The entire purpose of your bid’s executive summary is to hero your win strategy. Clearly articulate how your solutions and the unique benefits they bring address their buyer issues. It is your shop window, where your big sell helps you stand out amongst your competitors. It is arguably the most valuable component of a bid. Even if it’s not a requirement, my advice is to write one and submit it. The buyer can disregard it in the evaluation – but that doesn’t mean it won’t catch the eye of a big wig or find its way into the workbag of a decision-maker to read on their commute home.
How to structure the executive summary
How you structure the executive summary is driven by who you think you need to influence. If you are trying to influence a CEO and she is the biggest decision-maker, pitch it predominantly to her. If you think the biggest decision-maker is going to be a practical operational person, again, pitch it to him, but remember you will have a wider audience reading the document too.
The executive summary is also the time where you have to commit yourself. Do not put out executive summaries with weasel words - language such as “we will endeavor to” or “we will ensure” or “we will develop.” Just commit, make strong and clear statements “by March of this year, we will have delivered X, Y and Z” or “our mobilization will get you established within 16 days”. If you think by being ambiguous you leave the possibility to backtrack from commitments, usually because they are un-costed, then accept that you have increased your chances of losing.
Not all bids warrant a substantial crafted piece of writing. In the past, we have used a postcard as an executive summary, to say “Why us?” on one side and on the other side “Because we will deliver you X, Y and Z.” On another bid, a bookmark doubled as our executive summary. We needed to create a bookmark because the bid submission was made up of five volumes. We also knew that the buyer wasn’t keen on excessive flashiness, a glossy magazine style executive summary would not have done us any favors. To this day, the buyer has kept the bookmark on his desk, to keep reminding our client of what they promised in their bid.
When to write it
Write the executive summary after you have your win strategy, after you have developed the solutions to the buyer issues and drafted the bulk of the proposal content. To help you draft the document use the ‘Populator’ tool, which is about capturing every big commitment, discriminator, and benefit as you go along, during the bid process, so at the right time you have the components that make up your executive summary.
Tips for developing a powerful executive summary
- Have one author write the document.
- Write original copy. Don’t rehash sections of the bid.
- Don’t slip in something that’s not covered in the bid.
- Don’t cram in everything you can think of.
- Make sure it stands out from the rest of the bid, keep the bid brand, but use a different color.
- The executive summary may be your last opportunity to get your message across. It can be a game-changer in a close competition.
- Even if it’s not a requirement write one and submit it. Let the buyer decide if they want to read it.
- It doesn’t have to be an obvious document. Take a subtle approach; put your big sell on a post card or a bookmark.
- Write it after you have crafted your win strategy, after solution development, and after the bulk of the proposal content has been drafted.