What is an Executive summary?
It declares purpose, creates interest, forecasts approach, establishes credibility and summarises your offer.
All that in less than two minutes, because that’s how long your decision maker will spend reading it, if you are lucky!
Best practice in the industry has developed a method or process of doing this –
Introduce → State Facts → Prove → Refute → Conclude.
An executive summary is a written argument, not the one-sided, contentious bickering of politics, nor the assault on the senses of modern advertising.
The executive summary is an appeal to gain a reader’s agreement, coupled with a call to partner to solve that reader’s problem.
When you write an executive summary, you are telling a story, and you are trying to convince your reader:
• You thoroughly understand his/her problem
• You have the best solution/benefit for that problem
• You want what’s best for your reader
All in less than one page and less than two minutes of their time.
So how can you approach this daunting task?
• Be specific. show how the solution will translate to your audience’s unique environment and situation. Your task is to summarise it in simple terms to make your reader want to know much more.
• Make it personal. Discover what keeps your audience up at night and illustrate the corporate and personal repercussions/risks of not acting or acting incorrectly. The best way to build urgency in the rest of the bid or proposal is to show your solution is an alternative to real pain.
• Find common values. To create empathy, your audience must see that you care about the same things they do. People like people who are similar to themselves, so demonstrate you understand their corporate and personal stances on business, social, and environmental issues show you have common ground.
This doesn’t mean to simply say what your audience wants to hear. An executive summary is the shop window of the rest of your bid or proposal it is a precursor to a contract, so make sure you can deliver what you claim and really care about what you say you care about.
Some proposals are rejected because the writer makes it easy for the reader to say “no.” Your job as the artist crafting the executive summary writer is to take all the roadblocks to “yes” out of the way simply and effectively in less than one page of writing.
You can do this by anticipating every point at which your reader may become uncomfortable, sceptical, or fearful. To do that, you have to ask yourself the same questions your reader will ask you.
Be specific with your responses. Details persuade; generalisations come off as hedges at best and smokescreens at worst.
Above all else keep it simple and make it inviting for your reader to turn the page to find out more.
Lastly don’t forget the golden rule – this executive summary is about your customer not about you. It is a cardinal sin, and a complete turn off, to state your company name in this section.
Alan Howard CPP.APMP
A Bid/Proposal Professional holding APMP Professional Certification, with complementary Technical Author and Technical Writing skills.