Use Your “SALES SIGNAL” to Win More Deals

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When driving down the highway, how angry do you get when the car in front of you doesn’t use its turn signal when moving from one lane to the other? If you are like me, maybe you get angrier than you should (I am working on it 🙂).

Maybe the reason we get so frustrated is that the driver in front of us has the technology to show us their intentions, but they simply choose not to. It would literally take them one second to move their hand up or down on the turn signal. Are they lazy, disrespectful, or do they feel that they don’t have to follow the rules? I know that I want to get to my destination safely, don’t they?

I recently finished a wonderful book called Turn the Ship Around by L. David Marquet,[1] which triggered a link between using a turn signal when driving and using a “SALES SIGNAL” when connecting with current or prospective customers.

Marquet attended the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated top of his class in 1981. He served as a Naval Officer in various roles from 1981-2009, but it was his experience as the Captain of the USS Santa Fe that compelled him to write his best-selling book.

In Turn the Ship Around, Marquet shares many concepts he used to create the environment to turn the USS Santa Fe from the worst-performing to the best-performing nuclear submarine in the fleet. The concept that triggered the link I mentioned above is what he calls an “I Intend To” statement.

“I Intend To” Statement

A simple example of an “I Intend to” statement that Marquet shares in the book is when a sailor on the Santa Fe states, “Captain, I intend to submerge the ship.” The sailor has not done anything yet. He/she is simply ‘signaling’ their intent. The Captain may say, “Very well,” if they agree with that course of action, or, “Why are you planning to dive now”, if he had any reservations.

Just like a turn signal alerts other drivers of your intent to turn left or right, the ‘I intend to’ statement clearly alerts others of your intended actions. In the Navy, this small act of communication can save hundreds of lives. As a salesperson, an “I Intend To” statement can create hundreds of DEALS!

Over the past 16 years, I have interacted with 1000s of salespeople.  The common theme with most of them is that they believe that once they are in front of a potential buyer, they can “close the deal.”

Unfortunately, most salespeople can’t get in front of potential customers, or they never get a chance to reach the “closing stage” of a deal. Spam filters and gatekeepers keep them away. When they finally do get through, they share products/features that have little relevance to the customers’ actual business needs/outcomes. If a salesperson articulates a well-thought-out “I Intend To” SALES SIGNAL, it will show an understanding of the prospective customer’s world. The SALES SIGNAL will help build the relationship between the salesperson and the prospective customer, increasing the likelihood of a closed sale. It helps to communicate that, “I realize you deal with quite a few salespeople who only think about THEIR needs. I’m different, I am actually thinking about both of our needs.”

Back to the lazy, disrespectful, arrogant driver that cut you off without a signal. That anger that you feel (or maybe just what I feel; I promise you, I am working on it) is what many potential buyers feel when salespeople confront them.

  • “Really, this is the best email that you can construct?”
  • “Really, do you expect me to call you back after THAT voicemail?”
  • “Wow, I agreed to join you for a Zoom meeting, and this is what you present to my team and me?”

Preparing an “I Intend To” SALES SIGNAL shows any potential customer that you are not lazy, disrespectful, or arrogant.

In Captain Marquet’s world, inside a submarine, when a sailor utters, “Captain, I intend to submerge the ship.” In their brain, the sailor has determined that submerging the ship is the correct course of action in this situation(distance from shore, distance from traffic, current sea conditions, etc.). Well before they uttered this statement, they received hours and hours of training that helped them to be comfortable with what they were ABOUT to do. But before they do “IT,” they share their plan with their Captain.

A salesperson can do precisely what Captain Marquet’s sailors do. They can create and share “I Intend To” SALES SIGNALS.

They could look like this:

  • When sending out an email, a salesperson can leverage the Subject Line and state, “We saved XYZ Company (a known company the potential buyer knows) 75% by moving to Cloud-based services. Click the attached link to learn how.” – “I intend to show you how we can save you money on a service that is important to you!”
  • When leaving a voicemail, a salesperson can state, “I realize that this is a cold call, but we are currently working with four of your supply chain partners to eliminate 30% of their redundancies. I will email you a white paper, so you can see that I am not a BOT.” – “I intend to show you that we have experience working with your partners!”
  • And maybe most importantly, when starting a meeting, a salesperson states, “Thanks so much for agreeing to meet with us today. The purpose of this meeting is to demonstrate how our AI technology will improve your close ratios by 25%. During the 30-minute meeting, we will restate what we have heard from you, and then we will share a brief demo that highlights how we can achieve the 25% improvement. By the end of our meeting, we want to ensure that you understand the technology and feel comfortable starting the trial.” – “I intend to reaffirm what we know, provide an overview of our process and, if all goes well, get you to start a trial.”

Just like the example cited earlier, if the Captain doesn’t agree with the “I intend to” SALES SIGNAL they can interject, “Before we do, can you further explain your thinking?” And if a customer disagrees, they could state, “That is not what we were hoping to accomplish today, can we do this instead?”

Even if they don’t agree with your suggested approach, you are highlighting that you are trained, have done your homework, and have a plan of how you intend to conduct the meeting. More than likely, they will appreciate your effort and respect your skills.

If they provide you with feedback on what they would rather do, you can have a respectful conversation and agree on a new course of action. Bottom-line, whether they agree with you or not, you are learning more about what they believe is important, how they think, and potential opportunities.

Let me be clear, you can’t Intend for someone else to do something. For example, it doesn’t work to say, “I intend for them to buy from me.” But, having a well thought out and articulated, “I intend to” SALES SIGNAL statement forces a salesperson to truly understand why they are reaching out to a customer, which will 100% improve the chances that the customer WILL BUY something from them.

Next time you are driving, maybe you should thank all the drivers who use their turn signals to highlight what their intentions are on the road. “Thanks for ensuring that both of us get from point A to point B safely.” And any salespeople/sales leaders make sure that your sales process includes the “I Intend To” SALES SIGNAL at every stage that involves a customer.  You will win more deals and avoid road rage.

Contact LIFT Consulting to learn more!



[1] Turn the Ship Around – L. David Marquet – 2013

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