Lesson 17: Executive Summaries
Part 1 – The Basics
Your executive summary can make or break your proposal effort. Therefore, it is vital to craft a knockout, client-focused executive summary.
What is an Executive Summary?
An executive summary is a high-level document that gives a complete overview of your proposal. In other words, the executive summary should clearly and concisely convey your client-focused solution and your solution’s features and benefits.
Proposal professionals frequently consider drafting a killer, client-focused executive summary the first step after receiving the green light on a new RFP or bid effort.
Operate under the assumption that every proposal needs an executive summary. In particular, clients almost always expect an executive summary even if the bid document or RFP does not require one.
An effective executive summary captures the reader’s attention. Furthermore, after reading a compelling executive summary, your reader will understand your company, solution, and why you are the best fit for their needs.
Who Reads the Executive Summary?
Anyone who reads the bid will probably read the executive summary. Usually situated just after the cover letter, your executive summary will act as an introduction and overview of your solution.
Above all, always write your executive summary with the prominent decision-makers in mind. Think of it this way: the client’s executives and c-suite members might not have the time to read your entire proposal. However, with a solid executive summary, you can introduce your solution and paint a picture of how your solution will benefit the client. This enables critical decision-makers (i.e., executives, c-suite, and stakeholders) to make educated and informed choices.
What Should I Include In My Executive Summary?
First, know that an executive summary should be one to two pages. Therefore, you must give as much detail as possible in a short amount of space. Clarity and concision are essential here. However, do remember that this may not be possible when dealing with a highly technical solution or if the client outlines specific executive summary requirements.
Begin by acknowledging your client’s problem; what prompted them to create this bid opportunity? How has this problem affected your client’s business? Furthermore, include statistics and analytics whenever possible. Doing so gives you something to compare later on.
Next, follow up with a concise description of your solution. Don’t worry; you can get more technical later in the proposal.
In the meantime, demonstrate how the features of your solution will benefit the client. Address how these benefits will soothe the client’s specific pain points.
Remember those statistics at the beginning of the executive summary? Compare your solution’s expected results or impact with the introductory statistics to underline the value. Include graphics or an analysis conveying what your solution will change.
Should I Include Pricing?
When to introduce pricing is a hotly debated topic in the proposal world. First, always check the RFP or bid documents. Sometimes the RFP will specify whether or not to include pricing. However, if the RFP does not require you to have the investment in the executive summary, you may isolate pricing to a later investment section.
As with any RFP or bid response, follow the directions. Always comply if your client specifies what and what not to include. Compliance is king in any proposal.
Finally, keep your executive summary (and the rest of the proposal) client-focused and concise. In addition, give the client as much information as possible while sticking to acceptable page limits.
Following these tips will show your client that you respect them, their time, and the company.