Do you ask if it's a good time to talk?

39 replies
This is something I always do, on every call.

People say that it gives them a way out, but to me that's OK because I'd rather waste 30 seconds of my day with someone who was preoccupied than pitch to someone who is only half paying attention to the call.

Once they agree that you can talk they also seem to be more receptive to your introduction and will generally give you more time to fully explain and demonstrate the value of the call early on which leads to a presentation.

What do YOU do?

I never use to ask this, so this has definitely challenged some assumptions for me.
#good #talk #time
  • Profile picture of the author laurencewins
    If you ask it, you risk them saying no as it is easy. If you want success, you have to assume they have time to listen or they will tell you otherwise.
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  • Profile picture of the author socialentry
    I say ' am I catching you at a good time' .....

    but its more or less worded as a formality then a genuine question

    if they`re not going to listen, then I think it's pointless to pitch them... I'd rather find somebody who is at least minimally receptive...
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    • Profile picture of the author Hapningnow
      I agree with asking, "Is this a good time?" You at least know they are willing to give you a few minutes of undivided attention rather than trying to get away from you. When someone asks me if I have a minute, it makes me believe that they value my time.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    You do not want to try to push people into a conversation who are not available to talk.

    Many people answer the phone even though they can't actually talk right now.

    I ask if it's a bad time to talk, because it's counter-intuitive, and gets them out of what they are doing and onto the call if they are available...which is the outcome I want.

    Assuming people are free to talk to you is a bad idea.

    If you push your way into talking, you will get a lot more friction and cause a lot of animosity towards you. You'll get tired of calling and quit. Take the path of least resistance instead.

    Too many people do one monster calling session. They call for 6 or 8 hours and exhaust themselves trying to get sales. They dial a number once and then treat it as if it is dead. It is not dead. To be successful in calling, you have to dial consistently. Not being able to talk to someone today is no big deal--just a need to reschedule.

    However, most people are so screwed up about the reality of making calls that they'll never understand the correct mentality you need to approach it.

    Hint: After they respond to my question of whether it's a bad time to talk or not, and it isn't, then I set up a quick agreement to let me briefly explain why I called...and find out whether it's something they want to talk about or not.
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    • Profile picture of the author DaniMc
      Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post


      I ask if it's a bad time to talk
      I always use this. I have my callers using this. I picked it up from you Jason and it is brilliant.

      "Is this a bad time to talk?"

      They ALWAYS say no. This question almost always results in a conversation.
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  • Profile picture of the author mjbmedia
    Ask them most every time, few say no , those that do always allow a reschedule and all have been available when I recall.
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  • Profile picture of the author misterme
    I ask this way: "Do you have two minutes for me?"

    So they've agreed to two minutes. In those two minutes if what I say interests them, they'll stay on the phone much longer.

    When you don't ask, then they can (and will) blow you off within thirty seconds with "now's not a good time to speak."

    If someone calls me and asked "is now a good time to talk?" my brain would immediately think, "here's your chance. Say no and get out now."
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    • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
      Originally Posted by misterme View Post

      I ask this way: "Do you have two minutes for me?"

      So they've agreed to two minutes. In those two minutes if what I say interests them, they'll stay on the phone much longer.

      When you don't ask, then they can (and will) blow you off within thirty seconds with "now's not a good time to speak."

      If someone calls me and asked "is now a good time to talk?" my brain would immediately think, "here's your chance. Say no and get out now."
      This is pretty good: you're combining two steps into one.

      However, if it IS a bad time, you risk getting your name associated with the bad emotion they're feeling. And when you talk to them again, that bad emotion will come rushing back--but they won't remember why. All they'll know is that YOU are making them feel bad. Then, there'll be an explosion.

      This only needs to happen once for you to remember it for the rest of your life.
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    • Profile picture of the author Phil Montreal
      Always ask !!!

      I used to ask exactly this : Is it a good time to talk?.... I rarely got a NO and the ones who said NO will then tell you when they will have time to talk to you. Better to have their attention than catch them in the middle of a crisis.

      Remember if you catch them at a bad time, they will always associate you with that bad experience they were living at the time you called.
      Plus as the others said, it is for one, common courtesy to value their time, two, you want them listening

      Now I use a different technique, and it works wonders I use a pattern interrupt, I say stuff they don't usually hear on a cold call.

      Instead of asking if it's a good time, I say : I bet I caught at a bad time, didn't I ?

      You are then throwing them off their game, you stand out, and they aren't ready to always answer someone who throws them out of their comfort zone. By doing this they now want to listen to what you have to say, you are differentiating yourself from the 20 other guys who tried to get 2 minutes of their time today therefor you might have something "valuable" to offer something they are not accustomed too.


      Now you have to be careful in how you use a pattern interrupt but if you are comfortable with cold calling and know how to structure your call, establish the length of the call and tell them clearly what to expect from it, pattern interrupts can be very powerful.

      But until you are ready for it YES PLEASE ALWAYS ASK THEM. and never assume cause when you assume you make an ### out of U and ME.
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  • Profile picture of the author misterme
    Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

    This is pretty good: you're combining two steps into one.

    However, if it IS a bad time, you risk getting your name associated with the bad emotion they're feeling. And when you talk to them again, that bad emotion will come rushing back--but they won't remember why. All they'll know is that YOU are making them feel bad. Then, there'll be an explosion.

    This only needs to happen once for you to remember it for the rest of your life.
    Jason, you're talking about having their feelings anchored or associated emotionally with the person calling. So if indeed they're having a bad time and you call, it wouldn't matter what words you say because that attachment could be formed regardless what's said.

    (though the wording in asking "Is this a bad time to call?" is a negative expression psychologists would tell you is more likely to have the recipient look for the reasons it indeed is a bad time to call opposed to asking a positive question. It's the difference between saying, "looks like rain, doesn't it?" vs. "looks like the sun's going to come out, doesn't it?")

    The fact is most people go through their days without major upsetting emergencies. And if they are to experience an emergency out of all the time in the day it could happen - odds dictate it wouldn't be the moment you happen to call. So when they tell you it's a bad time... could be just them blowing the caller off more times than not.

    So, I'd rather not open that way. I'd rather ask for a two minute commitment and obtain it or not. Because I'd rather have them say no to speaking up front at the top of the call, rather than be in the sales process and then lose the momentum being told they have to get off the phone. That's like having the prospect on the hook and at that moment of truth just about to get the deal their kid comes running in crying with a boo boo.
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  • Profile picture of the author Eddie Spangler
    I almost never ask upfront unless they come in huffing and puffing (either for breath or with attitude) or if there is yelling and such going on when they come on.

    I assume that if they will listen for just a few seconds then
    they are interested in what Im saying, the opening "headline" is set up that way.

    Because Im asking questions in my approach that they have to answer for me to continue, I can then SENSE whether they want to talk.

    Then I can tell if they are listening just to be polite or if they REALLY do want to hear what I have to say.

    For me mentally it is BS and weak to ask if its a good time, OF COURSE its a good time because you are listening and you WANT to know more else you would just tell me so or I will pick it up in your voice very quickly.

    One other thing is that I noticed how people reacted in the past when I asked if this was a good time, and it was like that question gave them a chance to put up a "salesman shield" similar , but not quite as strong as asking "How are you?".
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    • Profile picture of the author Deidra Renee
      Originally Posted by Eddie Spangler View Post

      I almost never ask upfront unless they come in huffing and puffing (either for breath or with attitude) or if there is yelling and such going on when they come on.

      I assume that if they will listen for just a few seconds then
      they are interested in what Im saying, the opening "headline" is set up that way.

      Because Im asking questions in my approach that they have to answer for me to continue, I can then SENSE whether they want to talk.

      Then I can tell if they are listening just to be polite or if they REALLY do want to hear what I have to say.

      For me mentally it is BS and weak to ask if its a good time, OF COURSE its a good time because you are listening and you WANT to know more else you would just tell me so or I will pick it up in your voice very quickly.


      One other thing is that I noticed how people reacted in the past when I asked if this was a good time, and it was like that question gave them a chance to put up a "salesman shield" similar , but not quite as strong as asking "How are you?".
      I agree. I never ask. I have a question in my intro, if the answer to that question is yes, I'm good to go.

      I'm curious, for the people that do ask, when do you ask? Do you explain why you're calling and then ask if it`s a good time? I feel like the ones that are going to view you as just another salesman, will view you that way whether you ask or not.
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      • Profile picture of the author PanteraIM
        Originally Posted by Deidra Renee View Post

        I'm curious, for the people that do ask, when do you ask? Do you explain why you're calling and then ask if it`s a good time? I feel like the ones that are going to view you as just another salesman, will view you that way whether you ask or not.
        I ask right after my introduction.

        I give them my curiosity statement if it's a bad time to judge if the call is worth scheduling a callback.

        I feel that it's a classy and different way of introducing yourself.
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      • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
        Originally Posted by Deidra Renee View Post

        I agree. I never ask. I have a question in my intro, if the answer to that question is yes, I'm good to go.

        I'm curious, for the people that do ask, when do you ask? Do you explain why you're calling and then ask if it`s a good time? I feel like the ones that are going to view you as just another salesman, will view you that way whether you ask or not.
        I always ask. I ask right after I mention my name. I understand the counterpoint to that, it's just what I do.

        And I appreciate it when people ask me....
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  • Profile picture of the author iamchrisgreen
    I agree with always asking.

    You can always judge by their tone as well.

    For example, if they sound like they're flustered or in a hurry, you could always say "sounds like I caught you at a busy time, is there a better time to call?"

    If they say "no, now is fine" then you've got permission for a decent conversation.
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  • Profile picture of the author bsummers
    It's a must don't you think? It is the most polite thing to ask and this is the best way to start the conversation. Like what Panter said, there is no point in speaking with someone who is only half listening to you. Although asking this question might get you a number of No, it is part of calling.
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  • Profile picture of the author Canadianajones
    Great discussion with LOTS of fantastic content.

    By asking if they have a few minutes for a call, this provides them with the option of taking your call or not. It also conveys appreciation and consideration for their valuable time, and if they are truly busy they will be more likely to respond with an alternate time to call. I put myself in the other person's shoes which gives me a whole new perspective and rarely leads me wrong.

    Very different from the "hard seller" who pesters you no matter what you say. For myself, this brings an automatic NO to mind despite what he has to sell.
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  • I like to ask if it is a good time to talk because it is a courtesy people respond well to.

    It is not like I ask this question 100% of the time, but it is used fairly often.

    I know it works well as an ice breaker too.

    LLS
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  • Profile picture of the author mjbmedia
    Assuming you're phoning them to truly help them long term, starting off by checking if you've called at a good or not so good time sets the tone for your whole relationship from then on, if they say it's not a good time and you call them back, they'll say thanks when you do and realise you're more than a salesperson , realise you are there for them not for yourself, if it is a good time, they'll appreciate that you cared enough to ask.
    Only the real losers that you don't want to have as clients will be the ones that always say it's a bad time, part pre qualification made super simple.
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  • Profile picture of the author Deidra Renee
    I'm going to try it. I'm always up to trying different sales techniques to see if they'll benefit me. Here's the thing though, I sell telemarketed leads. I ask `I was wondering if your agency uses telemarketed leads at all` so when would I incorporate the `is it a good time to talk? After they say yes?

    I don't really see the benefit in using it before because the majority of the time the agent is not the one answering the phone.
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  • Profile picture of the author mert
    It's a good way to start a conversation. it a times it works for me. It would be better to know first if the person is ready to talk to you or not and if they say "yes" then i would start building a friendly conversation then slowly creating a rapport.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jon Martin
    I always ask as well. James hit the nail on the head when he said to take the path of least resistance. I find that asking almost relieves a bit of tension. A lot of the time, the person who picks up the phone is almost expecting you to do the typical telemarketer spiel where you don't give them a second to put a word in. Asking them if they have a few minutes to chat often relieves them of that worry and helps them to ease into the conversation with a sense of focus.

    As mentioned, it's also a good qualifying method. I don't know about you guys, but it drives me CRAZY when I'm in the middle of a pitch and I'm told that they only have a minute or that they're "really tied up at the moment".
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  • Profile picture of the author eClicker
    I do because I don't want to be associated with any bad feelings they may be experiencing.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rus Sells
    I can't remember the last time I asked if timing was good for me to speak with the decision maker.

    What I do the moment they put me through is just thank them giving me their time. I say it this way to establish the pattern of them giving to me.
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  • Profile picture of the author RickCopy
    #1 rule of cold calling...NEVER ASK A YES/NO QUESTION.

    Ask questions that require a detailed answer. This isnt an issue of formalities or manners... this is a simple fact of salesmanship...asking yes/no questions before you have engaged the customer in conversation will turn potential buyers into NO's.

    What I do the moment they put me through is just thank them giving me their time. I say it this way to establish the pattern of them giving to me.
    this
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  • Profile picture of the author JonBird
    Interesting thread and great content... I especially liked Phil's twist... "Instead of asking if it's a good time, I say : I bet I caught at a bad time, didn't I ?"

    I am going to try this one.

    Thanks guys.


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    • Profile picture of the author Phil Montreal
      Originally Posted by JonBird View Post

      Interesting thread and great content... I especially liked Phil's twist... "Instead of asking if it's a good time, I say : I bet I caught at a bad time, didn't I ?"

      I am going to try this one.

      Thanks guys.

      Hope it works out for you. Let me know how it goes
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  • Well... there is a compelling reason to ask.

    And an unequally strong reason to go rattling on.

    So here's a solution. Do both.

    Well almost...

    Just say "I know you must be extremely busy so I'll be very quick...(and then rattle on and try - although it's never easy - to be concise and get to the point).


    Steve



    P.S. This is patented by me but let me share it with you...

    Whoever you are speaking to unless it's a friend, member of the family or someone you know always, always start the call by saying -

    "Thank you so much for taking my call" (they now feel important and who has ever bothered to thank them before?).

    So the intro goes -

    "Thank you so much for taking my call, I know you must be extremely busy so I'll be very quick..."
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    • Profile picture of the author conqueror
      "Thank you so much for taking my call, I know you must be extremely busy so I'll be very quick..."[/QUOTE]

      I love the first part of the sentence as it sounds extremely respectful.
      As for another part I would rather ask if it is a right time to talk. If you need to tell something important you cannot do it in a hurry and you cannot attract full attention if client is he is busy. You might make the impression that you are sticky.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mwind076
    We never ask, or recommend that our callers ask. We've found that if people aren't available, they don't take a call...asking them once they are on the phone is a waste of time. Do you answer a call when you are busy? I don't. I check for a message or email or I call someone back when I am free.

    Rarely do we get someone that doesn't reschedule a call if they truly are busy. It usually goes like this (while we are in conversation) "I'm in the middle of something right now, it's not a good time" and IMMEDIATELY we say "I understand, how's later this afternoon/tomorrow at 10 am look for you?" It's rare that they don't give you a better time to call back, and that this point, you've had enough dialogue that they remember you. We also get an email address to confirm, or keep contact.

    So, in short, no, we never ask. We are calling adults, they don't need to be coddled and if they aren't free, they are able to tell you without you putting it in their head.
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    • Profile picture of the author misterme
      Originally Posted by Mwind076 View Post

      We've found that if people aren't available, they don't take a call... Asking them once they are on the phone is a waste of time. Do you answer a call when you are busy?
      I've trained myself not to answer calls when I'm busy but many people haven't developed their ability to not wonder if the incoming call may just result in something more important than what they're working on at that moment and therefore not pick up the phone if only out of curiosity to see what the call's about.

      Originally Posted by Mwind076 View Post

      It usually goes like this (while we are in conversation) "I'm in the middle of something right now, it's not a good time" and IMMEDIATELY we say "I understand, how's later..."
      And I'd suggest they interrupted your conversation blowing you off telling you they were in the middle of something EXACTLY BECAUSE you didn't first get their admission up front that they were free to talk for X minutes.

      So 'asking them once they're on the phone' isn't a waste of time after all.
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  • Profile picture of the author JustinDT
    Banned
    I never ask if it's a good time to talk.

    My Mentality: People prioritize what holds value for them.
    My Pitch : I'd like to talk to you about how I can get you more customers ( Not a verbatim pitch )

    If they don't have the time to talk about new business then I don't want to deal with them. Simple as that.

    Keep in mind my mindset has been crafted through tons of difficult clients.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mwind076
    I didn't say they blow us off...I said IF they interrupt and say that it's not a good time we set a good time to speak with them, and set that call. Do people blow us off on a CB...of course, it's how cold calling goes, but if you are NI, you're NI and there are other people I can spend my time calling.

    Edit: I never ask for XX minutes because you don't know how long a call will take with any customer...if you suggest to them "do you have 2 minutes/10 minutes to talk" at the beginning of the call, and they truly expect it to be 2 minutes...again, you've given them an out and limited yourself in the conversation. Not to mention, some people have more questions than others, and some want more information. Why even introduce the option to get off the call at the beginning of the call?! It's like calling up and saying "Mr. Smith, I'm going to pitch you an idea, and if you are too busy right now, or if you don't like what I've said after 2 minutes I'll let you go..." Why would he even contemplate talking to you if he might not like what you've said? Have confidence, call, pitch, lead, and close. Done.

    It is VERY rare that someone says "this isn't a good time" out of the blue once we are talking. I'd say I hear it maybe once a day out of 600 calls or so. If I asked all 600 calls I make if it is a good time...that would be a waste of time.

    We start our calls by qualifying them with what we need and leading the call and being conversational. We don't lead the call into an "out" by suggesting they have something better to do than talk with us. It comes from years of calls and just knowing how to handle people on the phone, I've never had someone get upset that I didn't ask if they were busy. In fact, I've had people thank me for getting to the point and knowing how to get the call moving and finished. It's all in your level of confidence how you best handle a call.

    If it works the way you do it, then good for you...I was answering the OP's question as to what we do - not stating gospel.
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    • Profile picture of the author misterme
      Originally Posted by Mwind076 View Post

      I didn't say they blow us off...I said IF they interrupt and say that it's not a good time...
      Since we don't know if that interruption is legitimate or not, I'm bottom lining that interruption and saying that's them blowing you off.

      And if I'm wrong about it, you'd find out when the time comes for the call back anyway.

      Originally Posted by Mwind076 View Post

      I never ask for XX minutes because you don't know how long a call will take with any customer...if you suggest to them "do you have 2 minutes/10 minutes to talk" at the beginning of the call, and they truly expect it to be 2 minutes..
      2 minutes. A small commitment.
      If they're really interested they'll stay on longer. Every time. So them committing to only 2 minutes is no longer an issue.

      Why even introduce the option to get off the call at the beginning of the call?
      Because what is really being done is getting them to agree that they can't interrupt you to say it's a bad time and blow you off.
      Thus giving you a two minute, uninterrupted opportunity to raise their interest to where they'll stay on the phone longer.

      And should they say at the onset it's not a convenient time... then at least the "interruption" or the blow off occurs BEFORE you've used shot your good stuff, the good stuff you'll then be able to use when you call back.

      If it works the way you do it, then good for you...I was answering the OP's question as to what we do - not stating gospel.
      I was answering that question too. And with you I'm simply backing up further why I believe my answer's got legs.
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      • Profile picture of the author Mwind076
        Originally Posted by misterme View Post



        I was answering that question too. And with you I'm simply backing up further why I believe my answer's got legs.
        Not sure why you honed in in my answer then - I am not the only one here who said we don't ask, and why we don't ask. I don't think the OP was wanting a debate on why you think your answer is right, or anyone else's is wrong. It's perfectly acceptable to put your own explanation in your answer though.

        My answer to the OP had legs, because...we've got years of successful calls and campaigns that prove it works for us. We've never had issues not asking in the years we've done calls. I'm not here to debate the way we do and will continue to do things that make us successful.

        Like I said, to each his own and do what works for you!
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  • Profile picture of the author PanteraIM
    I always ask if it's a good time to talk so I can neutralize the objection and get them interested in hearing from me.

    Curiosity defeats preoccupation.

    Other times being busy IS a legitimate condition for not going ahead with the call.
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  • Profile picture of the author Moneymaker2012
    It is always better to ask, if the the prospect has enough time to listen to what you have to say. It will save his time and yours too.

    You can take a horse to a stream but you can never make him drink water.
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  • Profile picture of the author benbro
    Even though I'm aware that a business owner could use this question as an out, I still ask if its a good time to talk. Why? Because it shows the owner that I respect their time.

    Furthermore, if they do use it as an opportunity to escape my take is that they probably weren't ready for what I have to offer anyway. This means they're actually doing me the favor by ridding me of the headaches that usually come with fickle minded clients.
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  • Profile picture of the author jsmm
    I always ask if they have a second when they first get on the call.
    "Zig Ziggler" The master 1 thing to always do!

    That is common courtesy and proper sales edict!

    Otherwise you could be giving the impression that you are not considerate of their time.
    And we all know that business owners are very busy and we are their to help them not be a inconvenience to them.
    Beside if you are worried about giving them a out , Then that is not a customer that I want to wasting my time and money pitching.
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