Secrets to Preparing a Powerful Executive Summary

  |  June 21, 2018

Ron Robins


The executive summary is by far the most important section of the proposal, because so many of the Government executives and influencers ONLY read this part.

Your Frame of Mind

Psychologically it is better to first talk about the customer’s issues and challenges. What is compelling them to go through the “hassle” of issuing an RFP? It is a way of letting them know that we “get it”; we know what their goals and pain points are.

Think about visiting a doctor. Before the patient even sits down the doctor is writing a prescription. They say: “Aren’t you going to listen to my reasons for coming first? Don’t you need to know about me before you can decide what is best for me?”

The essence of being a professional is listening first — and only then applying an expert body of knowledge to tailor a solution that best fits the customer’s needs. It is human nature to want to be fully understood before we accept advice.

First address Customer’s Issues

Without being patronizing, if we can accurately convey our intimate knowledge of a customer’s issues and motivations, then we have earned the right to prescribe a solution. In a five-page executive summary, it’s a good idea to dedicate the first half of the first page to convey this knowledge.

If we cannot confidently describe the customer’s goals and issues then perhaps we should be asking, “Should we even be bidding this?” We need to prove we have been listening first before we start describing our solution.

Then address your Value Proposition – What makes your bid Better

In the second half of page one, it is ideal to have a table that shows why our bid is superior. It is our five, or so, key value propositions (VPs), win themes, or discriminators. Each VP is supported by three or four bullets directly from the proposal, i.e., they are discussed in detail elsewhere. They can be a combination of features and benefits; hopefully with supporting quantification or hard data. If there is room, we should give direct reference to where the evaluator can find the proof within the proposal.

Help the SSEB chairperson do their job! The VP table can be used by the SSEB to brief the SSA! The table serves as a short and cogent description of why choosing our bid is the best value for the customer.

So, first tell the customer we understand their vision and challenges. Then succinctly show them why our bid is superior. Point them to where the proof is in the proposal.

The first page, in essence, is the executive summary of the executive summary.