Howdy Partners #50: Nearbound Motions for Strategic Tech Partners with Scott Hanrahan

In today's episode of Howdy Partners, Tom Burgess and Will Taylor are joined by Scott Hanrahan, VP of Global Partnerships at Rivery.

Scott brings a wealth of experience in strategic technology partnerships, having worked with companies like Tableau, Salesforce, and AWS. Together, they dive into how to use a Nearbound motion with strategic tech partners and how to sell internally to address business challenges effectively.

Scott shares insights on identifying pain points and getting buy-in from reluctant stakeholders. They discuss the importance of data analysis, change management, and clear communication in building successful partnerships.

They also explore the concept of partner-led growth and its role in accelerating sales, expediting procurement, and fostering collaboration with strategic partners.

Subscribe & Listen On:


  • 00:05:13 Getting sales buy-in for partnerships is crucial.
  • 00:09:55 Partner-led growth led to company success.
  • 00:15:55 Ecosystem-led growth includes strategic partner-focused marketing.
  • 00:19:58 Philosophy and goals for partnerships.
  • 00:24:31 Prepping for sales and partnership calls efficiently.
  • 00:26:27 Effective communication and preparation are essential.


Will Taylor 0:03
Howdy partners, welcome to the howdy partners podcast where we give you tactical insights so that you can do your role better. We are going to be talking about the partner led motion. And our guest today has a story around their company being very successful, and almost entirely partner LED. Before we dive into that, though, Tom, how have you been

Tom Burgess 0:27
doing pretty well? Might see next week here in Denver, which is awesome. And if we don't, then I get see you in under a month at inbound. So we're finally getting to meet after years of building relationship. And I'm excited for that.

Will Taylor 0:45
Yeah, me too. That's been bizarre, because like, you know, I haven't met Ben, right, our other host ever in person. So it's cool to meet friends on the internet. And we're joined today with another new friend, Scott Scott, tell us about yourself and what your background is and where you're at today.

Scott Hanrahan 1:04
Okay, sure. Thanks. Well, and thanks for having me. So I'm Scott Hanrahan, I lead global partnerships at a series B startup called revery. revery is on a mission to be the number one tool for data operations. So basically, that means ingesting data from hundreds of sources and transforming it like through the data warehousing process, and then activating it by pushing it back to source systems to help the frontline employees actually do their jobs. I joined reverie about five months ago. And before that, I spent 11 and a half years at a data and analytics consultancy, called Karis. And, you know, I just I guess I'll just say as we start here, you know, my experience in both places is mainly in what I'd call strategic technology, partnerships, right? So companies like Tableau and Salesforce, AWS and snowflake and Databricks, right, kind of the behemoths like that of the industry. And my experience is that small companies, right? Where are our primary reason for partnering with those enormous tech vendors is to get leads like it's a sales motion. So you know, there are a lot of different types of partnerships out there. So I just wanted to clarify my experience. And when I talk about partnerships, on this call, you know, that's, that's what I'm going to be going to be talking about. But when I was when I was at my last company, at the services company, which by the way, will, as we talked about before, I think it's really quite similar. The partnership motion at the services company is really quite similar to what your listeners are doing in the in the b2b SaaS world, I can say that now having worked on both sides of the fence, you know, but I worked in various roles. So I did delivery, actually. And I've managed delivery teams that I did sales and partnerships, and, and then general management.

Will Taylor 2:48
Very cool. And so from the experience that you had, you mentioned that the partner led motion was, you know, critical working with these giant companies as a lead source. And so, at a high level, what does partner lead growth meat to you based on that experience? How would you describe it to someone who doesn't know anything about it?

Scott Hanrahan 3:07
I think it means that the company acknowledges that partnerships is an effective means of growth, right. And so management is supportive of these cross departmental motions to go to market with him through partners. And so you know, the motion exhibit, I like the I like the word motion, because, you know, it exists from the lead generation all the way through the customer lifecycle to post sale, and it's cross departmental. And it all adds up to, to business growth. And I also think that partner lead growth can work alongside of product lead sales or other growth methodologies. Because regardless of how the lead actually comes in, right, maybe it was from a trial that was through the website off the back of a marketing campaign, and then onto an SDR cadence and finally went, you know, regardless, right, companies who practice partner led growth, they can use that practice to, to accelerate the sale, right, or to get through procurement faster. Or they could just use it as a reason to build a deeper relationship with the associated strategic partners, you know, that they're also working with on the account, right, and use that to collaborate on other projects. So I think it's kind of holistic.

Tom Burgess 4:14
It, it's to me to like, it's really easy to visualize and understand how partner referrals work. I mean, it's super simple. Partner refers lead. But But tying that back to partner led growth, I think what's super interesting is like, the non referred deals or pipeline coming in, and effectively tying a partner to that, like, you kind of nailed it, Scott. And it's, it's also really hard to pull off, which is, can I get direct buy in from sales and sales leadership to say, Listen, you know, we could we could bring in partners, whether it's service based agency, and other tech partner to help kind of shed light and build some trust for us like, it's really easy for me to kind of rope them in and what they're not going to do is take Go away sales commissions were like the spotlight on the salesperson. I'd love to like understand your experience of how you get that buy in from sales to understand like, listen, a partner is not coming in to steal your thunder, they're coming in and help you.

Scott Hanrahan 5:13
So I think, to get buy in from sales and sales leadership, you know, the first thing I would say is that a lot to qualify this, a lot of my experience is not on the partner side. So it's more on, you could say the sales leadership side, like at my last company, we didn't have a partner program. Or I should say we didn't have a partner department rather. Right. So that partner work was done by, you know, by me in the sales management or general management capacity. And obviously that, you know, that means that I haven't had as much experience answering your question, maybe as some of some other folks, for management, like investing in partnerships, it's not a partnership decision, it's a business decision. So there has to be a reason. And the reason I'm most familiar with is that, you know, the company wasn't growing in in the way that the company would like. And you have to have your ducks in a row to point that out to management. And by the way, as a quick aside, it's kind of easy. Now in SAS companies, all that data is in Salesforce or HubSpot or something right. And so by the way, I went and got the reporting batch on Salesforce, so I'm comfortable, like doing all of my own analysis, you know, but that's just an aside that I encourage others. But anyway, if I just lean into the management narrative of not growing fast enough, or having too high of a customer acquisition cost, or some other similar pain point, right, then, you know, from there, I think it's similar to any other change management situation, like to make a sales reference, you know, Mike Weinberg guy that wrote new sales simplified. He writes about exposing the wound, you know, opening up the wound, and and you're not, it's not done yet in the discovery process, then you need to pour salt in the wound, and make it hurt. Right. And, you know, from there, you know, sharing the type of manifesto, I'd say that, you know, that crossbeam puts out right about the partner led growth, you know, the combination of those two things should should resonate. So, tying that back to your original question of sales and sales management, I think the pain could be you know, that the seller is not, maybe as not doing as well as their other sellers. Right? What what is the payment? By the way? If the seller is crushing it, you know, without partners, maybe that's okay, find somewhere where we can find success, right, let's get some champions. And then let's let the other sellers or other sales managers, you know, learn from from that champion naturally. Right. So you're not imposing something from the side?

Tom Burgess 7:37
Yeah. And well, it's funny, like, you and I have talked about this through and through, like, we can, we can call out two or three, AES, that when we worked at Vinyard, just kind of picked up that partner leads are that much more valuable and close that much more faster. And they're this much further along in the sales process. And they're like, you know, what, okay, this works. So it's funny, like just the people that figured this out, or like, have an aha moment, it's like, I can be way more efficient at my job, and honestly, crush my goals through partners. And that's not like they're lazy. They're not sitting back, and just kind of like letting that flow to them. They're, like attacking that, and understanding that this is a real, valuable motion.

Will Taylor 8:16
Yeah. And Scott, I really liked what you said about, you know, you're basically selling internally to a business problem, just like you would be selling to a prospect for their business problems, where, you know, what is the wounds? What can you do to open the wound to show them, hey, this is actually a pain. And then, you know, pour salt on the wound, which is, like, you know, if you don't solve this is what's gonna keep happening. And I think a lot of a lot of partner people, they may not think of it in that way, as they're trying to build that business case, they're thinking I'm hired here. So they're immediately bought in, but in reality, you know, a company knows that they need to do something in this regard. Maybe their adviser says, so maybe they, you know, saw this in the market, and they're making this decision, but they still need buy in, they still need to understand that this is going to be an effective strategy to continue to lean in. And who knows, maybe it was the CEOs decision, and then the VP of sales may not be fully bought into partner led growth, they may need that extra convincing. So I really like how you phrase that, where it's you truly are selling internally to get these other departments on board, and actually take action. On the note of like building that internal buy in what challenges did you face? You know, were there attribution conflicts? Were there, you know, resource allocation discrepancies where, you know, you were trying to get something to work, but the team maybe proposed a barrier? If so, how did you navigate that? So what challenges did you experience when going through getting this buy in and building this motion? And how did you overcome some of those challenges if

Scott Hanrahan 9:54
there were any? At my last company, I don't think that we had actually challenges getting and buy in from management, you know, getting buy in for management to, to start the partner journey because of all of the things that had happened before that right. So before, before we were partner led, I was actually leading a technical team doing actual client work. And we had a sales problem, which was that there was no working model for it. This is a new company, right. And so it was a small company, and between me and another senior manager, neither of us actually had sales backgrounds. So we both made the same mistake in a row, actually, we hired consecutively two senior salespeople who had great networks and had sold a lot in the past. And it didn't work out. And then we hired a few STRS, we did marketing events, we started our own Meetup group, you know, we just couldn't get much traction, right. So I actually switched roles to try to solve that problem, which was the biggest one at the company. So I started leading a sales team that was at the beginning was just me and one other person. And you know, that the process of becoming partner led as a small company, without many clients, it was a long one. And it required sticking to what we believed would work for a while before actually seeing results. And I could talk about that, but I'll skip ahead to answer the question. You know, when, you know, when we became partner lead, it became our main lead source quickly, right. So for the reason that it was very clear to everyone that the alternatives were not working, we were able to move in the partner led direction without much much friction. You know, but later on, there were some, you know, some other interesting things I could talk talk about, right? Because, you know, in time, it did become a sustainable, recurring lead source, you know, that was even somewhat macro economically stable, you know, and we grew the company profitably about, you know, 6x, between, you know, back then in the mid, you know, 2010s, and last year, and eventually, we were able to bring on a full sales team to support the partner led growth motion across the US, you know, so a lot of success. But the questions that you're asking for me, they came a little bit later, which was in a in a different form, it was in the form of, hey, we only have this so much money and resources and time to invest. Are we sure we should be investing them all in exactly this way, in partnerships? And even specifically in, in these partnerships? And, you know, that's a really important question that as management, we need to, you know, we need to have the clear answers for Right. And, you know, as management, it's not like, we have all the answers, it's not like, we're 100% Sure, of, of the things that we're doing, we're just doing the things that we think make the most sense. And so what what I did to explain that to, you know, to the, to the team, was I actually, I just wrote it down. So I wrote it a big, like, short novel, I would say, called Understanding the company. And I shared the past, right, because not everyone was at the company in 2015, you know, when it was 2021. And I wrote about the past and about all the things that we had done, and about the reasons we had gone in this direction. And furthermore, I shared about what, what every person in the company, what their role is, you know, to, you know, to, to contribute to that. Right. So, you know, we talked about marketing, most people think of it as marketing to clients, well, we marketed to our partners. For every one one pager that we wrote for our clients, we wrote three to four of those for our partners, you know, in and that was supportive of the sales partner motion and sales, as you know, it's about, you know, connecting with all the reps and, and, you know, having having partner lead sales via an outbound priority. That's part that's prospecting. Right? And then in delivery, it's about delivering that wow, quality work, you know, that makes the customers really happy that the sales and marketing teams can go back and share back with the tech partners, and HR, it's about hiring the people that can make that happen. You know, and it's, it's kind of, you know, it's kind of a, kind of a big, a big circle. So the challenges were, you know, later for me in, you know, in, in, in y in the y, you know, in the why are we doing exactly this still? And is this still the best thing, right? And I think that having that framework that I just mentioned, you know, to lean back on creates a structure upon which you know, we can answer that answer that question, and also kind of a model upon which we can build as more and more data comes in, you know, from other sources, because even within partnerships, it's not always clear exactly how much effort to spend, you know, on one partner versus another.

Will Taylor 14:41
I just want to make a comment about like, the story like the the company's story. That's so That's so clever, and I never have thought about that before. It's like, for someone who did just come in, in the last year or two or you know, just recently, they don't know, so they don't know why and so giving them that why I think is a really good, like we just talked about before, like a really good sales approach to say, hey, here's what the pain used to be, you don't want to face that pain, we already figured that out. So you as a seller, like, or market or whoever, you it's not that you got it easy, but like it could be a lot harder. But we're at a state where it's a lot easier because of these things that we implemented. So I really liked that. And I also wanted to make a comment about your quote on for every one pager we made for clients we made, you know, yeah, he's a five for partners. I think that is, that's beautiful. Like, That's music to my ears.

Tom Burgess 15:34
It's literally i That's why I'm speechless. Because like, that is the that is the culmination of what everyone in partnerships is trying to get to, which is partner like growth, but having that departmental buy in to say, You know what, yes, I get it. And I think it ties so nicely to like, the company autobiography, for lack of a better term I yeah, I love it.

Scott Hanrahan 15:55
It makes sense in the context of this ecosystem, led growth term and partner led growth model that we're talking about here. Because, you know, if you make 111 Pager for a client that has a limited distribution, and it's often a one time distribution, right, whereas, you know, what we did in, in marketing at my last company was we actually built almost like landing pages, but they were parts of the website that weren't linked to, and weren't accessible from anywhere else on the website. And they were specifically for, you know, each strategic technology partner that we had, and it was giving the, you know, he was treating our partner as our client, right, and having sort of, you know, no ego and lots of hustle around that around that process. And so we consolidated the right messaging, the right assets, blog posts, use cases, one pagers, et cetera, you know, on that site, broke it down by, you know, region and industry and use case and things like that, you know, so that when when people went on that site, when we could refer them there, you know, those one pagers will live forever, right. And people, you know, the rep site, if you're doing a tech, strategic tech vendor, one paper pager, you know, the reps don't have to save that anywhere. And then you keep getting recurring use out of this, you know, out of this effort.

Will Taylor 17:13
Amazing. So just to summarize that, like one of the tactical things that the audience can take away from that is like, one get very focused and lean in and do not a shallow engagement with partners, but go deep, like you said, you're interweaving all these web pages and resources together with the strategic partners so that it's not one hard to find. And two, it's so ingrained in the partnership as well, where a lot, I feel like a lot of partner programs, they have the resource that lives in somewhere, or drive a PRM, wherever it is, and then it's so far away from sellers, and like the overall marketing program, that it's disconnected, it's not in the ecosystem, whereas like you just described, you're actually in the ecosystem. And you're incorporating partners in your overall business as well. So I like that,

Scott Hanrahan 18:04
right. And you're talking about something that we I sort of alluded to, but skipped over, which is that, you know, we need offerings, right, and we need offerings that are specific to the person that we're speaking with is just like sales, right? That's why these you know, mass emails, you know, are going out of favor, you know, from from SDR cadences is because they're just not, you know, they're just not specific enough. And it's the same thing, if you're selling to, you know, I'm using the word selling and quotes here, right, but selling to, you know, a tech partner, salesperson, a strategic partner, right, we need to be sharing with them, you know, why is recommending our product to their other clients, you know, going to be the right thing for their clients. And let's say, in the case of a database company, why is it going to increase the database consumption, you know, within that company? Or why is it going to help them land this other company as a new client, right. And so we need to develop what I'll call an offering around that, which consists of the things that you just mentioned. But the one pager is a little bit of a hack. It's like, you know, before you even have the offering, it's like, if you talk about it, and you follow up with a one pager, all of a sudden, you, you know, that makes something that was before amorphous, is suddenly tangible.

Will Taylor 19:19
Very cool. So let's say I'm thinking through this, and I'm like, This is great, you know, Scott's got a great story. I love you know, what, him and his team belt? What can I do? Tactically, let's say, you're back in your previous company, and you're just building the partner program? What's the first thing that you do? Or did or should do? If I'm in that same position, where I'm just starting to build this motion? What is that thing? You know? Is it building the company autobiography? It sounds like probably not because you'd have to wait until you have that motion, you know, a bit better baked but like, what is that first thing that I should think about and start building?

Scott Hanrahan 19:58
So yeah, I find I'm building this motion to the new in a new company today, or if someone else is I actually, I'm going to go in a different direction here, I think the very first thing that should be done is to have a philosophy kind of in the same way, as companies should really be starting with core values and mission and envision and things like that. I think that in the, in the partnerships area, it's very helpful to have a philosophy so that you can base your decisions and your actions off of it. And, you know, my, let's say, three, three thing, philosophy is first, no ego, second, lots of hustle, and third adding value. Right? I think of everything, can everything we do ties back to one or all of those, all of those things, I can share more about them if you'd like. But if that's too pie in the sky, then you know, I think the second step is to establish goals, because, you know, everyone wants leads and new business. Right. But there's a there's a process around going from, you know, is that, you know, starting the partnerships team at a new organization to actually having partners be stable, recurring lead source that I mentioned, you know, like, was my experience was my experience earlier. So I think there are actually two other goals other than, you know, getting leads that turn into closed deals. And we talked about this a bit earlier with Tom, right, I would, I would, I'd say that in my type of situation is the goal should look something like number one, speeding up the sales process and increasing the win percentage via taking leads that you already have, like we talked about and collaborating with your tech partners on them. Secondly, it could be speeding up procurement. So these days, a lot of deals are done through cloud marketplaces and Cloud Marketplace deals tend to be faster procurement cycles, right? So think about those. And thirdly, is what we talked about, right? Just building the relationships to get exposure. And there are other ways to measure. You know, there are other ways to measure partnership progress towards getting leads than just getting leads, right you could we have a whole thing I could talk about but you know, we can measure, hey, you know, how many calls are we getting off the back of deal registrations, and how many of those calls are generally positive? How many of them result in managerial meetings afterwards? How many of them result in team meetings, you know, how many of them resulted in just getting a piece of information, you know, from that call, that you could use to help your deal close faster. I know, all these things are a little less tangible than some managers would like. But those are two things.

Tom Burgess 22:39
No, and I, what I'll add to that, too, is especially in the startup motion, where, you know, partnerships is new, and you're, I love that you keep kind of pointing back to this, finding the the stable, the stability in partnerships, like you might not hit stability until you're too. So instead of trying to just like pull a number out of your butt and say, like, this is what we want to hit in terms of MRR Arr, it's let's keep this a little bit more broad, like, let's, how can we help speed up the sales process or like the time to close? And it just makes things a lot more tangible to that like the idea earlier versus just getting, you know, distraught or distressed over like, Hey, we're not hitting this ARR goal? Well, that's because you just launched partnerships, you have no idea what this ecosystem will be and what it can look like. So instead, why don't we try and attach goals to helping other aspects of the company sales process, you know, extending LTV, reducing CAC, like, how do we fit in with CX and making sure that we have viable patterns to show the organization that partnerships is here to help in any capacity and in several capacities?

Will Taylor 23:45
So my question around that is, so we set these objectives, you know, we have the general goals, but then we break it down into, you know, what are the pieces of data that influence that. So we should be tracking that we should be setting up the proper reporting and attribution for it. What is, let's say, one daily practice that you did, or that you think every partner person should do, whether it's looking at a dashboard, whether it's engaging with people internally, whether it is, you know, reaching out to your partner that you haven't reached out to in, you know, two weeks or something like that. What is that daily practice that you think everyone should be doing, that you feel helped you, in your organization be successful through this partner led motion? Yeah, I'm

Scott Hanrahan 24:32
not I'm not sure. It's gonna sound too revolutionary, but I guess that's the nature of the question. I'm gonna say, preparing for calls, but specifically preparing for calls with the partner. Like I think that in the partner ecosystem, a lot of people have either previously worked in sales roles, right, or maybe have a dual role where they're, you know, where they're doing both sales and partnerships. And it seems like the clients are a whole lot more important and a whole lot more immediate right? And so when you have a significant sales call, you're always you're always prepping for that with the client, right? In partnerships, it's not necessarily the same. But you know, one thing I did recently was I had, I had a particularly important call in the partner area, and I prepped for like a client call, I thought in advance of all the questions, it was only a 30 minute call, but there's way more than 30 minutes of material that I needed them to know. Right, so I prepped for the prep for the call by thinking of all of the questions that I had, I was just guessing that they were that they would ask if it was a 90 minute call, and I just wrote them down in an email and answer them and send it to them a week in advance. And they and they were really happy about that, I think because they use their time, well, you know, they could read that email in like four minutes. And you know, and it could save an hour of of conversation, because, you know, now they already have all this background, you can do that in other ways. So, you know, in our we and my weekly partnership calls with partnership leaders and things like that, you know, we come organized, you know, I have a list of stuff we talked about last time a list of the actions, you know, that I took with a team, you know, a reminder of the goals of our organization with partnerships, you know, and their company overall. Right, and, you know, I'm ready, I'm prepared with the actions that I think both of us need to take, you know, prepared with the ask right for the next week, or two weeks, or whatever it is. So prepare for calls, that's mine.

Will Taylor 26:25
You know, I, I love that so much. I actually harp on that a lot, like I've talked about it, where it's like, the best thing you can do is make things simple set expectations, and have clear communication with your partners, and really anyone that you're engaging with. And so, yeah, it doesn't need to be revolutionary, because honestly, not a lot of people do that enough, I would say for these calls. And I would also venture to say that, in your interactions with partners, what I've noticed is there's this diffusion of responsibility, you know, we're partners, and it's, you know, I'm not a seller, you're not the prospect, so it's not me taking lead. So it's like we're both taking lead, because we're partners, and the power dynamic is a little bit looser. And so the benefit is setting the stage for a call and agenda and, you know, questions ahead of time, etc, that allows you to move the interaction forward where it maybe they had a busy day, or they're dragging their feet a little bit, you at least are working towards your goal, and your company objectives, regardless of how they are in the partnership. And that's not to say that you're just going to you know, bulldoze the conversation, but you at least bring in this level of seriousness and clarity that they can then take action on and you can take action on. So I actually really love that. And I hope more people prepare for their calls, and help the other people that they bring on their calls prepare as well with that clarity. So I love that enter.

Scott Hanrahan 27:55
Totally, I mean, it the overall philosophy that I mentioned is is you know, no ego and lots of hustle, right? That's the hustle side is the prep. The no ego side, you know, you mentioned it doesn't mean you're bulldozing the call, and frankly, if they come into the call with another agenda, that may be okay, you know, that I'm happy to throw away all my prep, you know, and roll with it. If that seems like a higher value, you know, way to take the conversation. And what you mentioned earlier about, you know, who's who's leading, let's say, I think you were referring to, let's say a sales rep on sales rep call, right? And who's taking the lead on, on on this call, right? If it's, you know, just between two sales reps about a different partner, and if they're not taking the lead, that's like a huge opportunity for us, right, it's a huge opportunity to come prepared, come with a you know, come with a perspective on the way that we should be you know, treating that client right that's that's basically your challenger selling the the sales rep at the other at the other company, right? Just like you challenge yourself a client, come with a perspective, you know, and they're gonna respect that, and they're gonna want to work with you more.

Will Taylor 28:57
Amazing. I think that is where we will leave this episode because I think that is where people should now start taking action. If you have calls to get to, depending on when you're listening to this, prepare for them. You know, set an agenda, bring questions, send them ahead of time, and make sure that everyone is clear on what they're going to be talking about. Scott, anything else that you wanted to share with the audience? Any like philosophies that you have to wrap up this episode?

Scott Hanrahan 29:26
No, I think that's it. Thanks a lot. Well for having me.

Will Taylor 29:29
Yes, thank you for being on and sharing your wisdom. And thank you everyone for listening. That was another episode of The howdy partners podcast.

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