How to write an executive summary for RFPs and sales proposals
Behind every winning proposal is an executive summary that grabs your prospective customer’s attention. An excellent executive summary distills your business case into a brief, coherent, and compelling business argument.
Like a thesis statement in an essay, your executive summary packs a punch, entices the prospect to give your proposal their full attention, and orients them to the most critical takeaways. It’s your executive summary’s job to make sure your prospects trust that you understand their pains and have a plan—and the expertise—to resolve them.
With more than 25 years of industry experience, we’re here to point you in the right direction. Let’s dig into how to write a stand-out executive summary for your next RFP response or proactive sales proposal.
Balancing personalization and templatization in your executive summary
As the opener to your sales proposal or RFP response (besides the title page, of course), your executive summary needs to make a strong impression right out of the gate—and within a limited space. Like any part of a proposal, either personalize your executive summary or reconsider why you’re creating it in the first place. If the opportunity is worth pursuing, then it’s worth pursuing the right way.
That said, you don’t need to start from scratch every time you prepare to write an executive summary. While there’s no such thing as a complete proposal template and no two executive summaries should be exactly the same, you can use the same core principles to guide your approach.
It’s easier to stick to best practices and work efficiently to keep the momentum going when you adopt a proven, standardized approach to writing executive summaries.
Writing an executive summary for a proposal
To make the most significant impact, it’s critical for your proposal’s executive summary to do four things well: summarize your business case, prove you understand your prospect’s business, describe the pain your prospect is feeling, and show the positive outcomes you can provide. Let’s take a closer look at each of these considerations.
- Summarize your business case
To craft a compelling executive summary, it’s imperative to summarize your business case, not your entire proposal. It may seem like a subtle difference, but it’s a common mistake to waste this hugely important real estate rehashing everything that’s already detailed in the rest of your RFP response or sales proposal.
Get right to the heart of what you can do to solve your prospective customer’s pains to make your executive summary stand out. With this mindset, you’ll prioritize including the information that matters the most to your prospect in the executive summary and learn to trust the body of your proposal to complete the picture with supporting details.
- Prove you understand your prospect’s business
Earn the trust of your prospects by reassuring them that you understand their business. What trends or pressures are their industry facing? How about their company? Are there any key focus areas that are specific to their role in the company?
Reassure your prospect that you have taken the time to understand the ins and outs of their business and the greater environment it’s operating in. By doing this, you’ll demonstrate your expertise and give your prospective customer a preview of the value you’ll offer them as a future business partner.
- Describe the pain your prospect is feeling
Here’s where you’ll really grab your potential buyer’s attention: detail their business issues in priority order. You’ve already proven your knowledge of your prospect’s business. Now’s the time to get into the details of what’s keeping them up at night.
What specific problems stand in the way of their success? Is a top competitor nipping at their heels? Are they currently working with one of your competitors but unsatisfied with the results? Maybe there’s a new executive on board with big plans to shake things up.
You might find yourself (succinctly) repeating what they told you during discovery calls or even suggesting new perspectives that your prospect hasn’t considered yet. The goal is to demonstrate you understand their pains and frustrations, so you can lead into your unique recommendations and plans to resolve them.
- Show the positive outcomes you can provide
Understanding the problems facing your prospects isn’t enough by itself—you also need to demonstrate how your organization is uniquely positioned to solve those problems. This is your first opportunity to paint a picture of the positive outcomes your prospect will see when they solve their pains with your solution.
What stresses, inefficiencies, and frustrations will be things of the past if your prospect makes the leap and becomes your customer? What personal or business wins will the decision-makers be celebrating after they partner with you? And how is your approach different and superior to what your competitors have to offer?
It’s this vision that will convince your prospects to read beyond your executive summary, explore the rest of your proposal, and ultimately decide to work with your organization. If you lose your prospect’s interest on page one, then all the great work you put into the rest of your RFP response or sales proposal will be for nothing. So, be sure to give the executive summary the attention it deserves.
- Summarize your business case
You don’t have to create proposals manually
With a compelling executive summary, you and your products or services will remain top of mind long after your prospective customer finishes reading your RFP response or sales proposal. It’s worth taking the time to get it right, but you don’t need to start from scratch every time.
To get rid of repetitive work, so you can focus on refining your messaging and customizing your proposals, check out Upland Qvidian. Qvidian is specifically designed to automate away the tedious and time-consuming aspects of your RFP response and sales proposal creation processes.
The Qvidian team is skilled in helping customers get started quickly with a strategy that supports sustained, long-term success. To learn more about how Qvidian can uniquely help your organization, contact one of our RFP response and proposal experts.