The Silicon Review
When you talk to Melissa Mabon, proposal software pioneer and Columbia University-educated philosophy graduate, innovators don’t define their product road map by what their competitors do – they glean it from listening in depth to their customers.
A Tale of Two Companies
She’s followed these simple principles while leading two successful software startups focused on helping companies respond to Requests For Proposals (RFPs) smarter: Pragmatech Software and now, Expedience Software, recently named one of the 20 Most Promising Sales Tech Solution Providers -2019 by CIO Review Magazine.
In 1994, Mabon and her partner, Brooke Savage, started Pragmatech, one of the world’s first proposal software firms. They grew their startup into a $12 million business and the 14th fastest-growing software company in the country before selling it in 2004.
Mabon and Savage took a hiatus from software for several years before launching their newest venture, Expedience Software. Its core mission: helping organizations enhance, automate and evolve their proposals and proposal-creation processes using the software everyone knows, Microsoft® Word.
“We are proposal people,” says Jason Anderson, a former Expedience customer in the IT workforce management arena who joined Expedience in 2016 as VP of Sales.
The Expedience Difference
Expedience Software seamlessly integrates with the Microsoft Office suite, so clients can customize content using Word, Excel and PowerPoint for maximum effectiveness.
“Prospects tell us all the time that they’ve got a web-based tool in place but only a fraction of their proposals use that tool because of the complexity of converting it into a format they can use,” says Anderson. “Often, when up against a deadline, writers abandon the tool and instead, open an old proposal and do workarounds, which can lead to costly errors.”
Expedience works with clients to create a customized template complete with a content library accessible directly from a ribbon within Microsoft Word. They can easily search individual content records by key words and insert them into their response.
With Expedience, the turnaround time per proposal can be reduced by up to 80 percent with hardly any time needed to get proposal and sales staff up to speed on the software. Customers frequently cite these reasons for selecting Expedience:
When looking at new enhancements to Expedience’s software, Mabon, as the chief software developer, engages personally in many customer implementations and sales demos. She makes it a practice to “look over customers’ shoulders” and listen to their struggles in creating compliant RFP responses.
This hands-on development approach resonates with a global proposal management community
that feels Expedience “gets” their daily challenges and frustrations.
“As a diverse team spread across a number of countries and offices, we needed a solution that was not only easy to use, but easy to manage. Coming from one of the market leaders, we have found Expedience has changed our experience of content management. The most impressive thing is the speed and consistency compared to our previous solution,” says John Steele, director and head of bid management for First Data.
Another client stated, “The Expedience solution is recognized by our firm as a market disrupter in the RFP/RFI automation industry offering products and services that leapfrog current technology.”
Anderson emphasizes that no two proposals are alike and client needs vary widely. That’s why listening
is so critical.
Removing Layers to the Customer
In that spirit, Expedience embraces two principles in product development: first, approaching innovation as a “simultaneous equation” – where you analyze multiple customer variables at once rather taking a linear approach of looking at one problem at a time – and second, understanding customers’ needs by watching and listening.
“That’s my skill – seeing how automation could solve these problems in a way that covers a lot of variables simultaneously,” says Mabon, noting that the solution often is deceptively simple, not more complex.
Expedience’s approach differs from typical product development practices that segregate engineers and programmers from customers.
“Engineers are the innovators in your company – they need a direct connection to the customer,” Mabon explains, noting that relying on others’ interpretations of the market requirements can hinder innovation.
Microsoft Bet Pays Off
Another departure for Expedience compared with the proposal industry is the company’s steadfast belief in Microsoft as the place where their software should play, even as the industry has gone full throttle to the cloud.
“That’s where proposal people live,” explains Mabon.
Expedience’s software also embraces the cloud and will incorporate Microsoft’s new capabilities in cognitive services and ways of enhancing users’ experience both on the desktop and in the cloud.
“That’s the direction the market is headed – there will be this ever-seamless connection between the speed and ease of the desktop with the power and reach of the cloud/internet,” she says.
Noting Microsoft’s impressive track record that frequently sees the software giant emerge as the dominant player once it commits to enter a market, Mabon says, “We’ve always bet on Microsoft and it’s always served us well.”
Introducing Excel Connect
Expedience Excel Connect, one of the company’s newest offerings, brings the power of Microsoft Word to solve a key challenge facing proposal writers—responding to Excel RFPs. Excel Connect imports the Excel RFP spreadsheet into a Word table, allowing proposal teams to leverage the Expedience Content Library as well as the complete functionality of Microsoft Word.
Excel Connect inspects the Excel RFP worksheet and data restrictions directly from Word, checks the character counts of RFP answers, and exports answers from Word back to Excel. With Excel Connect, proposal writers can:
The new tool is the culmination of over a year of interviews and round tables with customers from
around the world.
“Excel Connect is a game-changer for customers responding to Excel-based RFPs,” says Anderson. “These companies know too well the difficulties of creating lengthy narrative responses that are frequently paragraphs long in Excel – a tool designed for numbers more so than words. Excel Connect eliminates all-too-common mistakes in Excel RFPs and the formatting issues required to align RFP answers to present more effectively in Excel.”
Meet Expedience’s Sales Evangelist
Jason Anderson, VP of Sales
Jason drives Expedience’s sales and go-to-market strategy. He is hands-on with Expedience’s clients managing the buying process, building business cases, and creates proposals – of course! Before joining expedience, he held such titles as VP of Sales, VP of Sales and Marketing, Managing Director, and Managing Partner for ERP software consultancies and barcode automation companies.
As a salesperson and as a sales consultant to businesses, Anderson has evangelized the importance of powerful, persuasive proposals for over a decade. Working with Expedience combines his love of a well-written proposal with his professional background in software solutions and automation. As VP of Sales, Anderson helps sales and proposal teams win more business.
He earned his MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2005.
“We are proposal people — we harness the power of Microsoft® Word to drive better proposal quality while accelerating the speed and effectiveness of proposal teams around the world.”