My next guest is here to talk about his new book, Sh*tty Sales Leaders, which addresses the common struggles that sales leaders face when trying to motivate their teams and achieve sustainable results.

Welcome back to the Author Hour Podcast. I’m your host Hussein Al-Baiaty and my next guest is author, Adam Apps. Let’s get into the episode.

What’s going on my friends? Welcome back to the show. I’m here with my friend, Adam Apps, here to talk about the book called, Sh*tty Sales Leaders: And How to Not Be One. I love the title, thank you so much for joining me today Adam. I’m really excited to dive into your book today.

Adam Apps: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I’m very excited to be here with you.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah man. Okay, so usually, how I like to start these shows is by giving our audience a little bit of a background about you and where you grew up, what influenced you in growing up, childhood; was it your father, cousin, somebody random that came into your life?

Who influenced you to be this great as a sales leader? I mean, I feel like all things connect, but I love those background stories. So, could you dive deep into your growing up and your childhood and all that good stuff?

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Ending The Cycle

Adam Apps: Yeah, I definitely appreciate the question and I’ll start by saying, I definitely don’t consider myself to be great. Work in progress, always striving for greatness, often missing the mark. But one of the things I tell people with this book is, I know exactly what it takes to be an Olympic athlete, right? Dedication, hard work, raw talent, persistence, nutrition, but I’ll never be on an Olympic podium.

So the same applies here. I feel like I know exactly what it takes to be a great leader, that doesn’t necessarily mean I consider myself to be one. Looking back a, what shapes us and how we got to these points, I think that’s super important, and there is a chapter I dedicated to introspection and self-awareness and for me, it was a number of external factors.

I grew up in the UK, despite my accent. We moved around a lot and we were, I wouldn’t say poor, because I know there’s a lot of people in the world that are super poor, but we certainly didn’t have extra money to go around. Seeing my dad go out, work hard and hustle every day for the family, get up before the sun and come home late, and to see what that did for his family and the moves he made really had a huge influence on me.

So my formula in life really just became, get up, show up, work really hard and don’t waste any opportunity.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: What a powerful segue into what we’re going to be talking about. I got to say though, I do relate to that. I watched my father do very similar things, his whole thing was get up and pray and then go do your best. But yeah, you grow up with an influence and that impacts the decisions you start making, the way you start seeing the world, and I’m glad you had someone in your corner that really showed the way, to some degree.

I love hearing those stories. So tell me real quick though, why did you decide to write this specific book and who are you trying to reach with your message?

Adam Apps: Yeah, it’s kind of a funny story. I never set out to write a book, it sort of just happened. But there’s really two people or two groups of people that I’m targeting with this book. The first is ineffective sales leaders, obviously. People that need a guidebook, and I’ll talk a little bit about why I think that’s so important. And then, the second group of folks is people who are thinking about embarking on a leadership journey, or maybe they’re about to step into a leadership role and not even necessarily in sales.

I‘m hearing from all kinds of people who have read early copies, athletes, teachers, marketing folks, this applies to their journey as well. But looking at why I decided to write this book, I have to go back to my days early in my career as a sales rep working for some really terrible sales leaders who just made our lives miserable. And I would say, “Man, there’s got to be a better way to do this” and just found myself hoping that the shitty leader fairy would put a book under their pillow at night and give them a guidebook to go out there and do a better job.

Because if you’re up grinding every day, and we just talked about it, no one can put more pressure on me that I can put on myself. And if you’ve got a leader out there that’s riding you every day and just creating a hostile work environment, it eats away at you. And I found myself coming home stressed out. And I remember my son when he was probably, I don’t know, five or six years old. He said, “Daddy, you don’t smile anymore.”

I’m like, “Oh man, I have let this seep into my personal life and it is impacting my family” and actually, I left that company because of it. But people don’t leave companies, they leave leaders, and I just felt this sense of obligation to capture all of the great attributes that are out there and document them, so that the cycle of, I don’t want to call it abuse, but the cycle of shitty leadership comes to an end.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah. I mean, you definitely framed it right, I appreciate that man. I think going back to the pain that we endured at some point in our life and addressing it in a new way. Obviously, as we go through that and experience different things, different leaders, you start to meet better folks who start to help you navigate things. But it sounds like you wrote this book almost to a younger version of yourself, right?

That person that’s doing the sales but really looking up to a leader that can help them achieve those goals, but also we want a livelihood, right? A livelihood consists of a smiling father so that the son can feel good. That’s profound, I love that you brought that up. So let’s begin at the top of the book. You start us off with a concept of finding our fuel, what do you mean by that? Can you share a little bit about that mentality of how to find your fuel?

Adam Apps: Great question, and it’s something that we’ve touched on a little bit here. It’s what drives you, what makes you get out of bed in the morning, what makes you tick. For people looking to get into leadership, you have to have a really honest conversation with yourself. You know, “Why am I trying to do this?” And I think for a lot of people, if they’re being honest, maybe it’s ego, right?

They want a title, “I’m a leader” or they want the recognition or respect toward monetary compensation, whatever it is. Those are not great reasons to get into leadership. So finding your fuel is, to me, it really just means uncovering that motivation to go have a massive, positive impact on your team, and that really leads into that introspection journey we talked about.

Which is, “All right, you are now responsible for these people who report to you. They are on your team, you’re a leader. What is it that you are doing every day? What drives you every day to have an impact on these people’s lives? And if you’re struggling to put your finger on it, you may want to reassess the journey”

So I think the book is written chronologically and for me, that first step that anyone who is looking to get into leadership needs to take is to truly understand why they’re doing this and really understand how they unlock that motivation in themselves. Because once you’ve done that, you can unlock motivation in your team, and that’s awesome.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah man, I love that so much. I feel like when I was growing up, and I had a few sales job but also, just working for different types of people, it’s taught me so much. But the introspection part definitely came from our father embedding those kinds of things. And when I was growing up in America, and how people perceived management or managing people, it was more of like, “This is a job, and this is what I need you to do, here are the tasks.” It’s very regimented, right?

But thinking like a leader always seemed to be, it was that. It’s like, you’re leading a team as opposed to managing people. It just sounds like you feel like you’re putting on a cape, if you will, a uniform, a personality, not necessarily putting it on but kind of driving yourself from that person that you want to become.

And so leadership, I totally agree, is that, it starts to encompass how you think of yourself, how you see yourself. I really like that about your book, you really go into that part in introspection. Can you talk a little bit about that? How does an individual become a natural leader? Because these are things that you acquire over time and you layer one on top of the other.

I feel like there’s so much power introspection. For you specifically, what part of introspection did you really go into, as far as leaning in on yourself, learning things that were probably not natural in sales leadership? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Power of Introspection

Adam Apps: Yeah, definitively, and I’ll get a little vulnerable with you here because I think it’s important to be super honest. And you mentioned, this is almost like a letter to an earlier version of myself and that’s absolutely the way I look at this. It’s everything that I wish I knew when I started out in leadership, and if I could go back in time and hand myself this book, I’d be so much better off.

Really, my motivation in writing it is to help people that are in that part of their journey, who need a guidebook. And looking back, I made so many mistakes. I was poking myself in the eye and I didn’t even know it. And writing out the journey on paper, I encourage everyone to do this. It’s who did you interact with, what shaped you, what trauma did you experience? What have you learned about yourself and why do you do the things that you do?

And one interesting thing that stuck out at me, I mentioned we moved around a lot when I was growing up, and anytime you’re the new kid in town, you have to assimilate and adapt. You’re dealing with bullies, your culture is different, your food is different, the way you dress is different. And for us, we moved every three years or so because of my dad’s rotation.

I learned at a pretty young age that if you don’t get too close to people, it’s easier to leave. I carried that with me as I got older and into the workplace, and people viewed that behavior as standoffish, arrogant, not good attributes in the workplace. But understanding where that comes from, and for me, again, it was growing up and moving around, you can say, “Ah, okay, that’s why I’m that way, I’m going to recognize it and I’m going to make a conscious effort to address it and grow.” And that’s exactly what introspection’s all about, right? To know where you’re going, you need to know where you came from.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Dude, I love that so much man, I mean, here I am, an Arab kid who moved to America after the Gulf War, after living in a refugee camp, and I got to relate. I mean, because I feel so unique, but also that reflecting on exactly what you just said, where am I from and where I want to go, who am I today? That constantly checking in with myself, and then broadening my awareness.

There are plenty of things we do as young people that we didn’t know, out of fears to protect ourselves, or to protect our emotional states. For you, these are things that you adopted and adapted as you were moving because you knew in a couple of months or a couple of years, you’re about to move again. So you don’t want to get too attached. For me, I wanted attachment, I wanted to be cool. I wanted to fit in because I was so out of the norm. Anyway, so I just agree with that.

Adam Apps: No, it’s so important and I’m glad you brought up your background because I think people that have that experience really appreciate the unique opportunities that we have, and here we are together, talking here, right now. You’re a bestselling author, you’re working on number two, you’ve got some great T-shirts, you’re doing some amazing things. And I think, a lot of your drive, and I don’t want to put words in your mouth, probably comes from that experience, right?

You’ve learned how to adapt, assimilate, and grow, and I think that having those struggles in your life help shape who you are and where you’re going. So kudos to you man.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Oh, thank you man, I appreciate that and thanks for doing the research. I really appreciate that, man. Along with our conversation, there are, again, amazing people that are in and out of your life that really helped shape who you become. For me, I’m always beyond grateful for my siblings that always looked out after me. I think that all plays a role, our environments. And you’re right, there are opportunities, and this idea of knowing that you can live on very little really expands on what you can do and what you want to do.

So your decision-making becomes more and more refined as you get older as a leader, but the number one thing I feel like I always have to think about is how can I lead myself out of X, Y or Z? That’s the biggest, that’s the first and foremost most effective thing. But let’s talk a little bit further about your book. What are some key strategies for effectively leading and managing a team of leaders?

I know you do a ton of this work. I mean, sales is probably the number one thing to go into but it is probably the hardest thing to get into, let alone lead leaders. So can you talk a little bit about those key strategies that you’ve been able to bring together to help others?

Effective Strategies

Adam Apps: Yeah, sales is tricky and it’s funny. When I graduated college, I remember sitting with my career counselor and I said, “I’ll look at any career except for sales. I don’t want to be a sales guy. I want nothing to do with it.” Any experience I’ve had with salespeople has not been a good one, and here we are. It’s funny how things shake out. But we did the aptitude test and she said, “No, you’re looking at a career in sales.”

But the funny thing about sales, and you brought it up, is it’s really hard. Your job, you’re betting on yourself to convince people to part with their money to make a living for yourself. That is what sales is, if you really break it down to its most simple element. And the role of a sales leader or as you mentioned, a leader of leaders, so what we call a second line leader, is to help those people sell.

So the key thesis here is you’ve got a bunch of people who have decided to make a living by betting on themselves. They are harder on themselves than anyone else can be. They are entrepreneurial, and it is a really hard thing to do. So all they need is support, enablement, motivation, coaching, things that shitty leaders don’t do. I hesitate to say it but that’s what it is.

So the key lessons really, the key takeaways from the book is always look for ways to improve yourself, your team, be humble. One of the chapters in the book, I call it “40 Secrets”, and I just listed out 40 things that great leaders do day in and day out. And I was telling that the publishing team, I don’t want to break that chapter up because I think not everyone is going to sit and read this book, and that’s okay.

But if they only have time to read one chapter, they’ve got to go through those 40 secrets because there are so many things that you can just do immediately to have a more positive impact on your team. I am not going to list them all out here, but the big one for me is feedback. Giving, soliciting, and actioning feedback. And I talked about how people perceive me back in the day as arrogant and standoffish, and that was probably from my childhood.

But you know, I got that feedback from a great leader who pulled me aside and said, “Hey man, this is what people say when you are not in the room. I think you should work on your brand.” And I was so grateful for that feedback. What a gift.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yes, that is such a gift, you’re right, but also to have the intuition and the encouragement and the audacity to say, “Yeah, that is a gift. I am going to work on that.” Instead of being like, “Well, screw them. They don’t know me, they don’t know my lifestyle.” We all know and have met people who don’t take criticism that well, right?

Adam Apps: That’s most people. If you go to most people and say, “Hey, you want some feedback?” They are not going to greet that warmly. It is not in their nature as humans to take feedback. You are going to bristle up. But that’s a key lesson here, is you got to be willing to hear it, take it, and action it.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, being effective man. I learned that in architecture. So in architecture school, you know I grew up an artist, whatever, but my dad would always critique my stuff in a beautiful unique way. And I grew up drawing, painting and all those good things, but I was always trying to use it to figure out a way to earn some money with it or do some mural or do some… you know what I mean? When I get into architecture school, it was different.

It’s very regimented, and you’re working really hard, but yeah, a few of my professors pulled me aside and were like, “Hey look, you can really do this but you got to take feedback dude, you got to take criticism, you can’t just be frustrated for two, three days and not do any work. It holds you back.” I was like, “Wow, yeah. I got to really rethink how I see my work and how I see myself in response to communicate, which I know is a big part of your book as well.”

You know, I really love these – not only are you taking us through this journey of yourself and how you became a sales leader and all of these things, but you are also talking about simple things. When I started learning about sales and building my company, simple things is like, look, your smile is starting that sale. That button down you’re wearing, that choice that you made, that’s starting the sale.

It is about these minimal choices; the firm handshake, looking people in the eye, being pleasant, being understanding, all of these small ways of who you are actually initiates the sale long before you actually come into that meeting or whatever it may be. And I love that you touched on all of these little things as well, but in what ways can effective communication skills enhance the person’s ability to lead and motivate others?

Adam Apps: Yeah, there is a lot there. I tend to simplify things because that is the way that my brain works. And when I think about communication, I really break it down into four styles. You can call it what you want, I call it wordy. So you got people that love to use a lot of words, whether it’s emails or talking, they go off on tangents and they love a lot of detail.

You’ve got the opposite end of that spectrum that I call shorty, and I put myself in that category. It’s maybe one or two word responses to an email, boom-boom-boom, get to the point, move on. You’ve got the angry loud dominant people, I call them the agros. And then you’ve got the fun loving social people, I call them party. And I lay it out in the book because it is so important as a leader to understand not only your communication style but that communication style of your team.

I’ll give you a quick example. I acquired a team a few years ago and this one gentleman was just super wordy and his emails were like essays, I couldn’t get through it. I couldn’t absorb it. And as a shorty, I was just frustrated with this individual. So I grabbed some time with him and I said, “Look, it is not wrong or right to be what you are. If we are going to work together, we need to find a way to flex towards the middle.”

“So, what I am going to do for you Mr. Wordy is find ways to provide more detail the way that you like to consume information, but in exchange for that, could you do me a favor and at the beginning of your emails, summarize the key points and then if I have time, I’ll get into the meat of it.” And he did and he was very receptive to the feedback. I did my best to meet him in the middle.

But what ends up happening as a leader with communication is, if you want your team to run like a well-oiled machine with minimal intervention, you really have to get to that place of non-verbal mutually agreed upon coauthored objectives, where you are just running and gunning and you don’t need to tell people what to do and you don’t need to spell everything out because you are all on the same page.

But that doesn’t happen without first understanding how you communicate what your natural styles are.

Tackling The Hardest Part

Hussein Al-Baiaty: So powerful man, I love that example because you set the tone. And again, if that person is open to just receiving information and hearing you out and learning how to do that just via email, just to communicate via email is applicable to everything. It now starts to seep into how you communicate with your spouse, how you communicate with your kids.

You realize that these ideas are actually applicable to many different things in your life and I love that it just gets to the point, “What are the three things I need to know here, what’s the hot thing I need to know?” You know, highlighting those things. Again, these are just small tips that if people apply, and once they apply it over and over, that repetition really creates that pathway, super powerful. So what was the hardest part of writing this book and why?

Adam Apps: I think the revisions and second-guessing and triple guessing and deleting and moving things, and it is my first time writing a book that I don’t consider myself an author. I just have a bunch of ideas, it started as an outline and a bunch of posted notes and it turned into a Word document and that turned into a bigger Word document, the next thing you know, you’ve got all of these chapters and headings and just reading, re-reading, editing.

I think the hardest part was deciding when it was done, and being happy with it. I mean, you know it feels like, a never-ending project, and you never really want to say it’s done but at some point, you have to.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: That’s the beauty of it though, right? Is that it challenges you so much because it wants to bring itself forth in the best way, but also I feel like at the same time while we write our book or first book or whatever it is, the writing really brings out another level, another person in you, right? Another, I guess you could call it, spirit, you know? It’s this idea that I feel like it’s not necessarily the difficulties.

But it is you are evolving as well and constantly reminding yourself who you’re writing the book to, is what helped me simplify the message and get it as clear as I can. And I think that’s where the revisions really bring everything to light. I think that’s what I feel like I am hearing from you. So if one of your readers picks up your book and begins to read through it, what do you hope they feel after putting it down?

Adam Apps: Yeah, great question. I hope that they feel that they found a friend and a mentor. And I intentionally structure the book in a way that starts out pretty formal, and I am assuming that I am talking to someone who doesn’t know me. Then as the book progresses, the tone gets progressively more informal. Towards the end, it is almost like two friends catching up over a beer because I want people to walk away with a guidebook they can literally carry with them.

But more importantly, to give them something that I never had earlier in my career, which is a voice of reason or an owners’ manual to carry with you if things go sideways, if you are not sure what to do, if things go off the rails or if you are not sure you are having the right impact on your team, just a place to refer back to and say, “Oh yeah, I remember we talked about that, let me make an effort to incorporate that in my approach.” That’s really it.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Man, that’s so powerful. I love that. Adam, I learned so much today and again man, congratulations on your book. It is going to be so powerful. I know so many people are going to get their hands on this and really improve not just their sales work and situation, but really I feel like kind of stuff just helps life.

I feel like when you become the better version of yourself, no matter how you perceive it or come to it, and it will for sure help your work, it’s always going to help yourself and your family in moving forward in your career and life. So I appreciate that, I think a lot of people will need books like this, I love the title, but thank you for sharing your stories and experiences.

The book is called, Sh*tty Sales Leaders: And How to Not Be One. Besides checking out the book, where can people find you Adam?

Adam Apps: Yeah and thank you so much, this was a lot of fun. Congrats to you and all your success and I’m going to continue following you on your journey but yeah, they can get more information and sign up at adamapps.com, that’s adamapps.com.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Adam, it was an absolute pleasure and honor meeting you today, brother. Thank you for coming on the show.

Adam Apps: Thank you so much.