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How to write an Executive Summary?

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FREE RFP Letters Toolkit, 2014 EditionAlso known as: executive synopsis, management synopsis, executive abstract, executive value proposition, management summary, abstract, versus executive summary, winning theme, proposal executive summary, win theme, executive summary versus abstract summary, vs. executive summary letter proposal executive summary, RFP response executive summary, abstract vs. executive summary, Request for Proposal executive summary, or RFP executive summary.

What is an Executive Summary?

Executive Summary definition: An Executive Summary is, basically, anything but a product presentation, and nothing but a sales pitch. Far more than an abstract merely presenting the rest of the proposal, it's your unique opportunity to convince the reader that your proposal provides the best value proposition: the best benefit at the lowest cost. The more technical your proposal, the more critical the executive summary is likely to be.

Given the proposal cover letter is not part of the proposal per se, the executive summary remains the most important section of your proposal. Keep in mind the executive summary is the only part of your proposal that will be read by each and any member of the decision panel, if any. More important, experience tells you in reality that it's the only part that an executive, a person who has the definitive power over the final decision, will read from your proposal.

Common misspellings: exective summary, execitive summary, eccutive summary, managment summary, excutive summary, executive sumary, executive summry, or eecutive summary.

Writing an Executive Summary

By writing your Executive Summary first, you ensure the rest of your proposal to be aligned with the persuasive message you want to deliver.

Use the executive summary template and sample provided in your FREE RFP Letters Toolkit to create your own executive summary from a template.

You said Executive Summary, not abstract

This is the "executive summary vs. abstract summary" battle. All so-called experts say that you should write the executive summary like an abstract, that is, when the rest of your proposal is written. Because this part is called the summary of the whole document, logic dictates that you should write the document first in order to be able to summarize it.

And that's exactly the pitfall to avoid when writing an executive summary for your proposal: the executive summary is not an abstract. We may even say, paradoxically, that the executive summary, unlike the abstract, is not a summary, it's your value proposition, your best, unique opportunity to sell your solution!

To stand out from your competitors, read Abstract vs. Executive Summary: Discover The Main Differences.

You've said executive summary as a value proposition

Indeed, by doing so, you give an opportunity to people, particularly technical, who will write the rest of the document not to be aligned with your initial objective which is to focus on benefits (to be persuasive) instead of features (to be demonstrative).

At the contrary, we highly recommend you to write the executive summary first. Don't you think a well-written value proposition should be done first? Indeed, it will act as guidance for other people for writing the rest of the document and ensure a consistent winning theme. Furthermore, to be executive, the summary should be readable by non-technical people and, therefore, should not overwhelm the reader with too much technical information, if any, or too many details.

By keeping your executive summary concise and precise, you will enable the reader to seize your point quickly. An amazing consequence is that, following the rule of electricity saying that current takes the path presenting the least resistance, evaluators and decision makers, guided by their human nature advising them to save resources for later, will pick up the shortest or lightest proposal first. If it's yours, it will serve as a metric for the rest of the evaluation process. Should your message be persuasive, the reader won't find a better proposition.

What is a winning theme?

Have you ever heard about Continuous Business Alignment (CBA)? It's a not-that-well-known management discipline that makes sure an organization, as a whole, is aligned to its customers' needs. More specifically, it ensures, in fact, that all services and work forces, namely employees, are focused on proper, continuous, circular alignment of processes with both their strategy (organization's mission statement) and their tactics (business goals and objectives). Use win themes as CBA tools to stay on the right track, and thus be able to hit your target.

So, a winning theme, also called win theme, is acting as a CBA tool to ensure the rest of the proposal is aligned to the strategy and tactics defined in order to better persuade the evaluation team that the proposed solution fits all, and sometimes exceeds the requirements set forth in the Request for Proposals (RFP), Invitation to Bid (ITB), or Invitation for Bids (IFB).

How to decide on a winning theme?

Winning themes ensure your writing to be aligned with both your strategy and tactics. Several win themes can and should support and substantiate your overall strategy within the same proposal. For instance, if your overall strategy is cost reduction, win themes could non exhaustively be:

As we said, you should use several of them, the ones that reflect the most your strategy.

Executive summary, executive summary, executive summary, ...

Think about executive summary as executive, then summary, as follows:

  1. Executive first. Intended for managers. Focus on value proposition, i.e. expected value, utility, associated costs, and total cost of ownership (TCO). Write it first, it will serve as guidelines for the rest of the proposal, and then
  2. Summary last. When the proposal is written or almost, make sure no important idea or information is buried and, therefore, missing in the executive summary. It's like a Q&A process.

The only tradeoff you should be willing to make to this rule is: write the executive summary first, and, eventually and with parsimony, rewrite it when the proposal is done.

The Executive Summary Format

Understanding how to better write your executive summary

Your executive summary should contain your value proposition, which should be seized right away by your reader.

It is highly recommended that you to read the suggestions below in order to write a proper and successful executive summary. When you write your value proposition, use representation instead of marketing puffery or commercial fluff.

  1. Use the executive summary template and sample provided in your FREE RFP Letters Toolkit to create your own executive summary from a template.
  2. First, there are 3 critical items -no more, no less- that your executive summary must present. You will find these 3 most important items in your executive summary template.
  3. To give credibility to your executive summary, these important items have to be presented in a simple, declarative, and persuasive manner by applying the S.P.A. rule to your value proposition. Learn what is the S.P.A. rule and how to use it by requesting your FREE executive summary template.
  4. Finally, to put all odds on your side, your executive summary must, in its conclusion, highlight the most important point of your value proposition. Discover the most efficient closing statement in your executive summary template.
  5. Final tips. Use action verbs in your value proposition to show the path of enlightenment to your customer. Write your executive summary for the best readability, meaning the lowest grade level possible. This way, you ensure that no barrier hampers your reader's full understanding of your point. Correct, edit, and revise your executive summary -but only when you're finished writing it.
  6. Use the executive summary template and sample provided in your FREE RFP Letters Toolkit to create your own executive summary from a template.
  7. Since things sometimes get a little more complicated than usual, remember to consult a lawyer for further information before considering your executive summary as definitive.

By following this executive summary format as an executive summary template for your proposal, you ensure your writing to be as persuasive as possible.

Tips about writing an Executive Summary

Here are some tips on how to write your executive summary, and how not to write it.

Do's and Don'ts of Executive Summary:

Best Executive Summary Books

  1. Persuasive Business Proposals
    by Tom Sant
    224 pages
    ISBN: 0814471536

    Book abstract:
    In a business climate marked by increased competition, tight budgets and stiffer regulations, your prospective clients are more intent than ever on making smart vendor choices. Before they'll give you that contract, you've got to prove to them that your firm represents their best, or only option.

    This new edition of Persuasive Business Proposals is the key to presenting your firm's strategic value to any potential client. Tom Sant's frank and practical approach has already helped thousands of firms make sure that the quality of their proposals reflects well on the work they provide. In this second edition you'll find new strategies for enhancing results by making proposal writing a core business function - not simply an offshoot of someone's 'real' job. You'll also learn how to align your solutions directly with the customer's business needs and objectives.

    This crucial B2B tool includes dozens of fully updated techniques that will help you:
    • Develop, write, and deliver an individually tailored, client-focused message every time
    • Establish your credibility through convincing, concrete evidence
    • Structure letters and formal proposals you write to present a Winning Value Proposition that presents your firm as the ideal solution to clients' needs
    • Follow up your proposal submission, analyze the client's decision, and incorporate lessons learned to take better advantage of future opportunities

    Persuasive Business Proposals also gives you valuable tools for maximizing the clarity of your writing, editing your proposal for optimal impact, and avoiding the six traps that can undermine even the strongest proposals -for example relying on clichés and hype instead of highlighting your core strengths and track record.

    Read more about
    :Persuasive Business Proposals

  2. The Consultant's Guide to Proposal Writing: How to Satisfy Your Clients and Double Your Income
    by Herman Holtz
    320 pages
    ISBN: 0471249173

    Book abstract:
    When clients make the decision to hire you, they are putting more than money on the line. They are also putting their company's future and its reputation in your hands. That's why your success depends on your ability to gain prospective clients' complete confidence, not only in the solutions you offer, but in you -your capabilities and character.

    In this latest edition of his bestselling guide, Herman Holtz-the "Consultant's Consultant"-shows that the most effective means of doing this is with a strategic, well-written proposal. But that's only part of the picture. He also shows you why and how a winning proposal, when correctly used, is an indispensable tool for forging lasting relationships with clients and increasing income.

    The first book devoted exclusively to this critical consulting skill, The Consultant's Guide to Proposal Writing takes you through all of the steps involved in researching, planning, designing, writing, and presenting winning proposals. Drawing upon nearly three decades of experience as a successful consultant to both government and Fortune 500 companies, Herman Holtz shares everything he knows about what clients really want to see in a proposal and how to give it to them. He also provides valuable tips on effective language and design, what information to include and what to leave out, how not to undersell or oversell yourself, and how to generate interest in additional and future services.

    This Third Edition has been thoroughly updated to cover all of the important technological advances that have occurred since the last edition, as well as important new trends in the consulting markets themselves. You'll find a new chapter on how to market yourself in cyberspace via Web sites, e-mail, and other online resources, plus a new section on the latest in desktop publishing technology and how to make the most of it. This edition also features guidance for the growing numbers of consultants specializing in proposal writing, and for professional writers who would like to add proposal writing to the services they offer clients.

    The Consultant's Guide to Proposal Writing, Third Edition gives you everything you need to know to simplify one of the most difficult consulting jobs-winning clients.

    From America's foremost expert on consulting, a complete guide to developing winning proposals

    A winning proposal is more than just a statement of proposed consulting services. An effective, well-crafted proposal is a valuable marketing tool that can:

    • Win new clients
    • Generate new business from established ones
    • As much as double your income!

    In this updated Third Edition of America's #1 consultant's guide to proposal writing, Herman Holtz -the "Consultant's Consultant" -tells you everything you need to know to research, design, write, present, and get the most out of winning proposals. He tells you what clients are really looking for in proposals and how to give it to them. And he shows you how to:

    • Get the most out of the latest desktop publishing technology
    • Market yourself via the Web, e-mail, and other online vehicles
    • Find and tap key online research sources
    • Discover the keys to creativity when you write
    • Avoid common errors in proposals you write
    • Safeguard your proposal against piracy
    • Solve the problem of page-limited proposals
    • Develop cost, technical, presentation, and competitor strategies
    • Write and sell to the government
    • Make the bid vs. no-bid analysis and decision, decide when to write

    Read more about: The Consultant's Guide to Proposal Writing

  3. Handbook For Writing Proposals
    by L. Sue Baugh, Robert J. Hamper
    224 pages
    ISBN: 0844232742

    Book abstract:
    In this easy-to-use, concise, and thorough handbook, two veteran business professionals guide you through the entire proposal-writing process, from the initial contact through completion and follow-up. You'll benefit from the authors' expertise and insight on:
    • Which jobs to target-and which to pass up
    • Setting up a strong proposal team
    • Evaluating potential projects
    • Preparing schedules and identifying tasks
    • Writing and producing a first-rate proposal
    • Delivering a show-stopping client presentation

    In their unique nine-step proposal-writing process, the authors demonstrate how even a first-time proposal writer can create a winning proposal. Throughout the book, you'll follow a case study of a proposal-writing team in action, and chapter checklists, summaries, and samples will keep you on time, on track, and on budget. If you want to profit from every proposal you write, the Handbook for Writing Proposals will show you how. In nine easy steps, you can produce and deliver professional, polished, and profitable proposals every time.

    Read more about: Handbook For Writing Proposals


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POGO is pleased to see that most federal departments and agencies have finally made public their draft or final scientific integrity plans in response to President Obama's March 2009 Memorandum on Scientific Integrity. However, POGO is concerned that several agencies have not included contractors or grantees in their plans. The failure to ensure the integrity of science performed outside the government but funded with taxpayer dollars is particularly troubling given that some of these departments or agencies—such as the Department of Energy (DOE)—rely heavily or nearly entirely on contractors and grantees for scientific research. .

14 Federal Agencies Fail to Fulfill the President's Directive: Billions in Taxpayer-Funded Science Not Included in Integrity Plans and Policies

The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Food and Drug Administration were two of 14 federal agencies that failed to set proper scientific standards for contract and grantee researchers, despite the fact that tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer money funds this science each year, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) said in a letter sent today to the Obama administration..

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The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) urges you to support the Department of Defense's (DoD) legislative proposal for the National Defense Authorization Act that will result in improved oversight of billions of dollars' worth of so-called "commercial" goods and services..

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U.S. Wasting Billions on Over-Priced Service Contracts; Government Lacks Data to Make Informed Contracting Decisions, POGO Tells Congressional Subcommittee

The federal government more than doubled its spending on service contracts over the last decade, despite having inaccurate data on the "true" cost of those contracts—largely because of the misguided notion that outsourcing is more cost effective than using federal workers, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) told a Senate subcommittee today..

POGO's Scott Amey testimony on "Contractors: How Much Are They Costing the Government?"

I want to thank Chairman McCaskill, Ranking Member Portman, and the Subcommittee for asking the Project On Government Oversight (POGO to submit written testimony about the important, but often ignored, issue of service contracting costs. Although there are many initiatives in place to cut federal agency spending and reduce the costs associated with the federal workforce, the cost of contractor services has escaped scrutiny. Such avoidance is extremely disturbing because the government annually spends more taxpayer dollars on contractor services than it spends on goods, over $320 billion and $210 billion in FY 2011, respectively. To put that level of spending in perspective, total contract spending was $205 billion in FY 2000, of which services accounted for $128 billion of the total..

Last Modified: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 9:25:11 PM

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