steve babaeko

STEVE BABAEKO: This Is The Actual SECRET SAUCE You Need To Win New Businesses

This is Steve Babaeko, you know him. He’s the celebrity CEO of X3M Group – advertising, events, and music. He’s also the current vice president of AAAN (Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria). But for the first time, here’s Steve talking about the subject most people wonder about: What is it about Steve’s capacity that wins pitches and new businesses? Enjoy:

But you know, running an idea business can be tricky in our market because ideas are not tangible. In this case, how do you consistently convince people that your product is better than that other guy’s?

Okay, I think there are two answers that I have for that question. Most times it could be just consistently coming out with better products. Are you beating everybody else? Is it glaring that you’re beating everybody else? That’s one way to do it. Another way to do it, I may not be consistently beating other people or everybody all the time, but how am I packaging the once-in-a-while that I beat other people?


So at that point it’s not about what you sell. It’s ‘Do I look great all the time?’ There were other heavyweight boxers before Mohammed Ali whose focus was to take on opponents and just pummel the person by consistently beating them into the ground. But [Ali] came and said ‘I float like a butterfly, sting like a Bee”. He added a bit more flair to it.


Emotions, basically. So that’s another way of doing it.

It’s not necessarily what is said but how what is said is said

I think most of the time it’s how you sell. It’s what you say is a given. You have to say something. But how are you saying it? You’re either going to go like Hillary Clinton with the bullet points and say I’m going to do 1 and 2, and that I have a 7 or 8-point agenda or you’re going to go like Donald Trump and say, Look, you know what? I’m just going to be as bombastic as possible, even when I don’t really have so much to say.

You always have to put your best foot forward when it comes to selling. But for me when I want to sell, I don’t even wait for the D-Day to sell.

Steve Babaeko
How did you know that approach would work?

I think it’s just my personality. My style. I’ve never been really keen on the way people do their stuff. You know, I don’t know what it feels like to just follow the crowd. I’ve always been different in my headspace. My growing-up experiences were different. So all of those have influenced and shaped who I’ve become today. But I always want to find out, chart a path and be the owner of that path. I’ve been there and I’ve done that ever since.

Does it matter who is doing the selling on pitch day? Does it have to be the team that worked on the concepts?  

You always have to put your best foot forward when it comes to selling. But for me when I want to sell, I don’t even wait for the D-Day to sell. If I have my way, especially if I have a relationship with them, I’m already selling behind the scenes. I’m already calling you at odd hours, if I have that access to that client, like, I have this fantastic idea that is going to blow your socks off. I’ve already raised their expectations and I’ve already given him titbits. I’ve already taken feedback. The ones I think are actionable, I’ve actioned them into the work. By the time I get [to their offices] for the presentation, it’s become ‘our’ idea, not just my idea. There’s this Yoruba proverb: a man sees a snake; a woman kills it. The most important is that…

The snake is dead

That’s the thing. I don’t care.

There’s a book I’m reading, ‘Pre-suasion’ by Robert Cialdini. Usually, we try to persuade face-to-face on D-Day. But before you get to that point of persuasion, some people know that you need to condition the person to whom you’re trying to make a sale, to put them in a receptive mood. That’s like what you just described.

So you have to go first and sell it.

This is related to the most important part of running an agency, isn’t it? Winning clients over, courting clients, dining with clients, generally being the rainmaker?

I think that’s probably my strongest feature. Networking and building relationships. I did it with ease without even trying. I mean being a CEO and running an operation are the most difficult things in the world, yet also the simplest if these things play to your strength of being able to organize people. The me as creative director that you used to know in 141 is totally different from the me as CEO/Chief Creative Officer of X3M. As CEO, you have to have a lot of emotional intelligence because you’re not just a manager of financial resources, you’re also a manager of human resources and material resources. So how are you going to combine human, material, financial, all the resources at your disposal and put them together and still get results for your shareholders, year in year out?

Speaking of time. You want to speak to consumers. You want to research the market. You know, most of the time, clients don’t have the time to spare for you to follow due process in the execution of your brief. You may not even have enough time to probe the brief itself. Yet you must meet the deadline…

But you still have to. See, in our business, we make magic and that magic involves working on the strictest timelines. You still have to deliver. The fact that we don’t have the time is never going to be a good enough excuse because you’ll never have the time. You know, we are around this part of the world. So yeah, that’s an occupational hazard you have to live with.

Good talk, Steve. Thank you!

My pleasure, Sam.

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