrible, but on the outside you look normal. There was a lot of secret suffering that I had to go through. My real name’s Taylor. I go by TJ. Every morning I’d wake up, “It’s Taylor and TJ today.” Something crazy would happen. All right, Taylor and TJ got to deal with that, because I knew a lot of people wouldn’t understand or wouldn’t want to take on that heaviness.
Writing the book, a lot of people that know me actually called me and a couple of people apologized that, “Holy shit. I didn’t know you went through all that.” Then the people that have read it, they just emailed me back, said, “I finally feel like I’m heard.” I wrote about some pretty crazy mental stuff, mental illness in general, and that’s pretty risky. But at the end of the day, that’s my journey, that’s my story, that’s where the most value I could provide comes from, so I might as well share that.
Fred Diamond: For people who are listening today, you had mentioned Bartonella. Lyme is a tick-borne illness. A tick will bite you, and you can also contract it from a spider and some other insects and arachnids, I’ve come to learn. It can represent itself in so many different ways. Like you said, it’s sometimes called the invisible disease because people look fine. Outwardly you can’t really tell the pain, the fatigue.
The other thing that relates to Lyme that you just hit on, which I briefly touched on my book because it was a sensitive topic, is the Lyme bacteria will also go to the brain, and it’s called neuro Lyme. It can cause common things like brain fog, and distraction, and fatigue, et cetera. But it can also provide some serious representation of true mental illness. Just as an FYI for our listeners, there are Facebook groups, some of them have tens of thousands of people who have suffered with Lyme disease, and they go into the groups to talk to each other about, “I have a pain in my shoulder. What do you suggest I do?” Or, “I’ve decided to do this type of treatment. What are your experiences?” But I applaud you for talking about the mental side.
Interestingly, on the Sales Game Changers Podcast, we’re well over 600 episodes. But, TJ, we speak about mental illness every third or fourth show. As a matter of fact, I did a show that was posted in March of 2023. We’re recording today’s show in March of 2023, but of course, people will listen well into the future, on dealing with trauma. As a matter of fact, when I wrote my book, Dr. Richard Horowitz, one of the most prominent Lyme doctors in the world, if not the most prominent, said that for you to recover from something like Lyme disease, you need to deal with your childhood trauma.
Talk about how do you keep going when the brain wants to quit? Again, a lot of people I’ve met who have Lyme haven’t had the neuro side, but they’ve had debilitating pain, and fatigue, and other type of like arthritis-like symptoms. But I want to talk about the brain side because a lot of the people listening today, we talk a lot on the Sales Game Changers Podcast about getting past your own blocks, and we talked to you about this when we did the first show in September of 2021. Talk about that. When your brain wants to quit, and on Lyme disease, man, and Bartonella, the brain keeps getting these signals. What do you do? How did you overcome that?
TJ Nelson: That’s the one thing I wanted to add too, is Lyme has so many different flavors, and the co-infections change everything. It is not just, “My friend had Lyme and he was better,” or his joints just hurt. It’s like cancer where there’s all these different forms. But as far as the brain goes, some of my methods I don’t know if I would fully recommend, but there is so much of a necessary need that I had to keep the business going, and so I had to do a lot of crazy stuff. I had what was called suicide carrots, sounds intense, but I would tell myself so that my brain felt like there was an out, I would say, “Cool. I’m going to go this year. If by the end of the year I still feel bad, the next year then I can end it.” But then the next year I’d go, “All right. I’m going to try one more year,” and I just kept that carrot. My brain knew there was an out, an exit, and then I just kept baiting myself to keep going forward just a little bit further.
Other stuff is I would put massive leverage on myself. Obviously, having a business and employees is already massive leverage built in. I’d have to run sales meetings. I would do different stuff. There are times I’d wake up in the morning and I’d have to inject Toradol into my leg to get up and run a meeting, which is a very powerful aspirin, painkiller type of thing. There was a while I’d have to microdose mushrooms or different stuff, drink certain teas or whatever to affect my neurochemistry in my brain for me to perform tasks.
Looking back, a lot of it probably maybe delayed my recovery because I was pushing myself too hard. If I went back, I would still do stuff like that, but try to maintain more of a calm state, which is a lot of what I’m doing now, which we can get into later. But how I pushed through is just massive leverage on my brain doing little tweaks to affect my neurochemistry in my brain, whether I need a painkiller or a microdose of whatever. Certain teas can make you feel better. IVs, I would do an emergency NAD IV to be able to function. I did a lot of drastic measures to perform, and you got to be careful with that.
Then now it’s more of, cool, I built what I built, how do I continue to perform while remaining centered, while remaining calm? I have this whole sheet, I don’t know if you can really see it, but I work with a somatic therapist and reduced different stuff of my body to try and keep it out of fight and flight and more in a calm state. Then if I can operate from there and stay there as much as possible, and don’t leave that, I can continue to perform and get better while still doing all the tasks simultaneously versus doing all these tasks and hurting myself. Then I’m doing all these tasks, hurt myself, recover a little bit from Lyme. All right. Now I got to do these tasks again, then I hurt myself, and it slowed me down.
Fred Diamond: Tell us a little bit about your business. You’re the leader of the business. You’re an entrepreneur, but you’re also a very savvy sales guy who’s had a lot of success. Tell us a little bit about what you sell. Then I have a follow up question that I want to ask you after you describe in like 30 seconds or so about what you do.
TJ Nelson: I sell solar panel systems mostly for residential homes. Our primary means of acquiring the leads is door-to-door. We do have some online and some call center, but the bread and butter, the foundation is door-to-door, which door-to-door is 90% mental.
Fred Diamond: That’s something we could talk about as well. But I have a question for you. One of the things that we talk about also, TJ Nelson, is vulnerability. That’s a topic that comes up all the time, especially in this world where over the last three years, forgetting about the Lyme for a second, everybody’s had to go through the results of the last three years, relationships, illness, death, financial destruction, social justice, whatever it might be. We talk a lot on the Sales Game Changers Podcast about being vulnerable. You wrote this book, and you were very raw in your writing of this book. You run a company. You have customers. Tell us, have people who work for you read the book? How has your relationship shifted with the people that you’re doing business with since you’ve been as honest and vulnerable as you’ve been?
TJ Nelson: It was interesting because no one I really worked with that read it talked to me about it. Maybe they were shocked. Now, people know I have Lyme and some of the leaders have been a little more vulnerable about it. I’m not going to dump on them when I have doubts and fears because I got to be the strong one. That’s not for them, that’s for other people. I got to be the strong one. But I know that some of them have told me, “Yeah, there’s been days I wake up, I don’t want to go knock, but I see you’re working and you have Lyme, so I don’t have an excuse.” Then they go out there and do it. I know the Lyme has helped eliminate some of their excuses.
As far as the book, I’m not sure, because some of them have said they started reading it and then didn’t really say anything. One person, she was like, “I was reading your book and I had no idea how much you were going through while we were building this business together.” I think for some people it’s almost like, “Whoa,” and maybe they are unsure of how to go about it. But I think them just knowing that I wrote a book and actually accomplished that task in and of itself is, “Doing all this and the Lyme, and he found 30 minutes at night to write a book on the side while he’s doing all this.” I think it just helps them, “Cool. Our leader is working. We can work.”
Fred Diamond: I did a show with a woman named Honorée Corder, and she is a book coach. The topic was, you’re in sales, should you write a book? You wrote your book for different reasons. Most people that are listening to today’s show don’t have a chronic illness that has taken up almost all of their mindset. They have the expression, when you’re healthy, you could think of a million things, and when you have a chronic illness all you can think about is one thing, which is getting past the illness. But you also run a business. You’re an honest guy. You do a lot of deep posting, so you think about a lot of these things. By writing a book, you’re in the top 0.001% of people on the planet who have spent the time and energy to express your concerns.
One of the great things about writing a book is that you touch more people than you could ever touch. I have 2,000 more Facebook friends than I did before I started writing the book. Some of these have become friend friends, and some of these people I talk to every day. I didn’t write a book on Lyme disease to get sales, I’m sure you didn’t either, but it was definitely something that was needed in the marketplace. I hope it opens you up to deeper conversations with people.
My customers are VPs of sales. I’ve had five VPs of sales who’ve reached out to me to talk about what I have learned about Lyme disease, and I don’t have Lyme. I have someone in my life who had it. They all have somebody in their life. One of my prospects has a 32-year-old son who has chronic Lyme disease and he hasn’t left his bed in three years. He probably has to go to the bathroom, but he hasn’t left his room and he can’t work. We now had this talk about vulnerability. We now had this other avenue to talk about besides, “Gee, tell me about your sales processes,” which is important, it’s what we go through for a living. But we spend 55 minutes out of an hour talking about what he’s experienced as a parent of someone who has Lyme disease.
I very rarely have had sales leaders who do door-to-door. Talk about the mentality. Like you said, that’s one of the hardest things to do, is to go door-to-door. People don’t want to be talking to you. I very rarely get anybody who knocks on my door. Usually, it’s someone who wants to help chop down some of the trees in my backyard or some Mormon missionaries who I’ll always talk to, help them out. But talk about the mentality of going door-to-door. You just said it’s the number one way to get customers with solar. How do you prepare? How do you train your people? What’s the mindset that you need? What do you do when someone slams the door on you? Give us some insights into success in selling door-to-door.
TJ Nelson: When I run sales meetings, I’m always watching very closely to see what’s keeping people’s attention and what’s losing their attention. Really it’s about 40% sales training, 60% mindset, because you need to up level your sales skill. But the mindset, especially in direct sales door-to-door, is the most important. Because if someone in door-to-door with our basic sales stuff is working, they will succeed. The biggest thing is, can they actually work? That’s really what it comes down to.
To get someone to work, I have a saying, no leverage, no accountability, no chance. You need it harder for your brain to not work than it is to work. But as long as working is harder than not working, your brain will default to the easy route. But if I got to knock 500 doors this week, or I got to pay 500 bucks, well, I don’t really want to lose the 500 bucks. That adds another, “If I’m going to lose 500 bucks and I told my friend I was going to do it and I’m going to look stupid, and I said I was going to shave my head in the meeting,” and you start stacking on the leverage, well, now you’re making success inevitable. If someone’s unwilling to put accountability or leverage on themself, then that tells me that they’re not that serious about it. Because if they really wanted it, they’d be willing to put the accountability because then it would force them to do it.
There’s a fine balance. You have to be very firm. But also, the emotional regulation is important as well. When you’re out knocking doors, your job is to be an emotion-producing machine. You need to produce the emotions required. The customers are not going to produce it for you. They’re going to produce a lot of wrong ones. When I knock doors, I personally am not in the mode until someone tells me, “F’ you,” and so I’m hungry for it. It becomes this game. I knock a door and they reject me nicely, I walk away, and it’s funny, like, “Man, come on. Give me a rejection. Where’s it at? These guys are soft.”
Then finally I get it, and then it’s like, “Cool.” Now it’s like a cold shower. I’m awake. I want to go. You’re walking down, waving to everybody, and you just reframe everything in this positive. All the stuff that normally would deflate someone now becomes your fuel. All the no’s, “Yes. I’m one step closer to a yes. Nice. That no just paid me 80 bucks. I want to get some more.” The more you reframe that, that’s when you start producing the emotions versus being a victim to the environment telling you what to feel.
Fred Diamond: Give us a for-instance. Actually, a couple of friends of mine on LinkedIn, I’ve noticed, now sell solar. One guy’s down in, I think he’s in Houston or Austin or something. He might be in San Antonio, actually. There’s another person up here in Northern Virginia who’s moved into selling solar. Give us your opening minute. Let’s say I open the door. Let’s say I’m a man or a woman who owns the house. First of all, who do you try to sell to? Is it the husband? Is it the wife? Is it a man? Is it a woman? Which do you see as a more likely candidate to be interested in chatting with you about solar? I’m going to guess it’s not a child.
TJ Nelson: It’s not so much who’s interested, it’s just whoever answers. When you do knock on a door, you need both the people that are decision makers to be there and to sit down with you when you go to the appointment. If you’re talking to a husband, or let’s say you knock a door in the daytime and a wife answers, “My husband deals with that.” “Not a big deal. Obviously we’d want both of you guys to be there. Like I said, on our end, some people are a good fit, some people aren’t. But you have them in your phone, do you want to just call them real quick? I can wait,” and you assume with body language, and then they can call that other person, and then you can actually talk to them and set the appointment together.
Then that’s more solid because let’s say I set the appointment with the wife, cool. It’s going to be tomorrow. Homeowners don’t know how to sell, so husband’s going to come home, “Hey, tomorrow after you get off work, we’re going to talk to a solar guy.” “No, we’re not doing that. Cancel it,” and then you don’t get the appointment. It’s very important. “My husband’s not here, but we can set the appointment tomorrow.” “Not a big deal. Then real quick, before I get going, you want to just try calling him real quick and then I can just talk to him for 15 seconds? Not a big deal. I can wait.” Then boom, they call them, “Hey,” you restart the whole thing. “Are you so and so?” Like I said, right now some homes are a good fit, some aren’t. Are you familiar with all the incentives and all the stuff going on? Like I said, on my end, we just do the assessment, see where you’re at, we have a conversation. Some people are a good fit, some aren’t. It’s not a big deal either way. It’s pretty simple, pretty easy, but tomorrow I’ll look at your house, see what we can do, and go from there.
Fred Diamond: Give us the value prop. Is there always a reason to go to solar if you don’t have solar?
TJ Nelson: Depends on where you live. In Vegas, yeah. There’s always a reason. That’s why there’s certain markets that are a lot more competitive. It all depends on the utility company providing net metering. Now there’s always the argument, if they’ve owned their house, let’s say seven years, and you say, “Cool. If you could go back seven years and rent your house for $200 more per month, would you?” Obviously they’re going to say no, and you say, “Why not?” And they might know what you’re doing, and all the things they say right there are the exact reasons why they should go solar. It’s you’re putting money towards an asset instead of a liability. Especially now, utility rates are going up so much. You’re protecting yourself against inflation. You’re taking control. You’re basically, instead of renting power, and it can change at any time, you’re buying the power plant, you’re taking ownership of that, and that’s less than what you’re paying now in a lot of cases. In long term, you’re going to save more and more.
Those are the basics of it, but a lot of what we do is we ask a lot of strategic questions to the homeowner, and there’s a lot of different ways we solve the problem. Their pool pump is bad, we can do pool pumps, insulation, lights. Someone had a room where they didn’t have an air duct, so they wanted AC in that room. We fixed that for them as part of the package. Reroofs, all that, AC units. When we’re in the house, we’re asking a lot of questions. What I say is they don’t go solar for your reasons, they go solar for their own.
Fred Diamond: The people that you’re approaching, have they been in a high percentage already approached about solar?
TJ Nelson: Yeah.
Fred Diamond: I get these mailers that come in about solar, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a guy who’s knocked on my door, I can’t even remember someone knocking on my door who’s asked me about solar. But how often are you meeting somebody who has considered it, hasn’t considered it, they’ve never done it, they’ve been in the house for 10 years, versus someone who is, “Gee, I’d never thought about solar before”?
TJ Nelson: In today’s market and in Las Vegas, 99% of every single person we interact with has been hit up about solar five, 10 plus times. Back when I started selling eight years ago, it was, “I need to convince people solar is real.” Now it’s, “They just need to know I’m the one to go with.” They know what it is, and a lot of times what we’re battling is just a previous bad salesperson’s mistake. They either piss them off, or they lie about something, or they don’t explain something correctly. Really what we’re doing is just can they trust us and are we the one to go with?
Fred Diamond: TJ, basic question here, how do you get past these blocks? Lyme disease, I know people who have been in bed for weeks. I know people where the fatigue, the pain, the brain fog is so intense that they’re afraid to leave their house. Most people, TJ, who I talk to, who are battling Lyme disease, they can’t work, let alone running a company, let alone growing a company in a very competitive space like solar in Las Vegas. You’ve mentioned some of this before about how do you get past moments when your brain stops you, but give us a little bit of an advice just to wrap up here on some things. As we did the first interview, I remember when you have people on your team who say to you, “Hey, boss, I have a hangover. I’m not going to show up today.” Then you’re the guy here who’s getting PICC lines in the office. You mentioned this on the first show where you had the medication in the office, people saw you with IV in your arms in your office. Talk a little bit about what some of your recommendations are for getting past whatever blocks it might be for salespeople, and then we’ll wrap up.
TJ Nelson: For salespeople, the first thing is just being honest about it. Ego is a good thing because you want to have that confidence, but it also holds people back because they think they got to be perfect or whatever. The nice thing about sales, the leaderboard tells you everything. Are you selling a lot or not? If you’re not, cool, you have some blocks. Accept it. Then from there, what is my block? Then I would say get as much help as possible.
A lot of salespeople too, I recommend go get a therapist, get a coach, get some mental person. If sales is mostly mental and emotional, why wouldn’t you want to work with someone that their sole purpose is to help you mentally and emotionally? Because the better you are mentally, the better you can regulate your emotions, the more sales you’re going to make. The only reason you are not going out and prospecting and doing the sales activities that you need to do is because you have a fear of the emotion that’s going to come from the rejection or whatever. If you can work on your emotions and you can master being that emotion-producing machine and control that, you’re going to do the activities. If you’re doing the activities, the prospecting and all the sales activities that leads to sales, you’re going to get sales.
Fred Diamond: That’s a great bit of advice. Reflecting back, some of our guests talked about the major journey in sales is between the ears. Like I said, we’re talking about the mental side, we’re talking about mindset. We used to do a show every Thursday after March 2020 just on the mindset side of selling. I agree, it’s such a critical point. We talked today with TJ Nelson, he’s the author of Walk the Lyme. He’s a very, very successful business owner and sales professionals selling solar solutions. This was the second time we had you on the show, TJ. Congratulations again on the book. Just to acknowledge you again, man, we’re friends now. I’ve been following you on Facebook. I told a little bit of your story in my book, Love, Hope, Lyme. What you achieved, I just want you to know, it’s remarkable. I know it hasn’t been easy, obviously. Being successful in sales when everything goes right is a challenge. Having to be successful at any type of work while also ensuring your health and safety with a disease like Lyme and all the co-infections is definitely remarkable. I just want to acknowledge you on that.
As we end every Sales Game Changers Podcast, give us one final thought, one thing specific people could do. You’ve given us so many great ideas, but one thing specific people can do right now to take their sales career to the next level.
TJ Nelson: One thing right now to take their sales career to the next level is take the thing you need to do this week and find someone to get leverage and accountability on yourself to make sure that you have to do it no matter what.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo