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Selling Your Capabilities in an Executive Summary

It's common practice in the industry to include an Executive Summary at the beginning of your proposal response. As the first section read by evaluators, a well-written, engaging Executive Summary can immediately distinguish your capabilities from those of your competitors and spark interest in the rest of your submission. However, a boring, lackluster summary can also set the expectation of an equally mundane response. To make the most out of your Executive Summary, we have assembled our tried-and-true tips for crafting an impressive start to your next proposal below.

Executive Summary of a Federal Proposal Infographic

Limit Company Background Information

Often we see the Executive Summary used as a company biography—detailing the history of the company and current service capabilities rather than summarizing the key selling points of the proposal. Avoid this pitfall by keeping company information brief and leaving space for a convincing rationale relevant to the specific procurement. If the proposal is submitted as a joint venture or as a team of multiple companies, clearly discuss the arrangement and briefly hit on the role of each team member firm rather than providing a history for each company.

Relate to the Client/Contracting Agency

One of the most important aspects of a superior Executive Summary is the ability to articulate how your solution will impact and benefit the client. Take a step back and look at your proposal through the perspective of the evaluators. Your Executive Summary should highlight the key messages that will resonate most with the contracting officer. Do you help solve their problems? Do you minimize their risk? Can you save them money? Use their language and connect your offering with their concerns to truly be effective in your approach.

Focus on Key Features and Benefits

The best Executive Summaries are those written to persuasively discriminate your firm from other offerors. Structure your draft to highlight the benefits of your approach, backing up these elements with quantifiable proof statements. These benefits will likely be the themes that are woven throughout each subsequent section of the response and ensure a cohesive submission.

Pro-tip: Identify and discuss the discriminating elements of the response upfront in the Proposal Kick-off Meeting to the greatest extent possible. This will ensure all section authors and subject matter experts are aware of and incorporate, the key features and benefits in section drafts. If it is difficult to clearly define the features and benefits upfront, prepare the Executive Summary last when the themes of each section are more discernible.

Customize to Submission and Evaluation Criteria

A general, one-size-fits-all approach is not going to pay dividends here. The Executive Summary should summarize the key points of the proposal and may even serve as a roadmap for the rest of the submission. Use this space wisely to provide an overview of your offering as detailed in the required factors/sections of the proposal.

Pro-tip: Keep the Basis of Award in mind when crafting this section. If the procurement will be awarded to the lowest-priced, technically acceptable offeror, there will be no return on the time invested in a superior Executive Summary.

Keep it Brief

After all, “Summary” is in the title! Just like employment resumes, Executive Summaries that ramble on and on are likely headed to the recycle bin. Concentrate on a few select benefits in a maximum of two pages rather than detailing every aspect of your offering. Use short, concise paragraphs, bullets and call-out boxes to drive home selling points. As a rule of thumb, if your competitor can say the same thing about their capabilities, it will not differentiate your response and can be left out of the final draft.

Pro-tip: Don’t try to cram in every last word. Leave a balance of white space and/or imagery to ensure your Executive Summary is knowledgeable as well as aesthetically pleasing.

Allow Time for an Independent Review

Engage the fresh, unbiased feedback of an independent reviewer to proof your draft for grammar, spelling and typos. Beyond these basics use this review to ensure key points have been articulated. Ask the reviewer to identify the key features and benefits after reviewing the draft. If they align with those discussed during the Kick-off Meeting, you’ve successfully crafted your approach. On the flip side, if the reviewer is unclear on the major takeaways, now is the time to dissect and reiterate the highlights of your proposed offering.

By incorporating these proven approaches, you can level up your next Executive Summary and ensure it grabs the attention of evaluators. If you find yourself pressed for time and need some help, drop us a line and let us do the handy work. We are experts on the entire proposal process and can guide you through the process of identifying key features and the benefits to your clients to distinguish your proposal from competitors. For more information about how Meridian West fits into your big picture, check out this article!

Does writing your executive summary still seem too daunting? Meridian West is your solution. Contact us today and request a quote!

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