1. Conversations and content need better answers not just good stories

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    Your conversations and content need more than good stories. They need better answers! Most of us were taught early and often about the importance of using stories in our conversations and content. Marketers seem to obsess about story. Sales people are told to address customer problems and solution approaches by telling stories. And rightly so. It seems humans are hard wired with an affinity for stories. But, it turns out stories are just one of six answer types. That means you’re missing the other five! As a result, your answers aren’t as coherent as they could be. They aren’t as influential. They are aren’t as sticky.   Audiences Desire Answers with Useful Information Here are some questions to consider: How well do you address questions asked of you? (In which situations?) Or, a question asked of a sales rep, a company executive, customer service person, channel partner, or customer person,...
  2. Your first move in a selling crisis

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      What is your best first (positive) move in a selling crisis? It’s easy to become overwhelmed. Many possible remedies. Limited time, resources, attention. Success in B2B selling relies on effective sales conversations. Why then does it make sense to require each rep to figure out and execute every critical sales conversation, on their own, without guidance? It is not a competency sales people are trained for. Truly effective value conversations are complex, require study, and considered design work. Even the best sales people need to know what critical conversations they can expect to encounter, and how to effectively execute them. You experience this now, when you don’t know if your problems are due to poor messages (what to say), poor delivery (how to say it), an unprepared rep, or inadequate support (information, experts, coaching, etc). What if there was a way to plan for and design critical sales conversations,...
  3. An experience using sales conversation frameworks

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      I was only four prospecting calls into my target list. I was calling to talk about sales performance issues. Then, I got this response from a sales manager I reached: “We don’t have any significant sales performance issues. We killed it last year.” Now, think about the ways your BDRs, direct, or partner reps would handled this situation. The many — different — ways. Fortunately, when I designed this conversation framework, I identified this as a potential scenario. I remember reflecting on and testing alternative approaches for different scenarios, over a couple of days. In this particular situation, I selected a question: “What possible constraints to hitting this year’s goals are you most concerned with?” Bingo! I got this: “Our reward for an outstanding year last year was significant increases in our quotas for this year. Last year most of my reps performed really well. But that doesn’t mean...
  4. Where to start when you experience B2B sales performance issues

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      If you are a B2B sales leader experiencing sales performance issues, with sales teams that must execute a complex, solution, or value sales model — what do you plan to do? These are some of the actions you might be taking, or considering: A performance improvement “initiative” – reps often refer to this as the “program of the moment” – messaging work, prospecting training, account strategy planning, sales coaching, etc. Re-organize – teams, managers, adjust sales resources Change sales tactics — specialty teams, named accounts, vertical teams, product specialists, changes to individual rep’s sales bag Re-work territories – add or remove accounts Make product and/or pricing changes Manipulate incentives – (will spiffs work as well for a complex, value sale, as they do in a high-volume transactional sale?) We hear sales reps comment on it this way, “every six months it’s the same drill, people run around asking ‘why isn’t this working?‘” When this...
  5. Three focused actions improve your B2B sales effectiveness

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      This article introduces the discovery of a simple and practical approach to improve B2B sales effectiveness. It is especially important for B2B selling organizations with, or trying to adopt, a value selling model. And it’s an approach few organizations have thought about.   The Sales Effectiveness Problem and Core Cause For B2B selling organizations, there is only one primary sales problem … … the inability to predictably, reliably and profitably hit your revenue (growth) number.  There are numerous causes. The cause that seems most pervasive, and not well addressed, is … … the inability to deliver effective knowledge, conversations, and information, in context, at scale.  These factors are each important and inter-related. But the core cause is ineffective sales conversations. Specifically, the inability to engage new prospects effectively, to speak with insight about the prospect’s business issues, and to create value through how you sell as much as with...
  6. Critical but misunderstood Challenger “B” sales conversations

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    Most sales reps who are trained in the CEB Challenger Sales model do a pretty good job with the “A” sales conversations. This is the first of what I call three distinct “sales” in the B2B complex or value sales process. In a complex or value sale, we first need to “close” the customer on the need to change, due to the real and urgent nature and cost of their current business state and problem.The Challenger Customer principle is to first address, or “break down,” the customer’s “mental model” of their business and problem. Their label for this the “A” stage of a sale. Challenger points out that most B2B sales reps proceed immediately to the “C” stage — how they solve the problem. CEB didn’t even bother putting “C” on their model. It comes automatically. We’re all so anxious to explain how we solve the business problem, and the value (proposition)...
  7. The Content Design Point is Different for Marketing and Sales Content

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        In Marketing and Sales Content — Differences That Matter I identified the problem that few people explicitly understand the difference between sales and marketing content. Does this really matter? During 20 years creating sales, marketing and training content for B2B organizations we discovered it really does. I believe this misunderstanding is a primary cause of poor or missing situation-specific sales information and content. This matters because the quality of sales information impacts B2B sales and marketing performance, as well as revenue growth. For companies pursuing account-based marketing tactics (ABM) I suggest success depends on information that is more like sales content than marketing content. The question addressed here is, “what can be done to improve sales content?” I will offer a prescription for what to do, based on adopting a different content design point, and how to do that. Consider for a moment the infamous marketing and sales...
  8. Sell, don’t market your way to success with new paradigm offers

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      B2B companies bringing new offers to market risk long delays in product or solution uptake. Too often this leads to direct failure. Failure rates range from 40% to 80%. Clearly a risky and expensive bet. This risk isn’t limited to startups. Often we see large companies struggle to gain traction with new offers or new markets. One senior executive told me, “we are buried in our core brand.” This isn’t about direct replacement offers. But for what analyst firm SiriusDecisions terms “new paradigm and new concept” solutions it is a significant challenge.   New Paradigm Offers Require a Different Go-to-market Strategy New paradigm solutions provide a different way to solve business problems than existing solution methods. Customers may not understand key underlying causes of their problems that are resolved by new solutions. Sellers could be addressing problems customers aren’t even aware of. Or, they may not even see their problems...
  9. A Conversation About B2B Selling Content

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      “What is the state of B2B selling content today?” That was the first question Barb Giamanco asked me on her sales podcast, Right Message, Right Support, Right Sales Content, on the Razor’s Edge. How would you answer that for your organization? How would you know? Is your selling content considered short life collateral, or mostly long-life assets? What criteria would you use to audit the quality and usefulness of your content? Do you have an inventory that would make an audit possible? These are some of the questions we discussed. Below is an outline of key points I addressed that you might want your organization to consider.   Key Considerations for Effective Selling Content If your sales team conducts a complex, solution or value sale, situation-specific selling information and content is essential for your success. If you are trying to shift your selling model from a traditional product-feature-benefit approach...
  10. The epidemic in B2B sales prospecting

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        Many B2B selling organizations hit a wall in their new customer acquisition and revenue growth rates. Sales pipeline quality, volume and conversion rates are both symptom and impact of this situation. This condition is especially evident in companies that are engaged in a complex or solution sale. Sometimes this is called a system or platform sale. The analyst firm SiriusDecisions calls it a “new paradigm” or “new concept” sale.  I and others use “value sale”. Even companies with a traditional, product selling model are not immune. Companies that experience stalled revenue growth may attempt to shift from traditional product selling, to a more consultative and comprehensive solutions or platform approach. Too often they bring their traditional selling mindset, process and skillset with them. The B2B sales prospecting epidemic is the result of a critical underlying cause most people are unaware of and do not fully appreciate even when they become aware.   An Example Companies that have had a...
  11. The B2B Value Sale is Actually Three Distinct Sales

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      Companies trying to execute a B2B solution or value sale must overcome selling problems that start at the prospecting stage and persist to the end. Symptoms include too few quality additions to the sales pipeline, protracted and lengthening sales cycles, and low win rates. A significant cause is sellers haven’t realigned messages, sales conversations, and sales process to the way buyers buy. This situation becomes more pronounced when selling to prospects who aren’t in an active buying process. We call this a “Find vs. Create Opportunity” situation. (See Find vs. Create Sales Opportunities) When I speak with B2B sales professionals they readily acknowledge there are not enough active buyers to meet quotas. In most organizations sales people tell me 80% of sales prospects have to be “created” as opportunities. But even with active buyers there are opportunities for B2B sales professionals to up their game. After all, they are often...
  12. Overlooked cause of low sales and marketing results

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      In this digital era, content is a primary driver of sales and marketing performance. We have written extensively on this. Background articles are referenced at the end of this article. Poor or missing content is an under-appreciated reason B2B selling organizations experience lower than projected new customer acquisition and revenue growth results. High selling costs are both a symptom and additional casualty. In addition to adverse business impact, companies experience content costs 30 to 50% higher than they should. Output from current content production methods are typically 20% what they could be. When we investigate the reasons for poor or missing content we find three reasons that frequently stand out. These are remarkable both because of their importance, and because they aren’t well understood or appreciated. 1. An ineffective or non-existing business level content strategy. Survey results from Content Marketing Institute indicate that an appalling 48% of respondents claim...
  13. Capture Sales “Situational Fluency” for Effective B2B Sales Coaching

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      In the B2B selling world there is near universal appreciation for the value of sales coaching. Research indicates significant impact on forecasted deal win rates, revenue growth and other selling metrics. Research from The Sales Management Association show sales people believe it’s the most important, least supported sales resource.     The constraints are equally clear. The big impediments are no surprise: lack of sales manager time, skills, and accountability.     We discovered a core cause of these constraints that makes the situation look even worse. It explains why, despite the universal acknowledgement of coaching importance, it isn’t being conducted regularly and effectively. This discovery made us appreciate the current approach to sales coaching will never be universally executed effectively and consistently. If it could, it would have. It’s simply too difficult. A new approach is needed. What Are We Coaching For? The top level objective of sales coaching is clear. We’re...
  14. Find vs Create Sales Opportunities

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      One of the early questions I ask prospective B2B clients is: “When you go-to-market through your marketing and sales functions, what percent of your target prospects are actively looking for what you’re selling, and what percent are unaware of their problem or your solution category, and so you have to create the opportunities?” I refer to this as “find vs. create opportunity selling.” Ever since I became aware of this distinction it has informed my thinking and approach to all B2B sales and marketing strategy and tactics. It provides a critical context. Most B2B leaders either are unaware of this idea, or don’t give it the consideration it deserves.   Find Opportunities “Find opportunities” are where prospects know they have a problem. They have a good understanding of the problem and it’s impact or cost on the business (reason to change). They understand generally what they need to solve...
  15. The Missing Ingredient for Sales Coaching

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      There is a generally high desire for sales coaching in B2B selling. Most managers and reps know it’s important. Done well, coaching can make a significant difference to rep and manager performance and success. Financially, everyone has a lot at stake. But sales coaching is seldom done. Consistently. Or well. Why is that? What’s missing? To be successful sales people need: Knowledge and information (including sales strategy and process), Skills and techniques, Conversations and messages These inputs enable sale people to know What to do, What to say, How to say it. We are among many who believe how you sell is a primary way to create value for prospective buyers, and to differentiate from competitors. Training programs provide the initial vehicles to “prepare sales for the fray” as one of my colleagues says. Training methods include information transfer, modeling best practices, and sales practice with feedback. Training prepares sales...
  16. B2B Sales Conversations — By Design

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    To paraphrase David Packard, sales conversations are too important to leave to sales people. B2B sales conversations for key touch points should be designed. This optimizes conversation effectiveness and simplifies selling. It provides a common baseline that makes feedback and continuous improvement possible. How have you designed the sales conversations for your key touch points? How well do each of your sales people handle conversations at key touch points, or with different stakeholders? How consistent is the delivery of your messages across your sales teams? How does stress affect these results? I’m talking about the conversations where, when they are performed well, you’re in the game. You’re gaining respect and trust that makes it possible for you to educate buyers and influence a buying vision and decision criteria. Poorly performed conversations mean you might not even get into consideration, or might just be pricing fodder. According to SiriusDecisions, 71% of sales...
  17. Adopt a “Buying” Sales Mindset

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    In my view selling is 85% mindset and 15% technique. Unfortunately, most sales professionals focus primarily on learning sales techniques. Adopting a better sales mindset might be what’s required. I call it a “buying” mindset. I’m looking to acquire customers for my business. What is Selling? This is a question I regularly ask B2B sales professionals, especially those with new customer acquisition responsibility (hunter), more than an account maintenance (farmer) role. I get all kinds of answers. But generally they sound like: “Persuading someone to buy my product or service.”   “Finding people who need my product and convincing them we have the best.” “Selling is the way that you help customers to buy products and services from your business.” As you are undoubtedly thinking, there’s nothing really wrong with these answers, and the thinking they reflect. But they imply two things: Selling is something you have to do (can...
  18. Unpacking Challenger Customer Insights

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    The CEB book Challenger Customer, released in September 2015, will continue to garner support for its many insights. They provide important considerations for all B2B marketing and selling professionals, especially sales executives. Despite a breezy writing style, there are many dense sections. A level one reading risks missing several important but deeper implications for an organization’s go-to-market and content strategy. I’ve discovered this from conversations with colleagues and clients who have read the book. This post is not a book review. It assumes you have read CEB’s Challenger Customer. I will highlight key Challenger Customer insights and suggest important implications, considerations, risks and required actions that I (and colleagues) missed the first couple of times we read the book. These ideas can have a significant impact on execution efficacy and outcomes for those who attempt to leverage CEB insights. We all have a lot at stake in getting these concepts right...
  19. New Sales Competency – Use Content to Sell

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      The digital era has ushered in many behavior changes, especially for B2B buyers. Sales professionals have been slower to change their sales methods to adapt and align with new buying processes and the expectations of buyers. Those who are not actively and effectively using content to sell are missing an important opportunity to capture a selling advantage, lower selling time and costs, and accelerate successful sales outcomes. “Social selling” while new and popular, doesn’t yet represent a significant breakthrough in the way B2B sales people sell. As currently applied, social selling is primarily a different (and hopefully more efficient way) to research buyers, to network, and to conduct some initial touches. In reality, and almost by definition, most sales people have never really used content to sell. Two supporting reasons for this are the traditional lack of sales ready, customer relevant content, and poor ability to find content for specific...
  20. Improve Sales Proficiency With Relevant Sales Conversations

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      Why relevant? What does relevant really mean? How would you know if you are having a relevant conversation with a buyer? How does this improve your proficiency and results? Relevant — adjective; 1. bearing upon or connected with the matter at hand, pertinent Pertinent — adjective; 1. pertaining or relating directly and significantly to the matter at hand. Being relevant is important due to the shift of the locus of control in buying/selling situations. Traditionally, buyers were dependent on vendors through their sales representatives for information. This “conversation” typically went: “Here’s what we have (product, solution), here’s what it does (features), here’s how it will help you solve your problem (benefits).” Today, buyers are conducting self-directed, online research, deep into their decision process. B2B buyers don’t need vendor/product information until later in this process. They don’t believe — often because they haven’t experienced — sales reps can provide any...
  21. Improve Sales Proficiency By Being Relevant to Buyers

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    Why relevant? What does relevant really mean? How would you know if you are being relevant with a buyer? How does this improve your proficiency and results? Relevant — adjective; 1. bearing upon or connected with the matter at hand, pertinent Pertinent — adjective; 1. pertaining or relating directly and significantly to the matter at hand. Being relevant is important due to the shift of the locus of control in buying/selling situations. Traditionally, buyers were dependent on vendors through their sales representatives for information. This “conversation” typically went: “Here’s what we have (product, solution), here’s what it does (features), here’s how it will help you solve your problem (benefits).” Today, buyers are conducting self-directed, online research, deep into their decision process. B2B buyers don’t need vendor/product information until later in this process. They don’t believe — often because they haven’t experienced — sales reps can provide any other useful information....
  22. An All Too Typical Sales Prospecting Phone Message

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    One of many webinars I attend was a lead nurturing webinar recently. I’m always looking for insights, especially about how companies are thinking about content to support their many use cases. I also like to experience selling from a buyers perspective. I get many sales prospecting calls, but usually for products or services I could care less about. I delete and forget. But this was a topic I’m really interested in. While I’m not a prospect for this company, I think I am an important influencer, and potential referral source for them. This is the follow up message that was left on my voicemail. After you listen to this 35 second recorded message (slightly edited to remove identifying marks) — and before you read on — take a moment to write your impressions of the message, and what you would do differently. (Play in separate webpage.) Now let’s compare. Message...
  23. Conversation Support Competency for Content Strategy

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      Target Audiences:  VP of Marketing / CMO VP Sales Product Marketing Sales Enablement  Purpose:  Introduce a new perspective and suggested approach to improve customer conversations and content, as well as the productivity, effectiveness and efficiency of marketing, sales and content development teams. Topics:  Conversations and content creation require common inputs Why make individuals have to figure out universal inputs Design conversations, develop universal inputs, and deploy inventories of support elements to all customer facing and content creating people   Conversation Support Competency for Content Strategy When we talk with people about content strategy, and the preparation required to create effective content, most are familiar with the first competency in our 6 Competencies for Marketing and Sales Content Strategy — Understand Buyers. “Personas! Yeah, we’ve done those!” Well …, ok. But think about what else constrains your ability to create quality content and get it deployed quickly.  Now, think about your sales...
  24. Customer Facing Content as a Conversation

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    The Four Cs of Content Marketing I’ve written about content as more, and different than, format. While working with clients recently, I’ve heard them wrestle with questions about what content to create, and how to make priority decisions. I think some deeper distinctions about content can help here. When I consider content work, I think about the Four Cs of Content: Conversation Context ContentS Container  Notice that container — format — is my last consideration. This is a big change from the traditional approach to content creation. Typically, format, as in “what do you want to create?” is an early consideration. For example, your approach as well as resource and vendor selection might depend greatly on whether you want to create a blog or whitepaper, PowerPoint or video. This thinking and approach is too limiting for today’s content requirements and challenges. Start with the Conversation Thinking about customer facing content as...
  25. What are your customer’s stories?

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    In an interview with Krista Tippet on the On Being podcast Seth Godin provides typically insightful answers to the question, “what is marketing?” Modern sales and marketing are indeed in transformation. This requires new thinking about these professions, the principles and practices that inform best practices. We dismiss this at our peril. This three minute excerpt can stimulate breakthrough thinking to guide your content strategy discussions. Unlike most marketing discussions of stories, Godin invites you to consider your customer’s stories, what they are telling themselves before they meet you. This is the context into which you must set your story.     
  26. Got “content” challenges? Apply the problem-cause model

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      Serious practitioners of content marketing inevitably face significant content challenges. But sales professionals do as well — especially to conduct effective change conversations with customers. Surveys, as well as client discussions about top content challenges, reveal the operational nature of the underlying causes of many of content related problems. Operational Issues However, I seldom see content strategy guidelines address operational issues. This is a major shortcoming of current thinking. Content strategy and planning for content marketing is a different and complex task for most newcomers. But if you look at the challenges early practitioners have faced, you will want to figure this out quickly. One of the most useful models we use we call the “problem-cause model”. Like many powerful ideas, this idea is simple. But work with it and you will experience important insights that will help with your content strategy and execution. Problem-Cause Model Explained In this...
  27. 35 Days to Great First Sales Meetings

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      35 Days to First Conversation — do the math For prospects who actively engage your content, assuming a two day lag in viewing, here is a possible sequence to your first call appointment (elapse time not work days) (“your mileage may vary”): Day 1 – send initial invitation touch with vmail call Day 3 – prospect views email content Day 5 – send Touch #2 automatically, no call Day 7 – prospect views content Day 14 – send Touch #3 mail, vmail call Day 16 – prospect views content Day 23 – send Touch #4 mail, vmail call Day 25 – prospect views content Days 25, 26, 27 – email & call to request introduction conversation Day 35 – have first introduction call For a detailed, comprehensive explanation of each step, download this document.  
  28. Are You Communicating Synchronously in an Asynchronous World?

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      We live in a world that prefers to receive information asynchronously. But we tend to focus on using live, synchronous delivery methods. This is a key source of high costs and low results in every area of a business. I cannot overstate the importance of this idea and distinction, as well as the implication for individuals and organizations. First, some simple definitions. Synchronous communications happen at the same time with all participants. Synchronous communications tend to be traditional voice-based conversations to deliver intended messages. They can be conducted in person or over the phone or web. Asynchronous communications do not occur in the same time. Communications experienced asynchronously are consumed “on demand” at a time of choosing by the recipient. Asynchronous communication rely on content to package and deliver core messages — audio content such as voice mail, text content, or video. Implications for Your Communications As I consider the world...
  29. Focus On Your Sales Conversations

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    Scott Santucci of Forrester’s Technology Sales Enablement Group has an important blog post regarding your sales conversations. (The Key To Sales Enablement Success Is To Focus On The Conversation) “A B2B sale is really the synthesis of many discrete conversations, and value is best communicated when they are focused on a common goal: solving the client’s problem. What most organizations fail to address is how complex a task it is to corral many discrete conversations into a consistent value communications strategy. To make matters even more complex, most companies have solutions that can address multiple different problems, so this set of questions must be answered for each opportunity. We all know that good conversations are dynamic, reciprocal and most effective where there is trust between the people involved in the dialog. To accomplish this, the salesperson must communicate information that is: Relevant: to the specific circumstances and realities of a given company In...
  30. What does your company do?

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    “It’s Not about the Bike” — the title of Lance Armstrong’s excellent autobiography. Becoming a world class cyclist requires far more than the bike. Strategy, practice sessions, workouts, diet, and mental aspects impact performance far beyond the equipment. The implications of his statement occurs to me every day. For example, too often people think a software system will solve their business problem. Another is the way sales people answer the typical customer question: “what does your company do?” There are two perspectives that can direct the response: the vendor perspective and the customer perspective. Sales people often fixate on their products or services. They think customers are as interested in key features as are they. Customers are actually asking one of two questions. They may be asking the product or service question so they can attempt to self-diagnose. Have you ever heard a customer respond to a product oriented introduction,...

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Resolving the number one unconsidered cause of low B2B sales and marketing performance, and revenue growth …
… the inability to deliver effective knowledge, conversations, and situation-specific information (content), in context, at scale
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