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How to Write an Executive Summary?

Updated: Aug 6, 2021

executive summary

When you are competing for a job, the quality of your submitted proposal is what will make you stand out from the crowd. If you are writing an RFP (request for proposal) response, a normal part of that is writing an executive summary to help you land the job.

When writing one, you will have to be careful because a bad executive summary can rule you out of the game straight away. This is why we have gathered some key points you need to follow when writing a summary, which is supposed to help you build an impressive image of your company in the reader's eyes.

It’s important to understand that the executive summary is not a mandatory part of the RFP proposal. However, it is a vital part that shouldn’t be excluded. Writing an executive summary is like a statement from your company saying that you are the right fit for the client’s job.

So many companies cannot imagine submitting an RFP proposal without the executive summary, so it is a must to have it. On the other hand, missing to submit one may show that you didn’t seem too bothered to write one and mark you as fairly uninterested in the job.

Writing an executive summary should not be a time-consuming process. Since there are no technical requirements, it should take you lots of time. As the bidding company, you should already have a solid foundation of what to write and how you want your company to be represented.


What is an Executive Summary?

To write an executive summary, you need to understand what an executive summary is in the first place. When you meet someone for the first time - it is important to leave a good first impression.

An executive summary is supposed to do just that - to charm your potential investors and sell your solution right away. When they read the summary, they can then read the proposal, where all the details are explained thoroughly.

An executive summary is a business document that is written to be a part of the RFP proposal. As aforementioned, it is not a mandatory document by default, but the practice has shown that you must submit one to increase your chances of winning the bid.

While the RFP cover letter is supposed to be client-centered, an executive summary is vendor-centered. It is like an introduction - a way for the potential client to see who you are as their potential vendor and your business philosophy.

copy writing is a skill

Writing Principles, You Should Abide by

The most important thing is to keep the summary short. After all, the name is pretty self-explanatory. The executive summary should not be too long because the reader will lose interest very fast. Also, it should not be too short because the reader will not have enough information to keep him interested.

Further in the text, you’ll be able to find some key principles you should abide by if you want to get the maximum out of your summary. First, every executive summary should be having a personal touch and should not sound too technical. Don’t just state the facts. Make sure to explain their background as well.

content customization

No 1 - Personalize the Content

Each RFP response is crafted according to the needs and interests of the potential investor, so the summary should be customized as well. As already said, giving the executive summary a personal touch can take you a long way.

First of all, make sure that the writing content is highly personalized and adjusted to the reader. After all, the reader will decide if you are the right fit for the job based on the executive summary you have written.

Keeping it personal has multiple benefits - it will show the investor that you have spent time crafting the summary according to his specific needs. In addition, showing a client how you can solve his problem rather than offering a generic solution will earn you a few extra points.

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No 2 - Put Stress on Your Advantages

When you write an executive summary, you must express why you are the best fit for the project described in the RFP. In addition, you must be able to explain why you are different from the other companies out there.

It is a good idea to mention the strengths that make you the right company for the job. In addition, if you have any competitive advantage over other companies in your industry, make sure to list them as well.

The whole point behind this is to show the investor that you really have what it takes to finish the job. If you don’t have any competitive advantage, put stress on the list of benefits the investor will receive if they choose you for the project.


No 3 - Support Benefits with Data

You must prove how you are going to achieve the goals described in response to the RFP and show the foundation of your claims. It is not enough to make a promise you will do something - you need to provide data based on what you will do what you said you would.

If you can show that your claims stand on a solid “data ground,” it will be easier to build a trustworthy relationship with the potential partner and land a job.

No 4 - No Complicated Terms

Sometimes people can get carried away and be too technical when writing an executive summary or any other type of written content in general. So keep it simple is your go-to principle here.

If you do have to use a term that the other side may not understand, make sure to explain it thoroughly to avoid any confusion. This is because you never know who will read the summary, and you have to make the summary like the complete laik will read it.


No 5 - Proofread Everything

The executive summary must contain no mistakes - grammar ones, typos, or any misleading or incorrect information. Since the summary is the statement from the highest management of your company, it would seem unprofessional to submit it without checking first.

Another thing you need to look after is that you haven’t missed the point of the executive summary. As aforementioned, the summary can be easily confused with the cover letter, so make sure to double-check that you haven’t made that mistake.

Also, before sending the proposal alongside the executive summary, check whether the summary fits in the concept of the rest of the proposal. Sometimes, when the managers are writing the summary, they know how to get too carried away in explaining things that are totally missing the point of the proposal.

keep it short

No 6 - Optimize the Summary’s Lenght

The executive summary should not be filled with details because detailed specifications will be included later in the RFP response itself. Instead, it should include a brief explanation of the problem the client is facing and the explanation of your solution.

The length you should aim for is one page ideally, but if you feel like that is not gonna be enough, don’t go over two pages at any cost. Of course, due to the complexity of some projects, there might be some adjustments to this rule, but 99% of all RFP responses can be summarized in 1 to 2 pages.

If you feel like 2 pages are not enough, you are probably missing the point of an executive summary, and you need to think again about the concept and how you want it to be structured.

If you are still struggling after you finished restructuring, maybe it is a good idea to ask an SME (subject matter expert) to help you write the summary. It is always good to get a new, a fresh pair of eyes to point out the mistakes you might be making.

How to Structure the Executive Summary?

The practice has shown that the most successful executive summaries are divided into four sections, where each section summarizes one of the key points from the RFP response proposal.

These paragraphs or sections should be followed in the order that is listed below. This structure has been proven to work for the majority of companies on the market. However, since the executive summary is highly individual, you might feel like you need to change a thing or two from this suggested order.

General Information

The first paragraph should include general information about your company. Then, introduce yourself in a catchy way to keep the reader intrigued. Although it may seem like this introduction paragraph is filled with boring information, make sure to put effort while writing it, don’t just through the information on the paper.

This first paragraph is something that will hook the reader’s attention straight away. While writing this introduction, you should mention some general information listed in the RFP itself, but make sure not to be too technical or casual.

Although the intro is supposed to be written in a catchy way, as already said, don’t become too relaxed and cross the boundaries of professional correspondence. For example, making jokes or inserting funny sentences may seem highly inappropriate. This will mark you as someone very frivolous.

The goal is to encourage the reader to keep reading the summary, and later on, the whole proposal. Thus, these first few sentences will set the direction the whole proposal will follow later on.

Storytelling History

The sequel to the previous section should tell more about your company’s history, something like a company overview - how and when it was founded, the company's legacy, what are your mission and vision. This will help investors find out more about the back of your story to see where your foundations are.

Here, you have the complete freedom to focus on your company and nothing else and describe everything you consider relevant. You can tell an interesting story about how the company was founded, how long you are on the market, how the company was developing during the years.

You can also tell stories about the ambitions nurtured in your company, where you want the company to be in a 5-10 years period, what do you do to make that goal come true. You can also explain the mission and vision of the company in-depth so that the potential customer can understand what drives you towards success.

If there is something in your company’s history that sounds very relevant to the potential customer, make sure to write it down. Although this section is all about you, don’t write too much. Instead, make sure to write all the important information concisely.


The third paragraph should describe the solution you are offering and how the investor will benefit from it. Unfortunately, many get carried away here and tend to overwrite this paragraph. Again, remember that everything will be explained in more detail in the proposal - here, you just need to provide enough information for the reader to understand the general principles and idea.

The idea of this section is not to write the solution in detail but to explain how you came up with it. Maybe your experience or expertise played a vital role in creating the solution. Make sure to write down the process of how you got to the point.

Since the executive summary is supposed to give a wider overview of the whole situation, this is a good place for you to describe the impact of this solution if the customers choose to implement it.

And not only the impact on their business, but you can also explain the effects on the market itself, is something major going to change, and in what way. You can also explain how the position of the client’s company is going to change (for the better, of course).

Even minor changes in business can have a big impact on the market position, so make sure to explain that here. But, again, we can’t stress enough how important it is to give an overview, not the details themselves.


Lastly, finish the summary by showing the investor how they will benefit from the solution you are offering. Again, make sure to write tangible stuff, not general like “this will make you more profit.” If you do state something like this, make sure to put numbers as well - like how much profit, in what time, how it will impact their further work, etc.

While explaining the benefits, make sure to explain how you are the one who is supposed to deliver them. Make sure to write this section in a tone saying you are the one and only who can create such a value for them. If another company can offer the solution, you are offering under the same conditions. You need to think about the competitive advantage that will differentiate you from the others and make you stand out in the client’s eyes.

This competitive advantage is what will turn the wheel in your favor and probably land you a job. Explaining benefits without explaining how you are the one creating them is a loss deal. Always make sure to bind those two together.

Dos and Donts

What Not to Include In the Executive Summary

The executive summary is not a place where you will discuss certain things about the project itself, like the details about the tasks that should be completed to reach the project goals. It is not a place where you will be giving an accurate estimate of how you will meet the deadlines.

Also, the executive summary is not a document where you should be pointing out how you match the selection criteria. You can say that you are a good fit, but only because you can create value, provide benefits and deliver goals, not because you meet the technical requirements. Later on in the proposal, you will be discussing technical details.

This is not the place to discuss any payment terms, how you plan to spend the company funds, and the common pitfalls you might encounter. Also, try not to detail how you plan to execute the content management or how the sales team worked hard in crafting a solution for them.

Especially if public procurement is in place, you should not mention all these details. Government institutions are usually not interested in any of this information.

All of these aforementioned points represent something that will be discussed either in the proposal itself or later on during the meetings and briefings with the client.

If you're wondering how to write an executive summary or present your bidding documentation most professionally, at Tendi, we have the best designers and writers. Book a free consultation with us today and discover what we can do to boost your business and sales.

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