First impressions count and knowing how to write an executive summary is a key skill for a bid, tender, or proposal writer. If your submission needs an Executive Summary, this is your chance to grab the customer’s attention and start the process of selling them on your win themes and your company.
Executive Summaries are often page-limited, (sometimes to a single page) meaning that you need to be clear and focused on what you need to say. As with most bid responses, it pays to be systematic to ensure that you cover all the information that you need to include. Here are our best practices for how to write an executive summary.
Analyse Your Offer
One way to get a clear idea of what needs to be said in the Executive Summary is to carry out a SWOT Analysis for both your own solution and what you think your nearest competitor will offer.. This should help you get a clear view of which points you should emphasise in the Executive Summary.
In the APMP training on how to write an executive summary to consider the following questions:
- What are the client’s problems?
- How did they arise?
- What do they want to achieve by solving them?
- What do they consider the most important outcomes?
- What solutions can you offer?
- What results will each solution deliver?
- Which is the best solution, and why?
This analysis should give you the raw material you need for an effective executive summary.
It can be tempting to use the executive summary to introduce the client to your business and what you do, but like most sales and marketing material, an executive summary needs to be customer-focused. You are not just selling your own product or service, you are selling the benefits of that to the customer. You will need to demonstrate:
- That you understand the overall need/vision for the tender
- That you understand what the client’s needs or ‘pain points’ are within that
- How your solution will address those
- Count how many times you use your company name and the clients – a good executive summary should refer to the client more often.
- Keep the writing tight and concise, you can use a grammar tool such as Grammarly or Hemingway.app if that doesn’t come naturally to you.
- Avoid technical terms, explain things in layman’s terms so your client can clearly see the benefits
The First Thing to Write
You might think that the executive summary is the last thing that you write, given that it is there to summarise the content of the bid but most bid professionals will tell you to write it first. This is useful in large teams of bid writers, where there needs to be a consistent vision for how they are going to win the tender or where the vision for the proposal needs to win support from senior management.
For smaller companies where a single person is pulling the bid together, writing the summary early can still be useful to give you a cohesive vision. Carrying out the analysis and putting the key points down on paper can help you understand not just how to write an executive summary but to gain a deeper understanding of the value of your proposition to the customer.
A Good First Impression
The executive summary will be the first thing that a customer reads and will set the tone for how they view the rest of the proposal. In general, you have about ten seconds to really capture the attention of a reader, so make sure that your opening line does just that. If your summary starts with something like, ‘My Company is a family-run business and prides itself on exceptional service’ you’re not saying anything new, interesting, or relevant to the client.
If the tender allows it, then use images and formatting to make the document more engaging. It can pay to hire a professional designer to do this, asking them to co-brand the document for you and the client, creating a visual link between the two companies. Using callout boxes and images can help to reinforce your message.
Compliance is Key
A key consideration in how to write an executive summary is addressing the fact that you can meet all the client’s requirements early on. A good bid is both compliant and responsive, so make sure that your client understands that you can do all they ask and that you can address their spoken and unspoken concerns.
This will be the first time that you write about your win themes, so choose your words carefully when you talk about those, as those phrases can be reused throughout the proposal to really drive your message across.
Still Stuck on How to Write an Executive Summary?
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