Sales and Sales Management Blog

August 29, 2008

Book Review: Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear, by Dr. Frank Luntz

Imagine knowing the words, ideas, and concepts that influences people to buy, to make a choice, to solve a problem, to commit to your solution. Imagine being able to write or say something that immediately strikes a nerve; that people will remember and act upon. Imagine having the power that moves prospects, coworkers, employees, better yet your spouse, to your point of view.

Few of us in sales and marketing are writers–that is true wordsmiths. Few of us think we have the talent to be. Most of us really don’t aspire to be. But all of us yearn to–we must–influence those around us. We must be able to persuade, to move men and women to make choices, to pick up the phone, to exert more effort, to sign the contract, to buy the product, to commit to our goals, our vision, our solution. And most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, are simply tossing darts, hoping that eventually we will hit on a phrase or a sentence that hits the mark.

Although we may never become a Faulkner or Hemingway, we can learn to use words in ways–or at least we can learn the words–that impact our audience. Instead of writing our typical drivel that hangs together loosely, which we vaguely hope will strike a nerve with someone, we can learn to tighten up our communication by learning what people really react to–and why.

Dr. Frank Luntz has given us a good gulp of these gems. His New York Times best-selling book, Words That Work (Hyperion, 2007), lays out his findings about words, ideas, concepts. Luntz is a linguist that gets it–who can take research and translate it into a format that we simpletons can not only grasp but actually use in our everyday lives.

Certainly, if you’re a political junkie as I am, you’ll love the book for its insights into how politicians influence the electorate. Luntz gives example after example of both the words that have worked and the words that have flopped. But don’t think of Words That Work as just a political book. It is, of course. But it is also a sales book, a marketing book, an everyday life book.

Some have been put off by the fact Luntz is a Republican pollster. If you don’t like his politics, don’t let that stand in your way. He gives positive and negative examples from all political points of view, but more importantly, if you view it as a political book as many have, you will miss the message of the book.

If you really want to improve your ability to communicate–whether in marketing, sales, or changing your kid’s mind, you’ll find a great deal of meat in Words That Work. From “The Ten Rules of Effective Language” to corporate and political case studies to understanding what people really care about, Luntz lays out the words, phrases and concepts that influence and change minds and backs them up from his studies with thousands of everyday men and women from across the country.


August 28, 2008

Guest Article: “Six Ways to Prove the ROI for Sales Inquiries,” by James Obermayer

The Six Ways to Prove the ROI for Sales Inquiries
by James Obermayer

Are there more than six ways to prove the ROI for inquiries? Probably, but these basic six ways to prove the ROI will start you off.

1. Salespeople report: The best way.

In this instance, salespeople report on the disposition of every inquiry through your CRM system, SFA contact management program or ASP vendor. If you sell direct you have the control to make this happen. If you sell indirectly, you’ll probably use one of the following methods.

2. Compare invoices to inquiries: The most accurate way.

If you sell direct and have the names of people who buy from you, you can compare the name with the person who inquired. If the sale is made after the inquiry date, you can claim a connection and take credit. Isn’t that wonderful?

3. Did You Buy Studies by telephone:

A statistically significant way to take snap shots of buying activity for a single product.

Take a list of inquirers that are six months old and call them. Get at least 100 completed questionnaires from a single product and a single point in time (typically a month) and you have a report that is significant. You will know what percentage buy in six months from you or your competitor. Any outbound telemarketing company can do this for you. Ask questions such as:

* Did you get the literature you requested?

* Did a salesperson from our company contact you?

* Have you bought a product?

* What did you buy?

* Who did you buy from?

* Are you still in the market?

4. Did You Buy Studies by Mail.

Similar to Did You Buy Studies by phone, this method is attractive because it can generate the greatest number of responses at the lowest cost. For every inquiry that comes into the company, send them a self-mailer six months later. Make sure the self-mailer can be refolded and it becomes a return mailer to you. The response you get can be 10-25% over time. Make sure the name is coded so you can compare like sources to like sources within a specific timeframe and you have the most inexpensive study possible.

5. Did You Buy Studies Using email.

This is an attractive method, although with the email opening rate continuing to drop, you may have a difficult time getting at least 100 responses for a single product and source at a specific time (month). Try it. It is cheap, fast and sometimes very efficient. If you get many thousands of inquiries in a month for a limited product set, you may have a winner here.

6. Comparing warranty registrations to inquiries will give you reliable and statistically significant information.

Compare warranty registrations with the inquiry database and you have a statistically significant report if the date of purchase is after the inquiry date.

James W. Obermayer is a principal in Sales Leakage Consulting, Inc., an Orange County, California based sales and marketing strategy consulting firm and a principal of Cerius Consulting. He specializes in helping small to medium-size companies identify sales and marketing leakage issues that stifle sales growth and waste valuable marketing dollars. He is the author of Managing Sales Leads, Turning Cold Prospects into Hot Customers and Sales & Marketing 365.

August 26, 2008

Guest Article: “How To Be An Effective Communicator,” by Nido Qubein

How To Be An Effective Communicator
by Nido Qubein

A young man whom I had known since he was in high school stopped by to see me and proudly display his new MBA.

“I know a master’s degree alone doesn’t guarantee success,” he said. “What do you think is the most important quality for someone who wants to become a business leader?”

I answered without hesitation: The ability to communicate.

Individuals who communicate effectively with people at all levels, of both genders, and from a variety of cultures and backgrounds are today’s pacesetters.

In the old-style hierarchical, authoritarian setting, communication is relatively simple. The top person tells the underlings to jump, and the underlings need only ask, “How high?”

In a modern organization, communication requires more finesse. The leader is not a transmitter of commands but a creator of motivational environments.

The workers are not robots responding to switches and levers, but thinking individuals pouring their ingenuity into the corporate purpose.

The corporate ideal is not mechanical stability, but dynamic, innovative, continuous change.

The leader who can’t communicate can’t create the conditions that motivate. The genius who can’t communicate is intellectually impotent. The organization that can’t communicate can’t change, and the corporation that can’t change is dead.

The good news is that anyone can become an effective communicator. The door to effective communication will open to anyone who uses these five keys:

(1) Desire.

Human infants have an inborn desire to communicate, and that desire enables them to pick up words quickly and to enlarge their vocabularies continuously.

That same kind of desire can enable you to enlarge your stock of words and improve your skill in employing them. Demosthenes, the Greek orator, had a desire to achieve eloquence after he was hissed and booed off the platform in Athens.

He cultivated the art of speech writing, then went to the shores of the Aegean Sea, where he strengthened his voice by shouting into the wind for hours at a time.

To improve his diction, he practiced speaking with pebbles in his mouth. To overcome his fear, he practiced with a sword hanging over his head. To clarify his presentation, he studied the techniques of the masters.

Today, more than 2,000 years later, the name Demosthenes is synonymous with oratorical eloquence.

(2) Understanding the Process.

Reduced to basics, communication consists of sending and receiving messages.

Language is the primary conveyer of thoughts and ideas. It turns abstract concepts into words that symbolize those thoughts. Those words take the form of spoken sounds or written symbols.

If the mind can immediately translate the sounds and symbols into mental pictures, communication becomes much more vivid and much more meaningful. If I say “I want a desk for my office,” my listener has only a vague and general idea of what I want. If I say “I want a brown walnut desk,” the listener has a more vivid mental picture.

The more skillful you become at conveying images, the more effective your communication will be.

(3) Master the basic skills.

Some people think the first requisite for good communication is an exhaustive vocabulary. Some people think it’s impossible to communicate well without first absorbing a heavy dose of grammar, then memorizing a dictionary of English usage.

Words are important. Good grammar is important. And yes, it helps to know which words and expressions are considered standard and which are considered substandard among educated people.

But slavish allegiance to the rules of grammar can actually impede communication. People will sometimes go to great lengths to avoid usage that somebody has pronounced “ungrammatical” or “substandard.” In the process, they forget the most important rule of communication: Make it clear and understandable.

The vocabulary you use in every-day speech has probably served you well. You use the words that you understand. Chances are, they’re the words your friends, colleagues and employees understand.

If you try to use words beyond the vocabularies of the people you’re trying to communicate with, you’re not communicating; you’re showing off.

Read the Gettysburgh Address, the Sermon on the Mount or Robert Frost’s poetry. The communications that endure are written in plain, simple language.

(4) Practice

I remember a story that gave me inspiration. A young musician had listened with awe as a piano virtuoso poured all his love and all his skill into a complex selection of great compositions.

“It must be great to have all the practicing behind you and be able to sit down and play like that,” he said.

“Oh,” said the master musician, “I still practice eight hours every day.”

“But why?” asked the astounded young man. “You’re already so good!”

I want to become superb,” replied the older man.

I teach communication skills to thousands of people each year, through seminars, audio tapes, videotapes and books. Most of the people I reach are content to become good. Few are willing to invest the extra effort to become superb.

To become superb, you have to practice. It isn’t enough to know what it takes to connect with people, to influence their behavior, to create a motivational environment for them, to help them to identify with your message. The techniques of communication have to become part of your daily activity, so that they are as natural to you as swimming is to a duck. The more you practice these techniques, the easier you’ll find it to connect with people, whether you’re dealing with individuals one-on-one or with a group of thousands.

(5) Patience

Nobody becomes a polished, professional communicator on the first try. It takes patience. A few years ago, William White, a journalism and English instructor, edited a book of early writings by Ernest Hemingway. The young Hemingway was a reporter for a Toronto newspaper, and this book was a collection of his articles written between 1920 and 1924.

The writing was good, but it was not superb. It gave a faint foregleam of the masterful storyteller who would emerge in The Old Man and the Sea, but it wasn’t the Hemingway of literary legend.

What was lacking?

Experience. The genius was there all along, but it needed to incubate. The sands of time can abrade or polish. It depends on whether you use your time purposely or let it pass haphazardly.

Acquiring skill as a communicator requires constant, careful, loving attention to the craft.

The cub reporter didn’t transform himself into a successful novelist through one blinding flash of literary insight. Like most people, he progressed from the “good” to the “superb” through hundreds of tiny improvements from day to day.

You can use the five keys to effective communication in many settings, under a variety of circumstances. You can be a virtuoso at inspiring your work force, at negotiating business deals, at marketing your products and at building a positive corporate image. All these are important communication skills. But always remember: Whatever communication task you undertake, your objective is to connect with people.

Nido Qubein is president of High Point University, an accredited undergraduate and graduate institution with 3,000 students from 50 countries and 44 states. He has written numerous books and recorded scores of audio and video learning programs including a bestseller on effective communication published by Nightingale-Conant and Berkley. Qubein’s business savvy led him to help start a bank in 1986 and today he serves on the board and executive committee of a Fortune 500 financial corporation with 115 billion-dollars in assets and 25,000 employees. He is also chairman of Great Harvest Bread Company with 218 stores in 42 states. He serves on the boards of several national organizations including the La-Z-Boy Corporation, one of the world’s largest and most recognized furniture retailers. Learn more about Nido Qubein at

August 25, 2008

Sales Shebang Conference–Jill Konrath Gives the Details

Jill Konrath, the founder of the Sales Shebang, the top annual conference geared specifically to helping women business-to-business salespeople get the skills and support they need to succeed, gives a glimpse of the upcoming conference.

Even better, go to the official Sales Shebang website, get the facts and register. You can also register for some upcoming free preview calls with some of the conference presenters that will not only give you a taste of what will happen at the conference but will also give you some ideas you can immediately implement in your sales business.

And, yes, men can attend also.

jill-konrath discusses the Sales Shebang Conference

NOTE: Sorry, Jill’s phone had some static in the background–hopefully it won’t be too distracting.

August 23, 2008

Great Strategy–But Was It Too Much?

No doubt the Obama campaign had a great strategy in building interest in his VP selection. Not only did he manage to get hundreds of thousands of cell phone numbers and email addresses he can now use to generate additional donations, but he dominated the news programs for almost the entire week. It put John McCain on the news sidelines and gave him an opportunity to put the Saddleback event behind him.

Hype works, no doubt. But timing in building excitement and interest in any announcement is critical, whether you’re dealing with a VP selection or a new product. Trying to maintain the interest and the excitement is one thing, but the end goal is to punctuate that interest and excitement with an announcement that not only lives up to the hype, but builds on it. Start building too early or drag it out too long and it doesn’t burst on the scene with a bang as intended.

But did he try to milk it too much? By Thursday morning almost all the commentators and pundits had come to the conclusion that Joe Biden was the selection, so when the announcement came instead of, “Wow! What a great (or lousy, depending on your view of Biden) choice,” a common reaction was, “OK, big deal, I figured he was it.”

For maximum impact, Obama waited too long. Certainly he was prepared to spice up the speculation by having someone leak out the information that Chet Edwards was on the short list, although no one seems to have taken that bait too seriously.

On the plus side he got the news all to himself for several days. On the downside, ultimately the announcement was something of a letdown for many since they figured the announcement was just a conformation of what they already ‘knew.’

Obama’s announcement garnered much of what he wanted, and he only missed the peak by hours, but with a just a little better timing it could have had the full impact he was hoping for.

August 22, 2008

Line Dancing and Sales Failure

Filed under: Coaching,sales,sales training,selling — Paul McCord @ 9:15 am
Tags: , ,

Musically, I live in the distant past. If an archeologist found my iPod they’d be sure I died sometime in the early to mid 70’s. My taste in music hasn’t evolved past The Beatles, the Stones, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who, ZZ Top, and Jethro Tull.

But living in Texas, I have been exposed all my life to Country music and especially to one of the most mysterious, unexplainable religious experiences of the Country and Western crowd-the line dance. The line dance is supposed to be a highly choreographed, disciplined, synchronized dance where each move is replicated in perfect harmony be each dancer. When performed well, the line dance is like seeing one person in multiple forms (I told you it was a religious experience) stretched out in several lines moving effortlessly to the music.

That, of course, is what is supposed to happen. It seldom does.

The failure of the line dance to live up to its promise starts at the very beginning-at the moment of conception of the line dancer so to speak. Watching line dancing being taught is the perfect analogy to sales being taught as the exact same process happens in both cases.

Many Country and Western bars have nights when an instructor tries valiantly to teach newbies how to line dance. The process-and the outcome-are always the same. The instructor lines the soon to be dancers up in nice neat lines and walks them through the steps of the dance to be learned. The instructor goes slowly waiting for each student to follow along at their own pace.

After a couple of ‘dry’ runs through the steps without music, the instructor moves the class along, adding music and stepping up the moves into real time. That is where the whole process breaks down.

Each group always has a couple of good dancers who catch on quickly and within a walk-through or two have the dance down pat. Most are struggling to catch on, to make sense of and master the moves. The instructor will go through the dance several times, each time leading the group, showing them by example exactly how do the dance.

But what are most of the students doing during these practice runs? Are they paying careful attention to the instructor and mimicking the correct moves? Not at all. Most are watching the feet of the student next to them, trying to mimic their moves, not the instructor’s. Not surprisingly, most are not learning the dance but are rather learning-and perfecting–the mistakes the person next to them are committing.

Usually at this point the instructor moves into personal coaching mode, taking one, then another of the students and working with each individually to help them unlearn the wrong steps they’ve copied from their neighbor and replace them with the correct steps. Eventually the instructor manages to get most of the students to perform a somewhat reasonable semblance of the dance, although there are always a few who insist on having their own unique religious experience to the music.

The exact process is played out daily in thousands upon thousands of sales offices. Sales team members are given instruction in various aspects of selling with an instructor who is not only willing and able to demonstrate the correct steps, but who tries in the short time they have to work with individuals to help them master the moves. Yet the majority of salespeople instead of paying attention to the instructor are watching the feet of their neighbor, learning and mastering the mistakes they make.

Most of those who learn the line dance eventually–after a good deal of practice in the real world of the dance floor–gain a basic competence in the dance they learned. Strangely the same thing doesn’t happen with salespeople. Unlike the dancers who are constantly surrounded by other dancers who have developed some competence in the dance, many salespeople are left with either only themselves to self-teach the correct moves or are surrounded by others who are struggling to correct the wrong moves they’ve learned.

Selling is a far more difficult skill to learn than a line dance, yet companies are content to have their training department, management team, or an outside trainer float in, present a strategy or two, maybe have time to spend a few minutes working with individual salespeople, and then they’re gone, leaving the team members to figure out on their own what moves they mis-learned and how to correct them.

Rather than teaching their salespeople a new line dance, companies should be investing their time and their money in helping their sales team members perfect the dances they’ve mis-learned through concentrated coaching. If left to learn from one another, they’ll learn and perfect the wrong moves-guaranteed.

August 21, 2008

Social Media–It Ain’t All Good

At times the praise of social media would make one think it equivalent to the Second Coming.  Although there are certainly many good things about the uses and potential uses of the various technology now available to businesspeople and businesses, I find that there is an element to social media that lends itself not to enhancing business and one’s ability to interact with others, but rather to coarsening business, leading users to communicate in ways that they would probably never–or maybe more correctly would never have done previous to social media–do in a traditional one-on-one format.

Although allowed in a number of places, the use of screen names instead of one’s name is most prevalent in community forums and allows people to comment without disclosing their real identity.  Inevitably, this ability to say what one wants without having to be responsible for the comment has lead to the breakdown in many cases of social norms and a very real coarsening of communication.

Up until recently, most of the coarsening of communication that I’ve noticed via the Internet has been somewhat limited-primarily to discussions of politics, religion, and other very personal areas.  That seems to be changing.

I’m beginning to see more and more personal attacks, vulgar language, and even veiled threats in business forums.  To date this coarsening in business communication seems to be relatively rare-but growing.  Even the Sales Sandbox on The Customer Collective in their tag line of “Learn*Share*Create*Play Nice” felt a need to ask users to be civil in their comments.

I suspect as more people encounter these instances of the breach of acceptable communication the practice will broaden and become more acceptable.  But as it becomes more acceptable on the net will that bleed over into our daily communication with one another?  To some extent it seems to have done so within other areas of discussion.

The available anonymity of social media is one of the major drawbacks of the technology.  If we could only eliminate screen names and communicate with one another once again as real humans!

August 20, 2008

Did Yesterday’s Post Go Far Enough?

I received an interesting email last evening from a reader of yesterday’s blog post wondering if the impressions people have of who they would purchase from would change if they took into consideration the candidate’s communications over an extended period of time.

Here’s the email:


First, let me say I enjoyed today’s post about Obama’s and McCain’s speaking styles during Saturday’s televised event. I do understand you chose that event specifically because the was easy to compare and contrast the two candidates since they were in identical situations.

But most salespeople aren’t in a one-time close situation (which is what I’d compare that event to). How would the people you surveyed respond if the question had been who would they buy from IF they were judging the two candidates over a long series of presentations/interactions? Would there conclusions be different if they were to consider say the last six months speeches, presentations, and interviews as an extended sales relationship? It would be interesting to find out who at this point they’d buy from since during that time each has had situations where they came off strong and in control and where they haven’t.

I know this is asking you to have your staff invest a couple more days surveying the original list and that might not be something you want to have them invest their time doing, but I’d be very interested to see if their impressions changed.

Mike Collins

Mike’s right, I really don’t want to go through the survey process again. I also think it would be even more difficult to separate out the political views of the survey respondents if asked to judge the ‘sales’ performance of the two men over an extended period of time. Saddleback lent itself to this question because it was a more controlled event than any other event they have or will appear in. Even though I’m concerned the emphasis will go from specific communication style to simply which candidate you like, I would be interested in hearing your opinion.

Based on what you have seen of the two candidates and as much as possible only on their presentation/communication style, who would you buy from-and why?

August 19, 2008

It’s as Much How You Say It as What You Say

Over the past couple of days I’ve conducted a mini survey of about 60 business owners and senior managers of corporations on their impressions of Barack Obama and John McCain from their appearances at the Saddleback event last Saturday evening.

The purpose wasn’t to determine who won and who lost in terms of content.  My intent was to get their gut reactions to whom they felt was most honest and most importantly, who they would most likely buy from based only on that evening’s event.

Naturally, this is a highly subjective survey and one where the respondent’s reactions cannot be completely separated from their previous opinions of the men or from their political leanings.  Even though in no way am I claiming this to be a scientific study or anything more than just a small glimpse of how a few dozen business people reacted to these candidates, the brief survey does indicate that the way we communicate influences the perceptions of our prospects.  I did, however, speak to men and women from various parts of the country, some self-identified Republicans, some Democrats, and some Independents.

My questions were simple and dealt with how these men and women reacted to how each man delivered his message, not the message itself, and why they believed they reacted as they did.

The overwhelming majority felt that McCain did a better job than Obama.  They felt he was more honest, sincere, and trustworthy.  Almost every one of them thought that if these two men had been sitting in front of them in a selling situation they would have bought from McCain instead of Obama.


The root difference appears to be the communication styles of the two men–one created a sense of confidence and assurance in the listener, the other didn’t.  McCain’s short, quick, forceful responses came across not only as honest but as though he had a grasp of the issues and knew what needed to be done.

Their emotional reaction to Obama was very different.  His answers were not only considerably longer but his speech was halting and much slower.  There was less a sense of self assurance, less of an impression that he was in command of the situation.

Is it fair to base one’s decisions on the way we deliver our information-on our speech patterns?  Not really.  But how we say what we say does have an impact on how our content is received.  Is McCain more confident and in control than Obama?  Probably not, but his delivery style on this evening was, according to the majority of the men and women I spoke to, more likely to move them to purchase from him than Obama.

Some of us, me included, have a natural delivery style much closer to Obama’s than McCain’s.  We might find it helpful to work on speeding up our speech pattern while setting forth our ideas in a more forceful, self assured manner that creates a sense of confidence and sincerity in our listener because how we say what we say is just as important-maybe more so–as what we say.

August 16, 2008

Turning Worthless ‘Referrals’ into Real Clients

Sales through referrals from clients make up less than 7% of the business for over 75% of all salespeople. Yet referrals are the basis of business for most of the top 5% mega-producers.

Why do so few get so much from referrals when the vast majority of salespeople get so little from the same marketing method?

It isn’t luck.

It isn’t that their clients know more people or are easier to get referrals from.

It isn’t magic.

The mega-producers who work their business from referrals have learned that:

  • Despite what many teach, clients don’t want to give referrals
  • Simply asking for referrals gets you nothing but maybe a name and phone number that is little better than picking a name and number at random out of the phone book
  • Getting lots of high quality referrals is a process, not a question at the end of the sale
  • If you want lots of great referrals you have to make giving great referrals easy for you client
  • A real referral isn’t just a name and phone number, it’s a direct introduction to the prospect
  • By using a disciplined process that addresses and overcomes all of the client’s anxiety and fears about referrals, they can generate 5, 10, 15 or more high quality referrals from each of their clients

If you want to get out of the rat race of cold calling and ‘networking,’ if you want to eliminate the expensive direct mail, the ineffective fliers and the other methods you’re using that aren’t getting you where you want to go, you have to learn to find and connect with high quality prospects the way the most successful salespeople do-through working with your clients to meet and connect with tons of high quality prospects.

You can learn the same process the most successful salespeople use and have the same success in generating the quantity and quality of referrals that will take your business to a referral-based business. The PWWR Referral Generation SystemTM was developed by Paul McCord by combining the best referral practices of 47 true million dollar a year income mega-producers. It is the only comprehensive referral generation process that works with clients to generate referrals in a way that clients are comfortable with and respond to by giving a large number of quality referrals.

Till September 1st, McCord Training is offering special referral training packages at tremendous discounts. You can learn the process and with some packages even have Paul give you direct one-on-one referral coaching.

With these learning materials you learn:

  • Why just asking for referrals doesn’t work
  • Why clients hate being asked for referrals
  • How to create the relationship with the client that will make them want to give referrals
  • How to make giving referrals so easy for the client that they’ll give you 10, 15, 20 or more quality referrals
  • Why just getting a name and phone number is useless
  • How to turn ‘referrals’ into direct, powerful, appointment setting introductions
  • How to turn your business into a referral-based business

No gimmicks, no get rich quick schemes, no tricks. The PWWR Referral Generation System is a PROCESS, not a trick. It is a comprehensive program that makes clients at ease with referrals, gives them an objective basis to determine if you’ve earned the referrals, and makes it easy for them to give you a large number of quality referrals.

These special training packages include Paul’s best-selling book on referrals that is becoming recognized as the authoritative work on referral generation, Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals, the companion workbook, 4 hours of CD training on referrals, and some include personal one-on-one referral coaching.

These packages allow you to save anywhere from $50.00 to over $1,340.00 from the standard retail price of the products if sold separately.

Don’t wait as the sale ends September 1st and these types of discounts-almost 50% off retail won’t be offered again until next August-if then.

See and purchase the packages HERE

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