The sales team at HealthHelp had always made one thing clear--the faster they could respond to RFPs from potential clients, the more sales they could close.As a specialty benefits management provider, HealthHelp works with health insurance companies to help their network physicians find the best tests and treatments for patients.To win new business, HealthHelp demonstrates how it might improve outcomes by running a variety of analyses on a health insurer's data about its claims, providers and members.Running analyses was once a cumbersome process requiring weeks of back-and-forth between the salesperson and HealthHelp's business analysts, who wrote custom scripts to pull information from various databases. Errors occurred. And by the time it was done, the potential customer may have lost interest--or faith--in the company.HealthHelp CIO Steve Spar had previously implemented a data warehouse, migrating the company's reporting metrics to SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS). But that still required analysts with knowledge of both SSAS and benefits management, which is rare.To cut out the middle man, Spar rolled out Tableau Software, an analytics tool he says is as easy for his company's knowledge workers to use as Excel. Thanks to real-time visual analytics, members of the sales team can, without help from business analysts, run a variety of analyses on a potential customer's data and include the results in their RFP responses.Spar says the faster, self-service analytics approach has increased the sales team's "win rate."The team can also analyze customer data to identify opportunities to cut costs, improve performance, or implement new tests and treatments in areas such as cancer or emergency medicine. "All those things contribute to our ability to sell additional new products," says Spar, noting that the new system has contributed to HealthHelp's 85 percent revenue growth over the past two years.Client services staff use the Tableau dashboard to answer straightforward questions about cost trends or utilization--now they only need to involve the business analytics team on more complex inquiries.The business analysts were initially skeptical. They were well aware of the inefficiencies of the status quo and wanted to eliminate errors more than anyone. But "they weren't sure what it would mean for them," says Spar. So he included them from the beginning of the project, starting with software selection. "Over time, they saw how this would relieve them of some of that heavy lifting."The more technically inclined medical directors on staff have begun playing around with Tableau. The software "makes it intuitive and easy to create pivots and graphs of even complex business data," says Spar. "In this line of work, once you get an answer, it prompts more questions. The ability to zoom in on what you find is what makes these tools so much more powerful than outsourcing your questions to the analysts."Stephanie Overby is regular contributor to CIO.com's IT Outsourcing section. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and on Google +.