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What priorities should you have when writing your Executive Summary?

What matters the most to this customer may be different than what mattered to the last customer

The things you need to communicate, your priorities, and the best sequence for presenting them should change from proposal to proposal, based on what it will take to win. If you always write your Executive Summary in the same sequence with the same topics in the same order, you should reexamine your priorities.

Start with two simple questions:

  • What does the customer want to see?
  • What do you need to say?

What you want to say should match what the customer wants to see. Usually. Sometimes the customer doesn’t know what they need to know. But if the customer has gone to the effort to write down what they want to see in an RFP, you should take note. 

Just avoid the temptation to rationalize that what you want the customer to believe is something they need to hear. [Note: You have the author’s permission to make that last sentence into a poster, maybe with text over some tranquil Zen scenery, and post it on the wall where your proposal writers work. You could start each day with mindful meditations pondering the implications.]

The following topics are usually part of what needs to be addressed in an Executive Summary for a proposal. But what priority to give them or sequence to address them in can vary.

Topics commonly addressed in an Executive Summary

What should you write about in your Executive Summary? What do you need to accomplish? 

See also:
Executive Summary
  • Provide required information. If the RFP says the Executive Summary or introduction should provide certain information, make sure it is there and easy to find. Address requirements ahead of preferences or interests. This should be your top priority because if they don’t see it first, they may not read any further.
  • Introduce your offering. What is the customer going to get as a result of accepting your proposal? What do they need to know about it to conclude that your offering is their best alternative? But what priority should you place on introducing your offering?? If the proposal is for a commodity specified by the RFP, then they know what they are getting. But maybe how you will deliver it matters. Or maybe your ability to deliver it on time and at the quoted price matters. Or maybe your company and its track record in delivery matters more…
  • Introduce your company. Why should they care about you? What do they need to know about you in order to trust you and do business with you? Your company matters a lot to you, but the specifications of the offering and how they’ll benefit from it often matter more to the customer than a lot of noise about the provider. But then again, if the RFP forces everyone to bid the exact same thing, the reliability of the provider can become a higher priority in the selection.
  • Provide details. Once the customer sees what they will get by accepting your proposal and can see that you are a credible provider, then they may need some details. Since this is an Executive Summary, what are the minimum details they need to reach the desired conclusion?
  • Introduce your teammates. If you are bidding as a team, does information about your teammates matter to the customer? Sometimes it does, and sometimes all they care about is information about the prime contractor. Whether you feature information about your teammates depends on whether it matters enough to the customer to help you win.
  • Justify getting the highest score. An Executive Summary is often the only part of a proposal read by stakeholders other than the evaluation team. The Executive Summary should make it clear why you deserve the winning score. It may or may not help the evaluation team, but it can help everyone else at the customer who will be impacted by the selection. In some evaluations, the authority who will sign off on the decision of the evaluation team may not actively participate in scoring and may not even read the proposals. The Executive Summary can help the team justify its scoring and gain that critical sign-off. This can make the evaluation criteria and how you match up a priority to address in your Executive Summary. But is it a priority above all the others? That depends on the nature what is being procured and how the customer makes its decisions. 
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More information about "Carl Dickson"

Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

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