T&D: Signaling Your Communications Intent

I Learned This From Neil Rackham in 1981

Neil was working for MTEC – Motorola’s Training & Education Center in 1981 – when I joined them – helping to bring SPIN Selling into the organization – before the book. I got tasked with bringing in Huthwaite’s Win-Win Negotiations training in 1982.

Both sets of training had at their center – a set of “Communications Behaviors” – that one would count – if one was a trained and certified Observer – to provide feedback during the training – during the Application Exercises.

I was trained and certified by Neil before I helped with a Pilot Session of that Win-Win Negotiations program – that was delivered by John Carlisle and Richard Graham.

I still have the transcript from that delivery that began on June 10th 1982. But I had learned the technique of signaling my communications intent from Neil in earlier interactions the year before.

Signaling Examples for 4 Communications Behaviors

I’ve written about these 4 (and a couple of others) previously, over the years (decades) as they were extremely impactful to my communications style:

  • Giving Information
  • Seeking Information
  • Testing Understanding
  • Summarizing

You can probably see how these might fit into training for Sales and Negotiations. There were other Communications Behaviors – but I won’t go into those now. I’m not sure how they fit into the current offerings of Huthwaite.


The purpose of signaling your intent – was to help the other side – prepare for the volley – so to speak. Especially if it’s a change in the Communicator’s behavior – say, switching from asking questions (Seeking Information) to telling something (Giving Information). It gave the other side a chance to mentally prepare for what was coming next. An “Advanced Organizer” if you will.

Giving Information

One could say… “Let me say this…” or “May I add…” or “Here’s some new data for our consideration…” etc., as signals.


Seeking Information

One could say… “Let me ask you this…” or “Can you tell me about…” or “I’d like to know more about…” etc.


Testing Understanding

One could say… “So let me test my understanding to see if I’ve got this straight…” or ” If I understand you correctly…



One could say… “So in summary, is it fair to say…” or ” In summary…” or “Let me try to summarize this” etc.


Thanks Neil!

Again, as I’ve written before – this technique had a tremendous impact on my communications with everyone – Clients, Master Performers and SMEs, business partners, staff, and my friends and family.

I found that announcing my intention of what I was going to do next – help prepare others as to what was coming next from me.


Try it out and see how it works for you!

Video of Neil at MTEC in 1981 

On Training Design Criteria. 57 minutes.

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One comment on “T&D: Signaling Your Communications Intent

  1. Pingback: T&D/PI: Testing Understanding | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

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