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Sales Enablement Soirée: Enabling the Channel: Insights for Effective Partner Enablement, Fall 2020

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Cassandra Tenorio: Thank you for joining our panel on Enabling the Channel Insights For Effective Partner Enablement. I’m very excited to be joined by our panelists today. We are really going to be talking about how to effectively enable your channel teams, and how to measure that impact to really drive success. So, I love for each of you to go around saying your name and a little bit about yourself. Mudit, let’s just start with you.

Mudit Garg: Alrighty. Morning, afternoon, evening folks, wherever you are. I’m the vice president for global channel sales and everything operations for D2L. We are an education learning platform and we selectively do schools, colleges, universities, and corporations. I have been a big fan of partnering with channels for a long time in my career, or very strong focus around B2B growth and sales through channels through better efficiency and productivity. I’m super excited to be here and share what I can, folks. 

Cassandra Tenorio: Absolutely. Nathan? 

Nathan Nyvall: Yeah. Perfect. Thank you. Hi, my name is Nathan Nyvall and I am responsible for worldwide enablement for sales, pre-sales customer success and implementation for the Workday channel. I have been at Workday for about two and a half years, and I joined actually as part of an acquisition. Prior to Workday, I’ve worked for companies like Connexus and IBM, always focused on either partner enablement or in that learning space. For those of you not familiar with Workday, Workday, basically provides solutions in the areas of finance, HR, and planning through a software as a service model. And currently my focus is on about 250 partners who are in that planning space. 

Shiladitya M: Hi, I’m Shiladitya. I’m the chief business officer at SmartWinnr, where we help customers to drive sales results through remote sales training, AI driven, virtual coaching and virtual sales contests. I also oversee our channel partnership program and drive strategic initiatives to increase channel sales effectiveness. 

Cassandra Tenorio: Awesome. Well, we only have 30 minutes today for our panel questions, so we’re going to jump right in. I wanted to start by talking about understanding what does effective partner enablement look like and level setting on what that looks like at your organization. So what are some of those key things that you consider when building out your partner enablement initiatives? So Mudit, let’s start with you.

Mudit Garg: Yeah. Partner enablement is so critical for overall success. And the way we look at partner enablement is, I come from a philosophy where considered partner and extension of good sales. I think it is a bit outdated. Now you’ve got to consider them as an extension of your marketing and sales and your customer experience. And that is how you truly build a program that will give you very, very highly productive partners. So when we build our enabler program and we have different types of partners from the reseller, partners to referral partners, to integration partners, you have to look in your funnel, where do they belong? When you think about partners with whom you’re expecting to drive top line, call it like customer acquisition, call it like registration. You know, you got to have a lot of enablement around helping them understand how to market. How can you talk about your solution to your prospects and find opportunities. And then you move to the middle of the funnel. As I call it, think of it as hard notes, who can run with a sales cycle in the partners? Who can actually do demos for you? It’d be nice partners who can actually have full external or certified technical faults or as good as your sales engineer, because they can now close the deals on your behalf.

And then you need partners who can actually, you know, the Uber thing they can actually implement. They can actually help someone actually go live. Train them, you know, make them productive as a customer. And then finally you need partners who can actually help you grow the base. So when we look at our partner enablement, we look at certain tiers around the top of the funnel. Can you help them understand and acquire customers? Do you have programs where you can actually incentivize the right type of partners who have the acumen to deliver technical pre-sales and post-sales. 

And then lastly, can they manage customers? How do you upsell, retain and grow customers? So when you start looking at your partners, not just as an extension of its sales, but also your surveys and marketing, that is where we have seen unlock true value, both at detour and also in my past firms at McAfee and 8×8. So I do feel that you got to look at the enablement from a partner perspective and to end and not just diet to show me the deal. 

Cassandra Tenorio: Absolutely. Nathan, I’d also love to hear from you on this one.

Nathan Nyvall: I’m glad, well, I guess, I don’t know if I’m glad I had to follow him because he gave a great answer there, but, I think I’ll piggyback on some of his points for sure. I mean, it’s a great question. I also will approach the answer from kind of a broader perspective. I’ll just kind of speak to some personal experience because when I came to Adaptive Insights about two and a half years ago, there really was no formal program in place. It was like the wild West, and so what I did was really take a look at the customer life cycle and all the things that had to happen, all the touch points that a partner needed to interact with a prospect or customer.

And, it was really kind of an infinity loop. And, as Madrid said, there are several points at the top of the funnel, such as demand generation. And then it goes all the way from sales, pre-sales customer, the deployment and then customer success, which is, you know, largely focused on the renewal. So kind of once we had a good perspective of what those key touch points were, what I did was actually then look at what are the key tasks that need to happen within each of those swim lanes for a partner to be successful. Keep refining on that and then ending up building both the assets and then ultimately the training and certification that’s then needed to support the partners in each of those areas. So, that’s really how I would approach it. 

Cassandra Tenorio: What are some of those ways that you can ensure that your partner sales, salespeople have the right training and the right tools and the right messaging really for maximum effectiveness? Nathan, did you have any thoughts on that? 

Nathan Nyvall: I do actually. I would say there’s really about three, you know, give or take three things that are really important to think about when you do this. First it’s just kind of making sure again, we understand what the partner truly needs to be successful. So it kind of ties back into the last question a little bit. Start with what is needed, in the case of, you know, sales training. What I did was have a lot of conversations with our Workday sellers, our partner sellers, sales management, and from that really build what a day in the life looks like.

Then from that, you know, build out those areas that they really need. As part of that as well I really made sure to be effective at the training. I’ve always been a believer that enablement is not a one and done kind of thing. So we built a training. We often have an event, but then we need to make sure that we have ongoing mentoring, you know, in coaching that’s a part of it. I like to build role play right into the training itself. It’s easy to sit back and watch a PowerPoint about maybe this is what a good sales presentation looks like, but until you actually sit across from Mudit and actually kind of role play, trying to pitch it and hear his questions or objections about what you had to say. It’s hard to get really good. 

And, you know what you have to keep doing that and you can keep getting better and better. And, and so once you’ve done that, you know, kind of the final piece I would talk about is kind of what I would term, basically assessing your success with it. I think we’ll talk more about this later, but this is when I then kind of look at a set, look at the metrics, and you know, what seems to be working with the partners, themselves. So, and I think we’ll talk more about metrics later, but those would be kind of the three main bullets that I look at, in this area.

Shiladitya Mallik: Well, that’s a great question. In my mind, we need to have three things aligned. We need to have the right messaging strategy. We need to have the right training strategy, and we also need to have the right engagement strategy. So messaging strategy is all about driving that top of the mind. We call through regular communications that are tracked and optimized messaging is also about informing the channel partners about your new product or features or offers, which are lined up for us, the communication frequency and the content also differs from channel partner, the channel partner, depending on the maturity of the relationship. It’s also critical to empower the channel partners with the right framing.

So we organize a training once every quarter. At the same time, we have our own digital Academy where we put up all the collaterals, the best practices, case studies, demo videos so that they can actually use those credentials as, and when they need. In fact, post pandemic, we have added a lot of collaterals on remote selling, remote sales effectiveness, and which have been very, very popular. And finally engagement is also very important. So smart vendors being a sales enablement platform, we use our own platform to drive engagement for our channel sales partners. So we create team contests like NFL or March Madness, all channel partners who do training and participate in quizzes and different activities.

And they get what’s your points badges. They get put up on a live leaderboard. So there is some friendly competition going on and they can redeem these points for gift vouchers. So I think, you know, these three things, if we can align together, that would make for a great strategy. 

Cassandra Tenorio: Absolutely. I love that. Are there any tips that you have to really gain mind share with your partners for your enablement programs? Mudit, did you have any thoughts on this? 

Mudit Garg: Well, you know, we have plenty of kids, some work, some don’t, but let me share with you the ones that have actually worked. You know, show me the money. I think everybody would say that, but we look at the partner enablement program, right. Especially when you go and recruit new partners. You know, you have to show them success stories on what has actually worked very effectively for you to quickly stand up on your legs and start running. It’s charged with bringing business, taking money, making money, a lot around this process. And to me, the biggest thing when I go and meet partners, there are two or three things that they always mention to me. And one is can you be a little bit easier for us to do business with you?

The second thing that they always talk about is, “Hey, minimize channel conflict can you minimize that? Can you assure me?” And the last thing is, “Can you give me your certification program. Can I enroll in our certification program? Do you have one? Do you have it localized?” When I think through that and I look at my enabling program, which actually we built from scratch in the last 18 months here at UL, the big thing for us has been the success stories. Initially hand holding, coaching and mentoring, and then showing them the value of a dollar that you put in the investment that you put in, because time is really money with a partner. If they’re going to put in their marketing sales and technical resources to learn a technology from a vendor, it better be the best use of their time. And they can see some returns coming out. So we have to incentivize them to make sure that they can put in the right effort and in the best way to do that is success stories, initial wins, get them involved, let them shadow.

And if you want to kick them, start with, you know, help them understand how you can commit to a business plan and we can help you grow their business. A lot of it all ties into the enabling program. Like do you want to invest your time to build a business plan with us so that we can then understand your goals and your needs together, and then we can help you get there. Those are some of the real tips that have really helped us grow in mind share with our partner ecosystem. And I’ve seen that work in the past with many of the firms as well. So those are some of the things that we use here, not rocket science, but tried and tested based on relationships, based on mutual success and showing them where the money is.

Shiladitya Mallik: I think it’s very important to get them involved in the planning stage, especially if you’re rolling out a new campaign or a new program, then, if they know that as a company, we are willing to invest effort, time and energy into this program. So they will also take it more seriously. Second, I think it’s critical to get a buy-in from the CEO sales leader of the channel partner, as well as ask for a few volunteers who can work as internal champions for us that really made a lot of difference, especially when you are working with large channel partners, rather than doing everything on your own, you have your internal champions and they can be much more effective in driving such a program.

It’s important to get the channel partner managers visibility into the program. So share the success. Matrices shared how the partnership program is actually impacting business value so that they can make it or take it more seriously. And finally, I would say if I do all the activities, you know, drive your content to the badges, points, leaderboards, so make it fun and engaging for them.

Cassandra Tenorio: Absolutely. I love that answer. And so we really talked about what effective partner enablement looks like. And so, to Nathan’s point, I’d love to talk about really what does success look like and how do you measure it? So what are those key metrics or key insights that you look at to determine success? Nathan, you already alluded to it so let’s start with you. 

Nathan Nyvall: I figured this, the question would be inevitable and I always love a good metrics question. Metrics, always one of those metrics, are always one of those interesting topics that people go back and forth on a little bit. But, I do look at, and I liked the way you phrase the question, both kind of metrics and insights, because I think it really needs to be a combination of those things from a metrics perspective. I don’t put all my apples in this basket, but, the kind of the key metrics that I do look at is really at the most basic level, I guess usage and adoption of my training. We spend a lot of time building training and providing training.

So I want to make sure it’s being used and I’ll talk a little bit so you know more about that in a minute, but, additionally, you know, you did mention it as well. I mean, the proof is really in the pudding. So I do look at both revenue and win rates of our partners as well. And then it’s a little bit tricky, but to the degree possible, I look to see if we have trends and correlations from my enablement initiatives to win. Hopefully that revenue increases, if nothing else, that gives me a feeling for the adoption of our training assets. And also it gives me just a barometer that I’m in kind of the right general area. Having said that, I don’t believe metrics alone truly gives that full picture.

I mean, unfortunately as we know, just because somebody has trained does not necessarily make them effective. Right. Which is why we do the practice and practice. But, so a couple of things that I do, just to kind of bring it beyond the metrics into more of the insights is I do actually spend a lot of time looking at what has worked in deals. For example, when we, actually both deals that we win and lose, but especially deals where we win. I asked them about what has worked for them. We brought up customer success stories and use cases, those are great to understand. Okay. What use cases were used? Did you know what assets that we provided for you?

Did you have a value tool, right. It’s kind of an ROI tool if you use that, was it successful? Did it have traction getting feedback about that? We provide competitive analysis. Did that help? Was it accurate? Tell me about how you use that in the sales cycle. I also get feedback from our internal Workday reps who may be assisting with the deal to kind of get their feedback on what went well. One thing I would say, so it is kind of a mixture of both metrics, as well as anecdotal stories. Honestly, our executives love to hear about both of those things. If you can talk to a partner and get very good feedback about, “Hey, Nathan, that value selling training that you did proved to be extremely valuable.” I was able to establish value by asking good questions, really understanding what the prospect was looking for and determining that our offering really met those needs. That’s feedback when I know I’ve really, when I go home for the night feeling good, because I feel like we scored a bullseye line with that kind of thing. But, you know, ultimately the proof’s in the pudding, so, you do the right things and then the win rates better go up and, and, you know, the revenue has to be there.

Shiladitya Mallik: So we track a few insights, number one metric which we track is the engagement. So how much they’re engaged with the program, how often they are opening our communication meals, how frequently they are really looking at some of the content which we have put up on our digital sales Academy. The second thing, what we track obviously is the participation. How many, you know, channel partners we could create in a quarter. Well, for example, we obviously take their feedback after the end of each training session, but something, what we do, which is very useful is once every six months we do a focus group interview with some of the park parties of past participants to get their feedback and, I know it’s slightly finance time consuming, but this is very, very impactful because you can really get some nuggets out of them in terms of okay, what has been working and what we can improve. So we kind of take that feedback and lock it back into the program to make it even better. 

Cassandra Tenorio: Absolutely. Mudit, I’d also love to hear from you on how you use insights into your partner programs to really continuously improve your enablement efforts.

Mudit Garg:  Yeah, that’s a great question. And I think, you know, Nathan has really set a great foundation for it. YI think the way we use insight is very similar. You want anything described and the way I categorize them as like two discrete buckets. The outcome and the capacity. And let me tell you why and how we use it. So outcomes are pretty straightforward, you know, are the partner bookings growing? Do you still have a Pareto or is the Pareto kind of smoothing out? Do you have a lot of partners contributing meaningful value? Are the bookings growing? Are they contributing to the pipeline and the win rate?

So that to me is really the outcome, which is a lot easier to crack generally in the business. But the key there is when you start looking at that by the different tiers of partner programs, do you have to start looking at it as which are the partners that are actually winning more days or losing more deals and how can we train or retrain them more? It becomes very interesting, but the second piece to me is that capacity, which is generally very fascinating, it’s always a great discussion with any CFO in a company. And what I mean by capacity is you look at your partner funnel. How many partners do you have today? How many are truly strategic versus transactional versus the long tail? What is the recruitment pipeline looking like? And why is it looking like the way it is and how much effort are you bringing in or putting in to recruit those partners? 

And then the biggest and the most important thing, which is why I call it capacity is in your partner ecosystem. Which of the partners actually have capacity for pre-sales and post-sales, you know, how many certified folks do you have? And out of those, how many are actually doing something with the knowledge that we have gained? Which means are they actually doing the demo that they are actually sharing or reducing the workload on direct sales? And that is where this capacity is. The pre-sales certified folks, both sales and technical, both field certified fall critical because now you’re building in an ecosystem where there’s capacity to market, to sell, to support, and then you are measuring the outcomes.

And these are used to refine the program. Like I’ll give you a great example, we brought a couple of partners. We recruited some of the partners and are somewhat actually doing well. Some are not. And the folds that were not doing well when it’s charred. Having that conversation with them and started understanding why a part of it was while we tried. It was too hard. We got distracted. We have 20 other vendors that we deal with. You got to help them transition from, I don’t know what you do to actually, I know what you do. And I think I know how to position it. And I think you could be in the top three of my line card, or even top of one of my line cards, one of them and engage them.

And that is where the insights come in. If all of the deal registrations that are coming in are not good. You have a problem. Part of the deal, registration not coming in at all, which means they are not marketing, or they’re not qualified enough to do their own marketing. If they’re not doing any demos than sales, but they have like 50 certified pre-sales for you. You have a problem somewhere. And that is how we use these insights to you to continuously refine. I would use an enablement program because to me, enablement is all about driving the right productivity and latching onto win rate. I mean, I use the exact same measurement for our direct sales enablement that I use for partner enablement.

So the metrics are exactly the same and they can talk about win-win. It is so critical for, you know, for the enablement team to think about win rate, because at the end of the day, that will tell you how good a deal was qualified and how it enables the team to grow and win it. 

Cassandra Tenorio: Absolutely, I love that. And then anytime I really talk about measuring success, I always want to bring up how you bring that to your leadership teams. So how do you communicate success back to your leadership teams? Mudit let’s start with you. 

Mudit Garg: That is the number one thing that is super critical in the channel business, especially when you’re running both channels sales, indirect sales, you have to set the right expectations. And in most companies, the partner ecosystem can be very complex, you know, from a technical integration partners, to your reseller, to your referral partner, you have to set the right expectation that it is not just about the number of deal registrations or pure pipeline partners can help you influence and move the deal faster. They can help you drive the real rate up. They can help you have a much better ADB on your customer lifetime value of the customer, they can actually give you the capacity for sales and technical.

So setting the expectation is critical. What I do in my job, which seems to have been working well, is every month or at least twice a quarter, we go back to our senior leadership and the C level. They’re aware of the channel businesses, both from the outcome perspective, both from a capacity perspective are the deals that we have held together to build it as a competitive advantage. You’ve got building through technical integration; it is how we have been able to enter new markets, leveraging our channel ecosystem. That is one thing like for us, we are roughly a 900 employee company, roughly not a hundred million revenue series B.

It is very critical for us on how to expand to a new market? You’ve got to leverage the arm that can scale the fastest, which has channels in my opinion. So you have to go back and communicate this progresses. So we use two dashboards in a tactical way and outcome and a capacity. And those two are something that we continuously shared with our executives. It’s never one and done. You have to continuously communicate. You have to deal with it on a weekly, daily, monthly basis. More is better. But, that is how we do it. And communication is so critical for our partner ecosystem in particular. 

I think it’s very, very important to drive the enablement on what does a partner mean inside the company as it is outside? Because you do have a direct channel coexisting, but it is very important for folks internally to also understand the value that a partner brings and that is actually 50% of the battle won right there. 

Cassandra Tenorio: Absolutely. Absolutely. I love that answer. And so really the UBC that partner enablement is increasingly important for continued business success. So how can effective partner enablement really drive business impact? And how do you measure that impact? So, Mudit, let’s start with you again.

Mudit Garg: Yeah. You know, the measurement of impact to me a lot of it is driven by you, the capacity and the outcome. And the way I look at it is in my complex ecosystem that we have. But I look at North America, the international business, which of the countries of it is the business where we are expecting partners really drive growth and help us take into near market versus which are the businesses where partners are. Just another dimension to the series, which means they’re contributing a lot towards our pipeline towards our close business and win rate towards our sales and technical capacity. But to me, the biggest thing that comes out to be is there is a particular changing, if you had few partners contributing most different business, you know, do you want to change that curve?

Are you having more and more partners that are getting to the premium level of the partner program? We use platinum, gold, silver. Are you getting partners who are not transacting to now transacting few times a year to few times, a quarter to a few times a month, a few times a week. Those are the measurements that you look at and then you go back and tie it to your point for enablement. And that is where you really unlock the group potential. You know, the other big pieces, like I was saying earlier is ease of doing business. Like there hasn’t been a conversation in my career when you go to a partner and they tell you, you are the easiest to do business with. I’ve never really heard it. 

You have to help them find the right resources, find the right marketing content, find the right CS content. You got to help them through. And once you get them past the initial hump, then all at once then they see the money, they’re all about growing and they will just grow by themselves. The snowball effect really kicks in. But to get to that snowball effect, there is some work that needs to be done through enablement. And then that is how we actually look at the business impact.

Cassandra Tenorio: Absolutely. And kind of forward looking, and looking into the year and beyond, what are some things that you’re planning for your partner enablement efforts for the upcoming year? Nathan, I’d love to hear from you. 

Nathan Nyvall : Yeah, absolutely. So the way I look at our enablement strategy is kind of like a pyramid, at the base of our pyramid, we have I guess kind of referencing back to all those, you know, what I would call kind of the 100 level enablement programs. Things like, sales, essentials, training, the basics of implementations, you know, how you do the basics of customer success. I know everybody thinks enablement is an extremely glamorous job, but part of what I have to do just to keep the lights on is making sure that, you know, the base of that pyramid is always up. To date and fresh. So, there’s kind of a non exciting answer to the realities of what enablement is all about a lot of the time, but, there’s that. But then on top of that, I do actually get to do some kind of fun things on top of that, kind of at the next level of the pyramid, right.

I have what I would call kind of raising the bar kinds of programs and then also, strategic initiatives, in terms of raising the bar, that’s a lot of the kind of webinars and just ongoing kinds of next level kinds of things you can do with partners. And I have several fun things planned, a lot of them actually based around competition. And then, you know, I guess I’m kind of excited about it. Actually is that time already where I have to start thinking about our next year kickoff for partners. So, I’m already at my chalkboard working busily away on what my sales kickoff and for partners is essentially more than sales it’s actually, we call it a partner rally, but it’s essentially our new year kickoff what that program was going to look like for our partners. 

Shiladitya Mallik: So in fact, next year, we are significantly planning to increase our enablement effort, especially now because we are in a remote first world and in a partnership matters a lot, and we have a two-pronged strategy. Number one, we will now go into a monthly awareness program. We have to be focused on specific areas. So it could be on the USBs or integrations or competitive data. Whatever our analysis shows are certain gap areas from the channel partners perspective. So we will make it the theme of the month and all our communication, all our efforts will be driven along with a normal training program to raise awareness on certain, various, specific issues. 

And we will take a very, very data driven approach to measure the effectiveness of such a venous campaign. We are also planning to create an expert channel. So we are the channel partners. They can actually come and ask any questions, it’s going to be readily answered. And finally, we are also rolling out a more comprehensive program. What we are calling this, Mark Wiener channel champs program. So it’s a gamified program. We are channel partners, get virtual points based on their engagement but crucially and differently also by the sales contribution. Right? So these points can be redeemed for sweets or people are chosen more.

So in some ways we are trying to kind of align the sales contribution. We build training effort, which has been put in so that all the business interests are aligned. So I’m personally really excited to see how that pans out. 

Cassandra Tenorio: Well, I think this has been such a fantastic discussion and I’ve loved hearing your insights. We love to end all of our panels with one key takeaway for our audience. So if you have one key takeaway for everyone on the line today, what would that be? And Nathan, why don’t you kick us off? 

Nathan Nyvall : Yeah. So I’ll tell you one thing I’ve definitely learned, especially working with partners and since this is really kind of a sales enablement focused conference. One thing that I’ve learned that’s definitely a key takeaway for me is do not assume that your partners know how to sell. So, you know what it’s amazing. I do a lot of just kind of, like I said, the basic level sales training, and I’m amazed, you hear people like, “Oh, they’re a good partner. They’re a good partner.” And they probably are a great partner. Right. But a lot of them come from like implementation backgrounds and maybe have never even been in formal sales roles. So, if you really want to magnify, I guess, back to this question from a couple of times ago, if you really want to magnify the impact you can have through enablement, spend some time covering the basics of things like I’m a big value selling kind of fan, spend some time taking them through the basics of how you sell, how do you be a more effective salesperson? And you can definitely see win rates trend up. So like I said, they can sell, but don’t assume they know how to sell coming into your profile 

Mudit Garg: It is so true. And I’ve learned so much in this session as well. You know, for me, the biggest take away would be in creator partners, just like your internal sales. And I’m going to think about it. You know, if you want to be a really successful organization, you hire, right. Which means you recruit the right type of partner, then you train them and enable them. No matter how much of a rock star they are ,like Nathan said, do not assume they know how to sell. So teach them, enable them.

And more importantly, just as you do for your predecessor executive or the selling or the closing, are they generating pipeline? Are they transacting? How good are they in giving a day, do the exact same thing for a partner. And if you can do that, if you can do the heavy focus on onboarding and getting them productive, and it goes such a long way, but do not leave them after just giving them onboarding for a couple of days or a couple of virtual hours. And then, treat them just like your internal sales and follow up with them until they get really productive. And then, you know, the magnification, the snowball effect will just simply kick in. 

Shiladitya Mallik: I think the ROI for a successful partner enablement program is really, really high if you’re not investing in that property, you are leaving money on the table. So creating a strategic partner enabled program could be one of your industries. Most important strategic goals going into 2021 and the investment that you make, you will easily recoup, you know, by increasing feeds to the channel. So I would say go for it and make this one of your top priorities for 2021.

Cassandra Tenorio: I love that. I love that point. All right. Well, thank you so much for all of your insights and your sharing today. We’re going to open it up to Q and A. So if anybody in our audience has any questions for our panelists, type those into the questions section, and we will get those answered by our speakers today.



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