Why Get Ahead Of The Buyer?0

 By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Rear view

I recently saw an ad for a sales program, and that big bold letters enticing me to buy read: “How To Get Ahead Of Your Buyer”. While I get where they were coming from, or more accurately who they were trying to appeal to, but there was just something wrong with the way it was phrased.

I think one of the biggest challenges sales people have is not to get ahead of the buyer, it seems to me that getting ahead of the buyer is the same as “leaving the buyer behind”, a dangerous notion and more dangerous practice.

One of the key things we help sales teams accomplish with the EDGE framework is alignment with the buyer. Executing the sale in a way that keeps you engaged and in step with the buyer, leads to a number of pluses, not to mention more sales.

Alignment is key, it helps you focus and cover objectives, which then allows you to offer practical means of helping the client achieve those objectives. The idea of getting ahead of the buyer has an old school ring of pain and needs based selling.

When you rush ahead of the buyer, because you are familiar with the scenario, you’ve seen and heard it before, you tend to want to “close” too early, usually relying on old school “closing techniques”. In some ways I thought we were past this, but this ad and a recent discussion in a LinkedIn group suggest that we are not. That discussion was based on the question “What’s the best, most effective question you’ve ever asked a client?” Apparently some sales people still ask what keeps the prospect awake at night. With thinking like that, and leaving the buyer behind, sellers move to close too early in the process, you may feel you are done your discovery, but the buyer is still defining and refining their requirements. Moving to close at this stage will at worst make the buyer feel pressured, scare them to compare to others, and at best, slow down the deal, requiring a longer sales cycle, the use of more resources, and less time to spend on other opportunities.

When this happens, and other companies enter the fray, price will not only become an issue, but a central issue. What was your deal to win, now becomes your deal to buy, and there is never money in that.

The flip-side of getting ahead, is falling behind, the relationship approach, “whatever makes you happy, I’ll be here when you’re ready.” The net effect of this again is that the buyer learns whet they require, after all you are there with all the facts and didees, and when they are ready to buy, they do so from the guy asking for the order, not the one waiting.

Work with the buyer, lead the buyer, based on their objectives, your expertise as a subject matter expert, but don’t get ahead, or fall behind, manage the alignment.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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Game the Plan – With Chris Cabrera0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Game the plan

Almost everyone in sales will tell you that incentives drive behaviour, but beyond that there is often little agreement among the pundits as to what the right incentive plan is. Some see it as a black art, while others, usually sales people, see it as something to manipulate, hence the expression ‘gaming the plan’. But ask Christopher Cabrera, founder, president and CEO of Xactly Corporation, who has a different view, and believes that front line reps and CFOs do not need to be at odds when it comes to incentives. In fact, Cabrera literally wrote the book on incentives, “Game the Plan: Every Sales Rep’s Dream; Every CFO’s Nightmare”, which suggests that when it’s done right, reps can and should game and maximize the plan, and everyone wins.

I had the opportunity to discuss incentives and the book with Cabrera, and ask him some questions many of my clients ask when it comes to their challenges around incentives and driving behaviour that leads to everyone’s success, buyer, seller, and company.

One aspect of the incentive where the pendulum of opinion swings back and forth is between simplicity and complexity of a plan. While some try to engineer things down to the minute detail, others, look to perhaps over simplify by offering 100% commission based pay. As you would suspect, the reality is somewhere in between. Cabrera’s view is that 100% is not the most effective, but over engineering a plan has faults as well. He suggests that structure is much more important than the specifics. What “counts is the number of measures; there is a strong correlation between the number of measures and a successful plan.” Measures being the elements being paid on, Cabrera suggests that optimal number is three measures being incented. As you exceed that number, you lose focus and therefore the effectiveness of the plan.

Another factor was the number of people being paid on any given deal, an extreme example Cabrera gave was a company that had over a hundred people on any given deal. He suggest that the right number of people is five.

Cabrera is also a proponent of paying different rates on different products. While paying on net revenue is a start, companies should also incent higher margin products at a higher rate, thereby driving sales and higher profits. He also discussed that managing activity is the role of management not the incentive plan.

Another area of discussion was the use of SPIFFs (Sales Promotion Incentive Fund). Cabrera explained that while this was an effective practice, companies need to keep them fresh and not overuse them. “Keep them guessing by changing the annual cadence, if they know it is coming and when, it loses the desired effect.” He also recommends that they not be overused, three times a year, and at different times, for different element. Tying them to quarter end each time really misses the mark.

The thing that gives the book teeth and makes it a must read for sales leaders and sales people is not only Cabrera’s own extensive experience in the field of sales incentive and incentive management. But more importantly, the volume of data that is available to him as a result of the work Xactly does. The ability to leverage the empirical, anecdotal and other elements give Cabrera, the book, and by extension the reader, an unparalleled level of insight into incentives, and doing it right.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Webinar: Time – Prospecting And Getting the Jump on Both!0

d-orsay-clock_3

On Tuesday February 4, I will be presenting a webinar Along with the good folks at eGrabber – “Time – Prospecting – And Getting the Jump On Both” I’ll be talking to the importance of sourcing the right leads, information about the individual and their companies, and securing the right and accurate contact information so you can engage with the right person for the right conversation.

There are a lot of critical steps to engaging new B2B customers. Two of the most common challenges is finding the right target, and then engaging with them. Every day I meet sales people challenged by finding the right contact, their contact info and related information. Even if you use LinkedIn or other tools, you need to be able to connect directly.

This webinar we will introduce tools & techniques on how to find contact information for people you don’t yet know, and then how to engage with them:

1. Find missing Email & Phone# for any social profile.
2. Find Director, VP and C-Level, decision makers in any company.
3. Build a highly targeted B2B prospect list with business e-mail and phone#.
4. Do Pre-call Research, Get Insightful Prospect Information.

Click here to register

We’ll be looking at the combination of cutting edge tools available from eGrabber to help you make prospecting more time efficient and productive. Time is the only unrenewable resource you have, the better you use it the more success you will have. Improve your rate of connecting with the right decision makers, and you will increase prospects, sales and profits. We will be sharing best practices and everyday techniques for improved prospecting.

Click here to register

Customer Information – Why Protection is So Important2

CC Jan 14

The Pipeline Guest Post - Megan Totka

In the sales business, we hold the key to tons of information from customers. While it may be something as simple as their name, address, and phone number, it’s amazing what can be done with that information if it gets in the wrong hands. Sales companies also often store all kinds of other information – credit or debit card numbers, social security numbers, and so much more.

By now, surely we’ve all heard about Target’s information compromise issue. If you tuned out of the news for the holidays, anyone who used a debit or credit card at Target from Black Friday until just before Christmas likely had their information gathered by hackers. Banks are cancelling and re-issuing cards by the millions, and Target is trying to do damage control by offering free credit monitoring for a year to anyone who was affected.

Now, could Target have done anything more to prevent this major breach from happening? Maybe. But there are some valuable lessons to be learned about keeping your customers’ data safe. If nothing else, the Target issue is helping us to see how exactly consumers are affected when their data is misused. It can cause problems in nearly every aspect of their lives.

Here are a few tips, courtesy of InformationWeek.com, that we can do better in the future when it comes to keeping our customers’ data safe:

  1. Data encryption – while I don’t purport to be an expert on data encryption, it does make sense that companies (particularly those who are selling) should be constantly re-evaluating their encryption process and see if it’s working. This is the best way to beat the hacker game. They also suggest using a whole-disk encryption method rather than file-level encryption.
  2. Make sure that outside vendors know how important it is to keep your customers’ info safe – most, if not all companies outsource some of their file storage or data encryption to another company or service. Places that hold information to consider are cloud storage services or CRM software. Making sure that these companies have your customers’ best interest in mind before agreeing to use them is pretty important.
  3. BYOD – lots of companies are moving toward letting employees bring their own devices to work. While this is convenient and can be cost-effective, consider that your employees’ devices are absolutely not as secure as they could be.

Protecting your customers’ information is just one of the things required to maintain a positive customer relationship. It certainly doesn’t have to be difficult or very costly – but it is definitely a part of the business process that needs constant evaluation in order to be successful.

(Photo Source)

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

Slow Down For Faster Results – Sales eXchange 2350

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Slow motion

I’m a firm believer that our habits and how we execute specific tasks do not vary widely from task to task. Sure we may be a bit more diligent when we are doing something important for the boss, bit more casual in social endeavours, but in most cases it is about degrees, not wholesale differences. Now if you are doing everything perfectly this isn’t a bad thing, but most of us are not perfect, we’re not living that idyllic reality, and therefore have to deal with our bad habits, and their consequences.

One thing that seems to get consistently worse is the tendency to rush things, and the problems that can lead to. This is accentuated by the many and growing number of things we have to get done in the same or less time than before.

It seems that more people today skim or scan documents, e-mails and other reading, rather than giving it full attention, as a result they miss things that are important to the outcome; they then have to backtrack wasting more precious time, more than they saved by skimming.

Same can be said for the way people read their e-mails, in fact it may be more accurate to say how many are not reading their e-mails. I have spoken to others about this, and I know I am not the only one who finds themselves posing a specific question in an e-mail, only to get back an answer that barely if at all answers the question posed. You can tell they rushed, skimmed the original, and responded to what they skimmed, not the question asked.

This leads to a couple of additional notes back and forth, this wastes time and energy on both sides, but while sellers are free to waste their own time, this end up also very much wastes the buyer’s time, which can lead to consequences, especially if they pose the same to another vendor who takes the time to respond completely and fully. At worse you come off as being evasive, at best tardy.

One of the goals of any good sales person is to make it easy for the buyer to deal with you, in essence to buy from you. While this may not always be in your control, slowing down so you can be more effective is. I know there is pressure coming from all side these days, but it is important to manage it, especially early in the relationship. If the buyer feels that you are rushing and taking short cuts through the selling phase, they can’t help but ask if that is the level of attention and care they will face once they commit?

One easy way to solve this is to actually set aside time through the day for e-mail and voice mail. One reason for the skimming is that we are doing e-mail while we are doing other things, and as I have said before, we are not built for multi-tasking regardless of what the pundits will tell you. As highlighted in the Sales Happen In Time Booklet, carving out time to do things properly, including e-mail, will make you more productive, less stressed, and come across as the pro you are.

Here is another real world example, I am currently running a contest to win tickets to the Art Of Sales, an opportunity to take in Dan Pink, Matt Dixon, and other sales thought leaders. To enter, all one need do is fill in three points of data, name, e-mail, phone, and to tweet the fact that they entered the contest. To make it even easier, the tweet is all set, they just have to hit the bird. In bold letters they are told the no tweet equals no entry, yet half the entrants skip that step. My guess they skimmed, went on auto pilot filling out the form, and rushed to the next thing. Oh well, better odds for those who read and completed the task they needed to in order to win.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Dear Sales Diary3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Diary

Those of you have kept or keep diaries, know that one of the reasons it has such great value is not just because you open up about intimate secrets, but that you share everything, not just the good, not just the bad, but all that and everything in between. You were able to go back and relive the experience, and more often than not glean lesson and things you would do differently if you had to do them all again. You didn’t just look at what you did well, or things that turned out to be good, living up to and beyond your expectations. You looked at the bad things that happened and tried to understand how you might avoid similar things in the future. The more honest you were the more rewarding the experience. If you skewed or slanted things one way, you may feel better for a while, but reality comes creeping back in, forcing us to deal with the bad, and the gray.

Sales people and sales organization need to keep a diary of their experiences, all of them, the good, the bad, and the in between. Most already do deal reviews in some format, but many do not, either choosing to them selectively, or just enough to satisfy a KPI or ScoreCard requirement. Few do the real deep dive required in order to get the most out of it, in the process allowing both a learning and revenue improvement get away. To be clear, and as you will see further on, “deep dive” does not have to be a laborious time consuming exercise with minimal payoffs, it can and should be an ongoing process that helps you with deals you are currently involved in, while also allowing you to capture and repurpose things on the fly. Done right, it should resemble the old EDS add about building an airplane while it is flying, the opportunity for sales people and organizations, is to build a continuously better sales, even as they are executing current sales, and prospecting for their next one.

Specifically this involves reviewing all deals you were involved in, those you won, those you lost, and those which go to “no decision”. Note, if you are involved in ten to a dozen deal a month, I recommend you review all of them; if on the other hand you are involved in dozens of deals, you may want to review a representative sample. If you have 7 wins, 15 losses, and 6 no decisions, review 25%, or seven, and you will get good, executable output. But as you’ll see, even if you don’t formally review each one, you will produce usable output.

Now some of you reading this may be aware that I am the coauthor of an award winning book about Trigger Events. In that book the recommendation was that you focus your reviews to only those deals you win. This will allow you to continuously repeat those things that are consistently help you win deals. Sound thinking, to a point. Let me explain, coauthoring a book is a lesson in compromise, you give you, you learn, you take, and in the end you produce a book that reflects the learning of both. But as you move on, the hope is that both authors evolve, not limited by the required compromises, and we each continue down our path, shaped by or experiences.

Since the release of that book, my thinking has evolved to where I see focusing strictly on one segment of your activities and only one of many outcomes, brings an unnecessary level of risk to one’s sales success, regardless of which one of the three possible outcomes you focus on. Given that on average, wins make up less than half of potential deals, if for no other reason than to broaden you perspectives, you should review outcomes other than just wins.

This is why the 360 Deal View was developed. It allows you to capture relevant information about the sale, the outcome and specific contributors to that. As with most tools, it is less about the tool itself, and much more about the approach and behaviours it promotes, which in turn lead to the desired results in more repeatable, predictable and consistent ways. It allows you to evolve you selling along with the way your market and buyers evolve.

While there is no denying that you want to know exactly what you are doing that is helping you win, you want to know what unfolded on the buyer’s side that prompted them to engage, and what outside and inside factors accelerate your sales cycle or cause it to slow and stall. What were the buyer’s objectives that allowed you to gain traction, and how you were able to connect with those? All important things you want to leverage. But it would be dangerous if not naïve to not go through a similar exercise with the other outcomes, losses and “no decisions”. Two simple advantageous to knowing why you lose, first, it may just take a small adjustment to change some of the inputs that will move a loss to the won column. Second, you may discover that a segment that made sense on initial exploration made sense to pursue, based on practice does not. Looking at “no decisions” will often allow you to understand when would be the best time to reengage, and take the cycle to fruition. It will also help you detect tire kickers a lot earlier.

These will be fallouts if you only review wins, but there is no denying that focusing on just one area, will lead to tunnel vision, causing you to miss changing trends that are more evident in the other categories, and more importantly, leave you very open to be blindsided. If you rely on one set of data, you will continue to find others who fit the mold, but it does not speak to the size of a market, things can continue to look good in a shrinking market, and by the time you react, many opportunities will have been missed, and competitors will have made unnecessary gains at your expense.

Most CRM’s and related apps will allow you to do a complete all three, and even allow you to get more granular if need be. You can download our tool here, but the key to success is not the tool, but the philosophy, and more specifically the discipline of doing it in up, down, or sideways markets. Just as with a diary, the best ones were usually written in simple notebooks, not fancy specially diaries, what made them great was the depth and completeness of what was captured, and the consistency of execution.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Your Own Sales Kick-Off with Dan Pink and Matt Dixon – Toronto – January 28th0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Yes Small

While experiences vary, there is no denying that sales kick-offs can be effective on a number of levels.  Beyond creating focus and setting the theme for the year, it was at times an opportunity to take in a speaker who brings a unique, or perhaps new view on sales and sales success. But the reality is that not everyone has an opportunity to participate in such an event. Whether it is because your company is too small, or other reasons.

But if you are in Toronto on January 28, you can attend The Art Of Sales Conference, and not only have your own Sales Kick-Off, but take in six great speakers to help set your year off to a great start.

I had the opportunity to speak to two of the presenters just before the holidays, Dan Pink and Matt Dixon. I asked both how things have evolved since they each respectively wrote their books. More to the point what you can expect if you attend the event.

I started by asking Matt Dixon, what can people who have read “The Challenger Sale”, expect at the event. “While I will be reviewing the findings and implication of The Challenger Sale, expanding on some areas we have seen in practice. Those who have read it can expect to learn more about how people have implemented the concepts in the book. Their successes, challenges, and discoveries they made about themselves and their teams as a result.” Dixon went on to say “one thing that reinforces what we found and shared in the book is that it takes time and work to put things into practice, there is no silver bullet in sales”. I couldn’t agree more, we are hunting revenue not werewolves, we need a sound approach, not silver bullets or other superstitions. As for people who did not yet read the book, they can expect to hear the key findings directly from one of the author of the book that has caused if nothing else, great debates among sellers and pundits.

Dan Pink, shared that he will not only be reviewing and expanding on core concepts presented in “To Sell Is Human”, but sharing new research, and how to take advantage of that when putting it into practice. “For those who have read the book, we will be discussing the reality of the perception of sales people”, with the perception running at 4:1 negative, I think we can all get some insights from Dan. For those who have yet to read the book, Dan will be sharing “how not only that we are all in sales, but sales itself is not what it used to be.” Dan went on to assure me that he will be highlighting “practical tips to effectively leverage and make use of the research presented in the book.

These are only two of the sales leaders presenting at the conference. Now if your company had these guys in for your kick-off, maybe you have a reason not to attend, but if not, don’t you think you can kick some sales ass by attending this event?

WIN TICKETS

Not only will I see you there, but you also have a chance to enter to win tickets to this event, just click here to learn more and enter.

See you there,
Tibor Shanto

 

Cold Calling is “IN” Again! – Sales eXchange 2346

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

frozen calls

Sadly I am at an age where I find myself saying “I remember the first time that was cool”, I have seen thin ties come and go enough times enough time to know not to throw out any ties, because it is only a question of time before someone says, “wow, that’s a cool tie, is it new?” The only thing I can’t remember if it was 1987, 1993 or 2007 when I actually first bought it.

Well it seems that cold calling is coming back into fashion. Not only do you find people dropping euphemisms when referring to the activity, companies popping up all over the place to perform a service many are needing but forgot how to execute. Many closet callers are coming out and proudly proclaiming not only that they regularly part take in cold calling, but that it producing results that exceed the expectations many, and helping many exceed quota.

Amazing what an Arctic Vortex will do.  Here we are less than two weeks into the New Year, and the signs are all over that cold calling is cool again. Just last week I had a notice for a webinar from one of the original Sales 2.0 gang, inviting me to a webinar on cold calling.  BTW, if you want to attend a webinar from someone who never wavered from cold calling, click here.

Other pundits who not so long ago wrapped themselves in the Sales 2.0 cloak, before dawning top layer of social selling, are now shedding their load, and freely speaking about the virtues of cold calling.

What is truly refreshing in some of their proclamations, is not so much their embracement of this staple and age old tool of sales success, but more importantly their abandonment of the “Us vs. Them” dribble that often dominates the debate.  The former stance that cold calling is dead, and it is all about the new thing, is now more reasoned and tempered, and sounds more like those of us who were out in the cold for a while.  Namely that it is about a blend of approaches and means of engaging with potential buyers, not one means vs. another.

Maybe it has more to do with the fact that the economy is showing some life, revenue expectations by Wall Street and companies themselves, are causing people to realise that they will need to be more than found if they are going to make quota, they’re actually going to have to go out and find some potential buyers who are not currently in the market or expressed that they may care to be.

In a recent LinkedIn group discussion asking if cold calling is dead or not, the comments were absent of the usual posturing about how cold calling was bad or dead.  The tone was more logical, again, putting cold calling alongside social selling and other techniques and tools that make up a successful tool kit.

LinkedIn itself, seems to be leading the charge back.  Despite a recent article “Cold Calling is Dead, Thanks To LinkedIn”, seems to have jumped on the band wagon.  As with most leaders and pundits, the measure of their commitment lies in what they do, not always in what they say.  Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, let me point to a recent advert for a sales position at LinkedIn, promoted on LinkedIn. When it comes to Responsibilities, just look at what is number one on the list:

LinkIn CC wr

About the only thing that could make cold calling more fashionable is to call it Zombie Calling!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

5 Things You Need To Stop in 2014 – Or Any Year – Sales eXchange 2320

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Five

As we headlong in to the New Year, and wipe the slate clean, symbolically in or in actual ways, you are going to face two certain things. First an endless barrage of meaningless awards shows meant to squeeze the last bit of sales out of last year’s products. And an even greater number of post and articles telling you all the things you should do in 2014, most of which are retreads of things they advised you to do in 2013.

Here are two things you need to do, first capture all that advice on your favourite cloud storage area. This way you can revisit it next Christmas see who had insights that paid off, and who was stinking out the joint. Second, rather than focus on what you should do, why not try not doing some things that have prevented you from being more successful than you are. Here five things to consider, there are probably others, try these, or three of these, but before you start new things, and coming more skills and talents, start by shedding some to make room for the new. So in 2014 Stop

  1. Being Trendy – There is always a new trend, a new tool, a new way, to be successful, but new is not always better, it’s just new. Successful sales people master things that work and then stick with them till they stop helping them succeed. Sales skills, like any skills, aren’t tied to a calendar, or product releases, they are tied to effectiveness, so focus on how effective something is in helping you sell better, and sell more. There are always new offerings, but will they help you achieve new levels of success, or just help the people peddling them find a new follower?
  2. Fixing Things – Most sales people these days remind me of solutions running around the country side looking for a problem, wearing t-shirts that read “I never met a prospect whose problem I couldn’t fix”. Well a lot of prospects don’t have “problems”, and therefore don’t see the need for a solution. But they all have objectives, focus on that, and you engage with more potential buyers, and sell more. Don’t be that shmuck who described his role as a sales person as “I find the soft underbelly of the prospect, stab it, then offer up the cure”.
  3. Talking – Yes, you’ve heard this before, but did you listen. Ask good questions – tough questions – questions they haven’t heard from the shmuck above, and herds like him. Questions about their business, not your “solution”, then shut up, listen – don’t finish their sentence for them. I was out with another sales trainer recently, and if I had a dollar for every sentence the prospect was not allowed to finish, I would have had a financially rewarding day, but as it is he talked us out of the sale. Take notes, have follow up questions, but let them do the talking.
  4. Listening – To everyone other than the buyer, for one simple reason, they are the ones who will write the check from whence your commission comes! If they can’t directly contribute to your sale, they are wasting your time, and time is a precious resource.
  5. Hesitating – There are a million things that can hold you back, but the worst is you. What’s the worst that can happen, you learn something and have to try again. What’s the best, you act and get results. Yes, hesitating does have more predictable outcomes, but usually less desirable than executing your well thought-out plan decisively. Don’t second guess yourself into to the safety of mediocrity.

Happy New Year!
Tibor Shanto

A Big Thank You To All of You!10

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Thank you

I would like to thank everyone who supported me over the last month in two competitions I was involved with. As a result of your support, I was selected as a member of an exclusive list, and this blog, The Pipeline was honoured as top blog.

First, I am pleased to have been selected as one of the Top 50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management for 2013, in the Sales Lead Management Association’s annual election. This is the second time I have made the list, 2010 was the last time. One of the great things about being on the list, is the great company it puts me in. I want to congratulate all the other people on the list, and thank James W. Obermayer, CEO of the Sales Lead Management Association, for his tireless effort year round and for running this important competition.

Meanwhile, over at Top Sales World, my blog The Pipeline, won the Gold Medal for Top Sales & Marketing Blog, in the 2013 Top Sales & Marketing Awards. The medals were awarded based 50% on votes on the Top Sales World website, and 50% on the selection of a committee of expert peers. While I have won other awards in previous years, this is special as it recognizes the work that goes into producing quality and executable content several times a week.

I want to thank the guests who have contributed to The Pipeline in 2013, my peers, the committee, Jonathan Farrington, fearless captain of Top Sales World. AND most of all those who read, comment, and voted for my blog.

Thank You!

Tibor
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