090: How to Give Product Demos That Sell
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There is nothing more time wasting than a bad product demo. On today’s episode we tell you how to give a great product demo. So many times companies waste the time of the potential customers as well as their own. Product demos are not about presenting a scripted presentation, they are about showing the client what the product can do for them.
We offer a lot of insight on this subject and these points:
- How not to waste their time
- How use a glitch as a sale point
- The importance of having a back-up plan
- The optimal time for a demo
Steli has written a book on this subject and he is offering a free copy to anyone who sends him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is collection of blog posts and you might find it useful for your next product demo.
We also want to invite you to a live The Startup Chat Q&A session if you happen to be in the Bay Area on March 31st. It will be in Palo Alto, CA 6:00-9:00 pm. If you are interested in attending you need to RSVP on our Facebook page. Just join our Facebook group.
It’s great to have such an incredible group of entrepreneurs out there making it happen every day. We’d love to hear from you; please feel free to join our Facebook group and share your experiences, challenges, and motivation with us and the rest of Startup Chat community.
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As always, you can hit us up on Twitter @Steli or @hnshah, #thestartupchat.
Steli Efti: Hey, everyone. This is Steli Efti.
Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.
Steli Efti: And in today’s episode of The Startup Chat, we’re going to talk about product demos, the good, the bad, the ugly, things to avoid, things to do to stand out and succeed with it. But before we get into the episode, special announcement, if you haven’t heard it yet. There’s going to be a live event with Hiten and myself.
Hiten Shah: In person.
Steli Efti: Like physically?
Hiten Shah: Yeah, physically.
Steli Efti: You mean on Periscope?
Hiten Shah: No, Palo Alto.
Steli Efti: Like a Skype or something like that?
Hiten Shah: No, no, no. In person. People are going to be sitting there and we’re going to be talking. They’re going to be watching us and heckling.
Steli Efti: Wait. They’re going to be able to touch us?
Hiten Shah: Yeah.
Steli Efti: As in touch?
Hiten Shah: Yeah, with their fingers.
Steli Efti: Not the screen or their phone, us?
Hiten Shah: No, us, yeah.
Steli Efti: Wow, okay. So, we are doing a live event in person. It’s going to be in Palo Alto in the bay area. If you’re around on March 31st at 6:00 PM, you want to join us. We’re going to do a live Q&A episode of The Startup Chat.
Hiten Shah: Yeah. And bring your questions. Make them good.
Steli Efti: Bring your questions. Make them great and we’re going to have a fun time. We’re going to have beer and pizza and everything, but we have limited seats. So, because it’s physical and not on periscope, we need you to RSVP. Here’s how you do it. If you’re around in the bay area on March 31st from 6:00 to 9:00 PM in Palo Alto, you go to thestartupchat.com/fb for Facebook. You join the Facebook group if you’re not already part of it and the very first pinned post is giving you a link to RSVP. Do that right now. Pause the fucking episode, it’s just a podcast. Go do it to make sure that you can be there and then come back and listen to the rest of the episode.
Hiten Shah: Yeah.
Steli Efti: Fair enough? The funny thing is when I do this whole like “and then go to thestartupchat.com/fb,” Hiten always laughs because I think it’s his like I’m the living—
Hiten Shah: Steli in Steli mode, baby.
Steli Efti: I’m the living manifestation of like a guy at a farmer’s market peddling like tomatoes, right? So he loves it just—
Hiten Shah: Sell your shit, dude. Sell your shit.
Steli Efti: He just eats it up. He loves it. Okay. The other thing that I’ll say for this episode is that—
Hiten Shah: It’s great with a subset.
Steli Efti: If you listen until the end of it, there’s actually going to be a chance to get a free book, so I’ll tell you more about that in a second. Let’s get back to the episode which is product demos. So, here’s why I want to talk about this. There’s 2 reasons. One is that—first, what is a product demo, right? The product demo for me is anytime any person demonstrates either in a one-to-one interaction, either physically in person or virtually, how their product works and how it looks like or in a one-to-many situation, right? And this can be you showing investors how your software or your product or your SAAS works. This can be you showing somebody in a coffee shop how it works or you showing a prospect how it works so they buy. This is a common scenario, probably the most common scenario that I’ve been exposed to is SAAS startups giving product demos as a sales tool and part of their sales process, right?
And I have seen like a million bad product demos. I see all kinds of mistakes, all kinds of like horrible, horrible things, companies, founders, people do in the way they do product demos. So, I’ve written a bunch of blog posts and then we turn those blog posts into a tiny book. It’s really not really a book but whatever. It’s a tiny really—
Hiten Shah: I mean, Steli, I’m looking at it. It looks like a book to me.
Steli Efti: It looks like a book to you and it is actually really good. I’m almost super critical, but I read through it from cover to cover again to just see how the experience would be in reading it as a book versus the blog post and it’s like a super quick read, maybe it’s going to take you like 30 to 60 minutes. It’s all good. It’s going to make you better at giving effective product demos that sell.
So, one reason why I want to talk about it is because I hate how bad most product demos are and the other reason why I want to talk about it is because I have a book about it and I’m going to give everybody who’s The Startup Chat listener a free copy of it if you just shoot me an email at email@example.com and you’ll get a free copy.
So, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this, Hiten, because I assume you’ve gotten in a million product demos both from your angel investor point of view, also from a you’re an adviser point of view, but also from a you bought SAAS products before. You probably saw things or your companies have given, you know—I’m sure some of your businesses had been giving product demos to other people. So, is there something that you could think of when people demonstrate and demo their product to you? Something that you find people just always doing wrong or something that’s kind of a pet peeve that annoys you or something that you’re like “I wish people would stop doing this” when they give a product demo.
Hiten Shah: I think they forget that the demo is about the other person and like trying to figure out what they need. That’s probably the number one mistake I see. So, I’ve had so many—like I’m an awful buyer, first of all. So like if you give me a product demo like—
Steli Efti: I’m not surprised.
Hiten Shah: Just don’t do it, right? Because I’ll find the words that off, for the pixel that’s off and it’s going to bug me the whole time. I’m going to bring it up again and that throws you off if you suck at demos, right? And I can tell when someone sucks at demo if I can throw them off, so that’s a test, right? Like if someone’s mock-demoing me, I’ll keep trying to throw them off because that’s what a customer is actually doing.
Steli Efti: Yup.
Hiten Shah: Right? Like the most aggressive customer is like “No, no. I don’t want to see that. Show me this.” Or they’re like directing you, so that’s one person or a customer, right, or prospect. The worst is like when I try to interrupt them, if I’m the buyer, let’s say—I’m going to call myself the buyer and they’re the demoer, and they’re like no, no, no, no like they don’t let me, you know, for whatever reason.
Steli Efti: We’re just getting a live call from Neil Patel, by the way.
Hiten Shah: Picked it up, “Yo!” And so like I think it’s the worst when like you try to interrupt them or something and then they keep trying to continue. When it’s like “I’m the buyer. You’re trying to sell me essentially like in the sales case and—”
Steli Efti: “No, no, no, but you don’t understand. I have a certain sequence and I know what I need to say next.”
Hiten Shah: “I’m not going to buy your sequence. I’m going to buy your product.”
Steli Efti: “But I just want to get through my demo. Can you just not shut up and listen to everything I have to say?”
Hiten Shah: “Then I’m wasting my time.”
Steli Efti: Yes, you are.
Hiten Shah: Right? So don’t waste your time, right? So I think the biggest pet peeve is that. I know you’ve written a whole book on it, so I’m dying here what you got but like I hate that. I hate it when like they’re so scripted where they can’t go off script, which means they’re pretty bad at it because the thing is like it’s about me and what I need. So like you don’t need to show me the hundred features of your stupid product. You need to show me the 3 that are going to blow my mind and make me think I need it right now.
Steli Efti: All right.
Hiten Shah: And that’s the sales demo side.
Steli Efti: Yeah. So let’s talk about that. So, I mean—
Hiten Shah: Yeah. Let’s talk about that.
Steli Efti: Obviously I agree with everything you say.
Hiten Shah: Great. Awesome.
Steli Efti: So, that’s it. That’s the episode.
Hiten Shah: You’re done, right? All right. Read the book. Get the book.
Steli Efti: Get the book. So, wasting time is a huge one and there’s like a million different manifestations of how people waste time in product demos. Number one, they give it to the wrong people. Wrong means to me you have not explored if this person should buy your product. Why?
Hiten Shah: So you’re talking to a marketer talking about engineering product.
Steli Efti: Yes.
Hiten Shah: Is that what you mean?
Steli Efti: Or you’re talking to an intern and you’re giving that intern in that company a 2-hour extensive product demo and then you realize that intern is just not going to buy and knows nothing about the market.
Hiten Shah: The context of the person.
Steli Efti: Context of the person of the company.
Hiten Shah: Why don’t people just ask the person their goal before they get on the product demo?
Steli Efti: Because here’s what happens. A lot of people will just ask you for a product demo. They will send you the email or fill out your contact form and go, “Hey, I would like to get a demo of your product.” And then what do teams do and people do? They respond, “Sure. How about Tuesday 9:00 AM?” Hey, Hiten, somebody asked me for a product demo. Surely, I just have to give it to them. Yes and no. I’m not saying tell them no. I’m saying, yes, let’s jump on a quick call to figure out if a demo is worth it.
Hiten Shah: Right.
Steli Efti: Or, let’s jump on a quick call and in the call you first figure some things out about this person and then if they’re qualified, you can give them the demo. If not, why don’t you save their and your time and you point them in a better direction.
Hiten Shah: You even qualify an email.
Steli Efti: Yeah.
Hiten Shah: I used to do that. Like at Crazy Egg, we have a lot of customer support. I was doing it. People wanted demos. I only did 10% of the demos because, one, we don’t have a sales team, right? Two, like, we don’t need a demo even today. We probably—of the people who want demos, we do 20% of them because we’ve gotten better at getting those requests but like you shouldn’t do every demo that’s requested. You should try to understand whether the right people are going to be on the phone, right? But again like to me—I know this is like broken record but it goes back to like don’t waste anyone’s time.
Steli Efti: Don’t waste anyone’s time.
Hiten Shah: You are wasting that intern’s time. Actually in that case you might be wasting yours more than theirs, but your time matters too, right? You’re trying to close sales and the sales contact.
Steli Efti: So, that’s one. You’re giving it to too many people or not the right people. You don’t do your homework which is what you pointed to. It’s like it’s all about me. Show me the things that matter to me. Most people don’t do the homework or ask the right question beforehand to know what does this person really care about to make sure I show and demonstrate these things versus everything, right? So, and you touched on this a little bit with like features.
Hiten Shah: Yeah.
Steli Efti: Listen, a product demo is not training.
Hiten Shah: That’s a good point.
Steli Efti: A product demo is not training. People confuse that. People think that the purpose of a product demo is probably to make you a black belt in using my product.
Hiten Shah: No.
Steli Efti: No, no. I’m not even a customer now. All I’m trying to figure out is does this shit does what I wanted to do?
Hiten Shah: And should I buy it?
Steli Efti: Should I buy it or not? It’s a sales tool.
Hiten Shah: Or even try it in a lot of cases.
Steli Efti: Yeah, yes.
Hiten Shah: The call is about trying it, not even buying it.
Steli Efti: Not even buying it. Don’t teach me every little setting, every little thing. It’s not about features, right? It’s about demonstrating the value, the benefits, not teaching me how to use all features.
Hiten Shah: I’m sure you have this in your thing, but like even if you get to the point of a product demo, I’m surprised at how many people don’t ask me questions first from the buyer. It’s like just ask me a couple of questions. They’re like “Tell me, ask me why I even got on the damn demo, what I want to see. Did you know what you want to see? Great. You don’t? Great. What are the problems you have.” Like either way, get some answers so you can make sure that even if you’re still going to go on a script, you can make sure that you can double down on the right talking points.
Steli Efti: So I’ll give you a small one on this and then a big mistake, right?
Hiten Shah: Great. Yeah.
Steli Efti: So, a small one, pet peeve of mine, and this is also about saving time but to me points to a bigger issue of like being mindless in the way that you do demo and with all—I’ve given bad demos before so we’re not above that.
Hiten Shah: Me too. Yeah, yeah, me too, of course.
Steli Efti: But here’s the thing.
Hiten Shah: How do you get better at them? You get bad ones. Come on.
Steli Efti: Yeah. So here’s the thing I hate. When people demonstrate something and they feel the need to click, they click on everything. So I’ll give you an example. Let’s say I have a newsletter tool and I demonstrate to you how to send a newsletter. I go to this the editor and I’m like “Here’s where I put all the nice newsletter and I format it and I design it.” And then “Here’s the send button and when I click it,” and they click it at the demo, “it sends the newsletter.” Now they click the send button and the spinny-spin wheels spins and we’ll wait for 2 seconds and then “Boom! See? The email was sent.” Why the fuck—
Hiten Shah: Who cares? Of course it will send.
Steli Efti: Who cares? Why did we have to click the button in person? Like why can’t you just tell me “Here’s the editor. Here’s how it works and then you send the emails from here.” And you move on with life.
Hiten Shah: Yeah.
Steli Efti: They click on things and the things break. There’s a bug, error message, oh my God.
Hiten Shah: Oh that probably pisses you off with your team. Like you clicked on that.
Steli Efti: No. No, no, no, no. But here’s the tip on that and this is so funny—
Hiten Shah: So good, yeah.
Steli Efti: –which is the—you brought this up with like throwing people off. If I can throw you off, you’re not good at this and there’s a little chapter on this in the book. There aren’t going to be mistakes and it’s— they can’t be surprising because they don’t only happen once in a lifetime. Common things that will go wrong in an online demo at least, right? You lose your internet connection or the internet connection gets really bad. There’s an error message or a bug. You know, your machine slows down or breaks up. There’s a bunch of things that will happen.
Hiten Shah: Yeah. I’m going to give a hack.
Steli Efti: Go for it.
Hiten Shah: I learned it from—I can’t remember what—[0:12:08][Indiscernible] back in the day.
Steli Efti: Okay. Let’s see if it’s the same hack that I offered.
Hiten Shah: It was like a yammer competitor.
Steli Efti: Okay.
Hiten Shah: Right? And this hack takes work, but basically—and we did this at KISSmetrics in the past. There’s 2 methods. One you need and then the second one is like an add-on. Basically create a just clickable HTML version of the whole app with specific screenshots in the right areas, update them when you need to. These things change and use that to demo. That prevents the clicky problem and makes it so that—what we did is we actually would put it on things like Dropbox and so it’s just easier to access than even a URL in case something is wrong. If it’s on Dropbox, it’s actually local.
Steli Efti: I love that. And I know some other companies do this even more sophisticated a bunch of things. I’ll give a much simple solution.
Hiten Shah: Sure.
Steli Efti: Because in this case, I’m the lazy one.
Hiten Shah: Yeah, I get it.
Steli Efti: Right? So, you just prepare for these situations and here is how I would prepare for them. Number one is—
Hiten Shah: So backup plans, contingencies, that idea?
Steli Efti: Backup plans, yeah.
Hiten Shah: Great.
Steli Efti: So anytime I want to show anything that’s online, I will decide what are the 2 or 3 pages that I need to show.
Hiten Shah: Have them open, right?
Steli Efti: Have them fucking open, right?
Hiten Shah: I’ve done that. You could even lose internet and it still works.
Steli Efti: Yes, exactly.
Hiten Shah: For the most part.
Steli Efti: It still works.
Hiten Shah: Yeah.
Steli Efti: So, the second thing that you want to do is you want to—if things go wrong. Let’s say you have an error message or a bug, that most companies—most people that give a demo will be flustered by that. “Oh, this never happened before.” Bullshit.
Hiten Shah: Yeah. That’s wasted space. Don’t even say that. Who cares?
Steli Efti: It creates anxiety. It creates stress. Here’s what you do.
Hiten Shah: Makes you look stupid.
Steli Efti: Here’s what you do when there’s an error message. You go, “Nice. I’m so excited to show you this. You see that we just got an error message in the app? When this happen to you, whenever you use our product, if there’s ever an error message, here’s how you deal with it. Here’s what I do next. I’ll show you how awesome our support is. So I’m clicking on this button that says Live Chat Support and I go ‘Hey, engineering team. I’m just giving a live demo and I got this error message. How can I fix this because I have a prospect that’s looking at this with me? And now I’m going to demonstrate to you how do you communicate with support to fix this problem.”
Hiten Shah: Yeah, and how responsive they are and all that good shit.
Steli Efti: How responsive they are, how they help, how to communicate bugs productively to people.
Hiten Shah: Absolutely, yeah. Oh, yeah.
Steli Efti: And now I’ve turned something that’s a negative into like, oh, this is an opportunity to show you how awesome we are and how you have to deal with this when you’re in that situation.
Hiten Shah: Yeah.
Steli Efti: Right? And this is so—
Hiten Shah: And if your homepage says you have world-class support, you just had an opportunity there to prove it.
Steli Efti: To demonstrate it.
Hiten Shah: Right?
Steli Efti: The other thing—you know, I mean you lose internet connection, right? Well, when you know that that can happen and that has happened before, make sure that you are prepared. I want to have the phone number of everybody that I’m doing an online demo even if I don’t plan on calling you because if things go down, what am I supposed to do now?
Hiten Shah: Yeah. We don’t want to waste time here, right? Everyone got the scheduled time, yeah.
Steli Efti: I’m going to pick up my phone and just call you, just call you, right? And be like close your eyes and imagine the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen and I’m clicking this thing, right? I’ll find a way around this. And there’s obviously screenshots. There’s obviously mock-ups. There’s obviously other ways for you to show what and how something works when it’s not really working live anymore.
Hiten Shah: That’s right.
Steli Efti: But you just want to be prepared, just be prepared and know these things happen. So when they happen, you can’t be like “Oh my God, it’s the end of the world.” So same thing with if you’re a speaker, you know, sometimes I want to have a presentation but I always think if I have a presentation, I always ask myself “If the projector and if this thing doesn’t work, what is my simplified version of this? How can I bullet down to a piece of paper with 3 notes and just still rock and roll?” Right? Because that also annoys me when like a speaker starts and then the projector isn’t working and then it’s like—
Hiten Shah: Forever, yeah.
Steli Efti: –3 minutes of awkwardness. “Well, I don’t know. Is the speaker working?” People running on stage. “Well, hmm, what am I supposed to—?” Like, just—
Hiten Shah: Get going.
Steli Efti: Just get going, go. Like how—this can’t be the first time this happened, right?
Hiten Shah: Yeah.
Steli Efti: So just be prepared and have a contingency plan, right? Especially for things that happen often.
Hiten Shah: Even if it’s a list of 10 jokes, whatever.
Steli Efti: Whatever, right? Do something.
Hiten Shah: Whatever makes you happy, yeah.
Steli Efti: Tell a story about a customer, last time this happened, it was a prospect that turned out to be your best customer, so this is a good sign, right? This is—we’re starting off of the right foot. It’s going to be amazing. Just say something, right? And then—the other thing in terms of like preparation or laziness is dummy data. So a lot of times—another pet peeve of mine is that people will have demo accounts because they don’t want to show you real data. And these demo accounts—the fake data is so obviously fake that it’s hard for you as a user to have the real experience.
Hiten Shah: To imagine your data in there, yeah.
Steli Efti: Yeah. It’s like all customers are like X, Y, Z, Z, Z, Z, Z, Z. It’s just—
Hiten Shah: At least pick real names. Make phone numbers and look real like, come on, put a little effort in, real cities.
Steli Efti: Put a little bit of effort into this. Yeah. Put a little bit of effort in it. For us at Close.io, we have like on the homepage, we have all these references to arrest a development because a bunch of people here are fans. So the demo that we show all these people that are characters and the rest are development, just make it fun, do something, right? It’s these little things that can make a big difference, right? To make it more fun. The next thing, in terms of saving time, this is the simplest thing. Make your demo short.
Hiten Shah: I like it. Yeah.
Steli Efti: Please, for the love of God, make it short.
Hiten Shah: What’s short?
Steli Efti: You know what, the average—
Hiten Shah: How many minutes?
Steli Efti: First, I’ll tell you what the average demo is that I’ve seen. 60 minutes.
Hiten Shah: What?
Steli Efti: Yes.
Hiten Shah: Seriously?
Steli Efti: Yeah. The average demo—
Hiten Shah: You don’t need that long, huh.
Steli Efti: –in the sales process, you are potential enterprise customer or prospect and I’m going to give you a demo of the product, it’s 60 minutes.
Hiten Shah: Wow.
Steli Efti: And a lot of times, more often than I’d like it to be, it turns even longer than 60 minutes because the idiots, you know, including me plan out for 60 minutes of talking and then the person has a question and it turns into 1-1/2 hours. It’s impossible to remember all this. It’s overwhelming. You know how these demos end? They end with a feeling on both ends of overwhelment and exhaustion, and you don’t want to talk next step. You don’t want to buy. You don’t want to make any decisions. You just want to—
Hiten Shah: You have to process and think.
Steli Efti: You’re just like “Give me some days to think about this.” If I end the demo and the other person goes, “Whoa, let me think about this.” I know I’ve done too much. Too much information. I’ve overwhelmed the person. That’s not the purpose of the demo, overwhelment, right? You want them to—you want to create clarity. You want them to feel like taking action. “Oh, I understand this.”
Hiten Shah: “This is going to solve my problem.”
Steli Efti: “Let’s go,” right? And not “Oh, my God, this was so much. I need to think about this and I need to digest all this.”
Hiten Shah: Yeah.
Steli Efti: So, my ideal very average time in terms of giving a good demo is 10 to 15 minutes. So in total plan for 30 minutes, plan to, you know, ask some critical questions first, 5 to 10 minutes. Plan to give a demo for another 10 to 15 minutes and then have a few more minutes to have some more Q&A and some call to action. Keep it snappy. Even if it’s 30 minutes, it might sometimes turn into 40. It might sometimes turn to 25 but 30 minutes is a good mix. And it will force you—even that will force you to edit things out, to go “Well, I can’t show everything about my product in 30 minutes.” Good.
Hiten Shah: Yeah. It’s not about them.
Steli Efti: Make hard choices and decide what to show and what not to show.
Hiten Shah: And if you can’t in 30 minutes, something is probably wrong.
Steli Efti: Something is wrong. “Oh, but Steli, our product is so much more complicated.” No. No. No. Just do—
Hiten Shah: The value shouldn’t be complicated, right? The benefit shouldn’t be complicated.
Steli Efti: There are some cases where eventually in the sales side because it’s so complex, it’s so technical, eventually you’d give a longer demo. But it shouldn’t be the first one. The first time you give a demo, it can’t be an hour or two. It’s overwhelming, right? So keep it short.
Hiten Shah: Tips.
Steli Efti: Well, what was all of that?
Hiten Shah: All are product demo tips, yeah.
Steli Efti: All a bunch of product demo tips.
Hiten Shah: But any one you’re dying to share whether it’s in the book or not.
Steli Efti: Any product demo tip that I’m dying to share, well, tell more stories.
Hiten Shah: Okay.
Steli Efti: This is again going back to don’t you show me here’s how something works. I mean you want to demonstrate things and show things visually, but it’s even better when you can share “here’s how this customer used this. Here’s the value—”
Hiten Shah: “Someone like you.” Like “Here’s someone like you uses that kind of concept.” Yeah.
Steli Efti: “Here is someone like you used this.” “Hey, you know, last time talked to a customer just like you, they had this question about this. Here’s how I answered it and here’s how they are now making use of it.”
Hiten Shah: That’s great.
Steli Efti: Make it—we just as humans.
Hiten Shah: Well, then you’re pointing them to the future. Like, “Hey, you’ll be successful with this. There’s people like you that are. It’s all good.”
Steli Efti: And, we don’t want to be alone. We don’t want to be alone in our decision-making especially and as humans, we’re just so much better at comprehending and remembering stories than we are in just facts and figures. It’s just—
Hiten Shah: Totally.
Steli Efti: It’s just as simple as that. All right. That’s it. That’s the product demo.
Hiten Shah: Product demos 101.
Steli Efti: Yeah. There you go. If you want the book, just shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re in the bay area, make sure to go to thestartupchat.com/fb for Facebook and RSVP on the first post that we have to get a spot and be able to be there in person, shake us, touch us, throw things at us as we’re doing a Q&A live event in Palo Alto on March 31st at 6:00 to 9:00 PM.
Hiten Shah: Bye. We’ll actually see you in Palo Alto.
Steli Efti: See you in Palo Alto. Nice. I like that.
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