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The Three Uses of Executive Summaries

When a proposal effort is floundering and far behind schedule, what’s needed immediately is a rapid assessment of where the proposal effort IS, in relation to where it SHOULD be. In these circumstances, I ask: "Where is the Executive Summary“?

Why do I ask that? Because it gives an immediate insight into how thoughtfully the team has considered, and documented, the win themes and discriminators, and communicated those to the proposal team. Below, I show the eight important elements of the Executive Summary. But first, the three uses:

  1. Communicate with the customer. Well, that’s fairly obvious and not exactly front page news. Of course, if we create an Executive Summary, we’re going to give it to the customer. Even when there’s a page limitation, unless specifically prohibited, there SHOULD be an Executive Summary included in the submitted proposal.
  2. Communicate with the proposal team. Now THERE’S a NEW use. We actually USE the Executive Summary as a mechanism to communicate with the proposal team. So, if we’re going to use it to communicate with the proposal team, we’d better write it FIRST, instead of LAST. This is entirely consistent with my contention that, when you begin to create a proposal, if the proposal team can’t write a clear and convincing Executive Summary, it probably can’t write a convincing, winning proposal. Stated positively, the ability to write a good Executive Summary is a very good start at writing a complete, winning proposal.
  3. Communicate with Top Management. Because my Executive Summaries have a Commitment Letter, signed by a member of Top Management, this means that Top Management can be constructively engaged in the proposal process. I’ve never seen a top manager refuse to review a letter the proposal team is expecting him/her to sign! Since the Number One Reason for Losing is the lack of Top Management commitment in the proposal process, this is an excellent way of ensuring involvement: Draft the Executive Summary, including the Commitment Letter, and present it for review and approval.

Here are the eight important elements in Executive Summaries:

  1. A cover, showing (best solution) OUR people doing the CUSTOMER’S work. (This really means using photos of our people on current projects doing similar work.)
  2. The inside front cover shows the 4-6 discriminating themes, and that answer the customer’s implicit question, "Why Us“?
  3. The Commitment Letter, signed by a representative of our company, to the counterpart in the customer organization.
  4. A Schedule for Delivery of Products, which answer the customer’s implicit question, "When do I get my stuff“?
  5. A visual showing some type of work, or process flow, demonstrating that we, as the offeror, really know how to accomplish this work.
  6. Logos - ours and the customer’s.
  7. Photographs of our people who have name and face recognition with the customer, because this increases the believability and desirability of our proposal.
  8. If possible, and if relevant, a photo or schematic of the place where we’re going to do this work.


Written by John Lauderdale . Published by Organizational Communications, Inc. Republished with permission.



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