Lesson 17: Executive Summaries Part 2 – Where Do I Start?
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.
Proposals based on bid documents (e.g., RFPs, RFIs, ITBs, etc.) will often have an outlined set of requirements for the executive summary. However, some bid opportunities will not have explicit instructions. Similarly, you may be writing a proactive proposal that does not require a bid document. In these cases, you must craft a compelling executive summary from scratch.
While starting with a blank page might seem daunting, there is a simple formula we follow to craft an effective, client-focused executive summary.
Introduce the Client and Opportunity
Begin by acknowledging the client and the opportunity the client presents in their bid request. Then, introduce the client’s concerns and hot buttons.
This section shows your client that you understand their request and recognize the problems your solution will solve. Thus, you indicate that you are privy to their implicit desires and their explicit needs. Consequently, this tacit knowledge demonstrates that you’ve completed adequate customer intelligence research.
Address Concerns and Present Solutions
Next, address each of the client’s concerns or hot buttons and how your solution solves the problem. In doing so, you will incorporate each element of your solution through a client-focused lens.
Detail each concern and introduce your solution via a value proposition. A value proposition contains a differentiator (or, ideally, a discriminator) plus a proof point.
Examples of proof points include statistics, achievements, awards, rankings, and historical success. Pairing demonstrated proof of success with how you stand out from your competitors is a surefire way to capture your audience’s attention.
With this method, you use the client’s stated and unstated wants and needs as scaffolding to build your solution.
The executive summary is a high-level, quick-read document. Remember to keep these sections clear but concise. You will include the intimate details of your solution later on in a solutions summary.
Conclude the Executive Summary
Keep it simple: wrap up your executive summary with a brief overview of the total solution and the benefits it will bring. Again, you can go into more detail in the separate solutions section.
Many writers draft executive summaries that spend more time summarizing their company history and past performances instead of focusing on the solution. Unless otherwise specified, keep your executive summary about the client and how your solution will benefit the client. If, after reading the executive summary, the client is interested in learning more about you and your company, they can find that information in later sections.