COMBOs Unlock The Sales You Need

Tony Hughes

Combinations of the right activity, done the right way, with the right people, through the right channels, and at the right time can create world-champion success. This is the heart of COMBO Prospecting. You could also simply see COMBO as the ultimate blended approach for bringing old school and new school together. It is the combination of timeless truths with contemporary engagement that will break through with the maximum prospects. It is the only way to drive sales success in markets where there is increased competition, well-informed buyers, ferocious procurement departments, moats, razor wire, landmines, Barry Manilow music piped to the perimeters, giant walls, and pit bulls preventing any form of seller engagement.

You're not battling the buyer, but you are fighting their apathy and the status quo

In my new book, COMBO Prospecting, I cover the importance of multichannel outreach where Kenny Madden's social phone is the weapon of choice. These are the COMBOs that every seller should consider:

The right outreach narrative:

  • Leading with insight
  • Stating why it matters
  • Positioning a hypothesis of value

Then the right COMBO for next steps after you've initially broken through:

  • Engage the most senior person
  • Be sponsored down
  • Build consensus and a compelling business case

Then COMBO for creating a powerful personal platform:

  • A strong personal brand
  • A network that empowers
  • Tools and templates that enable high performance

Next, the COMBO for knockout success:

  • Trigger events
  • Referrals
  • Customer advocacy

Finally, we will go over the COMBO for closing:

  • Setting the right agenda
  • Creating trust and confidence
  • Demonstrating commitment and leadership

Some COMBOs are a blend of strategies or tools; others have a one-two-three knockout technique or a series of jabs. I have clients that drive six-touch COMBOs that make it impossible for any potential customer to ignore them.

My good friend at LinkedIn, Matt Loop, talks about Linked-In's own combination of systems for execution: system of record (CRM), systems of communication (phone and email), and system of engagement (LinkedIn). Think of these systems as concentric circles, all integrated and overlapping.

Combinations are not new in sales and marketing, with Gary Vaynerchuk and others previously writing on the topic. Research and advisory firm TOPO highlights the power of "the triple touch," and Jeb Blount uses the term "the triple threat." But timeless winning strategies can be refreshed and enhanced to spectacular effect. The concepts and practices here go to the next level of execution and are already driving spectacular results in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Asia, and all over the world. I know this from the global reach of my blog within LinkedIn and the tremendous feedback I've received.

I recently received this InMail from someone who follows me in LinkedIn and reads my articles. I publish this with his permission.

Hi Tony,

This is my very first year as a salesperson. In the past 20 years, I have been an Oracle/ PeopleSoft Consultant. Starting this year, I decided to switch to sales/recruiting. I have agreed to a strategic partnership with a buddy of mine where If I sell consulting services in Banner System to them I get 1/3 of the profit. If I find a consultant for one of his projects I get 1/3 of the profit. If I sell to a client and find the consultant myself I get 1/2 of the profit.

The reason I am connecting with you and writing you is that I experienced something that resonated with your article about making 50 calls per day. Until October (this month) I made maybe 5 calls per day, helped my partner recruit consultants etc. I made about $2,000/month in commission. I work 100% on commission by the way. I used to make $18,000/month as a consultant. I was getting so frustrated that I decided that I will make 50 calls per day to CIOs of universities/colleges no matter what.

Oct 1 I started. I put a marketing plan together that focused on our Database Administrators (DBA)s. I would first call and 98 of 100 times I get an assistant or voice message. If I get a voice message or the person answers I would start off by saying "Hi my name is Andre and I am with Ultimate Consulting. We have 15-30 years experienced Banner consultants available at a rate of $100-$130/hr.

The reason I start like that is that consultants usually cost $180-$240/hr. with that experience level.

I follow up with an email showcasing 3 of our DBAs.

Then call two days later again, and email again. Then call a week later again and email again and leave it to that for now.

Results: I went from about $2,000 per month in commission to $25,000 in commission in the month of October and gained 5 new clients. in the previous 9 months, I gained 2 new clients in total. The commission will be paid off to me as the consultant's bill and will take 6-7 months since one consultant is on a project for 6 months.

So why am I spending the time to share this with you? Well, your article is completely correct and without knowing it I changed my approached exactly like that and my sales results show that.

Bottom line, calling even if I get voice messages is so important of the total marketing/sales combo. I am a one man company right now and am still figuring things out when it comes to sales. I Have zero sales training to date. In fact, I told one client that. but what I do have is consulting experience and a deep understanding of higher ed and their technology. So I really partner with the client to ensure that they are successful with whatever project they need help with.

Hopefully, others reading your article make appropriate changes to their approach if need be. I just wished your article was out back in January when I started and I read it then. oh and I make between 75-100 calls per day and work on recruiting and emailing and interviewing my consultants and contracts, and etc, etc. I never knew how much I love selling this? It's so much fun to find out where my clients need help with and help them.

My goal is to generate enough revenue where I can invest in hiring inside salespeople to do the emailing and setting appointments to have CIOs or other C level execs in higher ed speak with me. I will always make 50 calls per day though and that is doable for a few hours since most of the time I get voice messages. Also, I am ok with voice messages because it is a process, call, email, call, email, call, email....until a yes, no, or future date.

My email has a 37% open rate. I send the email out to about 700 CIOs and VPs. I googled it and it says that the industry average is 24%. So for me, calling first and starting the subject line with "To follow up on the voice message I just left you... seems to be effective.

He makes 50 calls a day and his feedback is consistent with what I saw in South Africa recently and in Australia, USA, UK and all over the world. Find out what people really need and then relentlessly pursue them through a combination of channels that enable you to break through. If you provide value in the conversation and have the right level of belief, then executing the right combinations of activity will assure your success!

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Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published on LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award-winning blog. Also, visit Tony's keynote speaker website at or his sales methodology website at


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