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How to Write an Executive Summary for Your Business Proposal

Imagine the first page of a book you’re really interested in reading being horribly boring. Now imagine that same page is inside of a book that you were not super jazzed about reading in the first place. That very first boring page is going to make the rest of the book either really excruciating to read or make it all the easier for you to throw it to the side to never open again.

Guess what? The same thing applies to your business proposal and its executive summary. This article will discuss how to write an Executive Summary for your business proposal so that you won’t risk neglect of one of the most impactful pieces of your business proposal submission.

First, let’s get into what an Executive Summary is and what it is not.

What is an Executive Summary?

Proposals used to be difficult to write before. (Now the world has Zbizlink as a proposal response software making it all better). Lack of clear understanding on how to respond to a business proposal led to the challenge’s proposal writers used to face.

Lucky for you, you not only have the best proposal management software available, here you can also receive clear understanding on a critical business proposal element – the Executive Summary.

Think back to the scenario up top.

The Exec Summary is an introduction of your company and your solution to the evaluators of your business proposal. A first impression! It is almost always positioned as the very first content page of your business proposal or will always precede your solution.

Your Executive Summary must be eye-catching, informative, and solution driven. Sound easy? Well, it gets tricky when you craft something that compelling within a one to three-page limit. The request for proposal (RFP) requirements will let you know just how many pages you get – usually one to three pages maximum.

Learn: what is the key to writing an effective proposal in response to an​ rfp?

Yes, the Executive Summary should somehow incorporate all these fine elements into a one to two page “summary”. Even if the RFP does not have a page limit, you’re better off keeping the Executive Summary short, sweet, and to the point.

Your next question is probably “how?”. We will get into that a little further down.

First, let’s make it clear about what an Executive Summary is not.

Your Executive Summary is not merely just a summary statement describing your proposal (talk about a misnomer!). It is an opportunity for you to knock the readers’ socks off with a mini story of who your company is, your solution to the prospective client’s problem, and the benefits of that solution. Emphasis on the word “story”.

Here are the top 03 ways to structure your Executive Summary:

  • Make it a narrative, NOT a statement. Instead of just stating the obvious, open the beginning of your proposal with an Executive Summary that is compelling and invites the reader into the narrative of the proposal. Write to the readers, not at them.
  • Craft a capability profile, not a summary. Your Executive Summary is not simply a summary. The proposal readers are evaluating your proposal as soon as they begin reading. They will read the full proposal anyway, so it is best to present your company’s strengths as a potential partner in the Executive Summary with a solutions overview and proof points.
  • Emphasize the customer first, then yourself. Remember that you are writing the proposal to a prospective client. Introduce your understanding of the client’s needs first before you go into the narrative about why your company is the best choice.

An Executive Summary Example:

Hope you didn’t think we were going to tell you how an Executive Summary should be structured and not provide an example. Check out the example from a real-life staff augmentation state government proposal below to get a better idea of how to write an Executive Summary for Your Business Proposal.

An Executive Summary Example:

Notice how the Executive Summary example above is only one page. The writer had to show understanding of the prospective client’s needs, the company differentiator, and the company solution within that page limit.

The Executive Summary Breakdown

Your Executive Summary should take the same approach. Follow these next steps to learn how to break down the Executive Summary components into parts and how to put it all together for the best business proposal Executive Summary:

Part 1: Understanding the Client’s Needs

Show your understanding of the client’s needs in the Executive Summary. All the details you have about the client and the client’s needs will help you craft an introductory paragraph that shows your understanding of the requirements. It is the easiest way to stand out from the competition – or at least from bidders who did not do any research on the client at all. Work with your sales team and capture manager to gain client-specific information (If you are at the proposal stage of business development, you should have a good amount of knowledge about the client).

Use the information you have logged into your capture management software to develop an opening paragraph that does the following:

  • State the client’s name, mission, or background purpose given in the request for proposal.
  • State your understanding of the need for vendor partnerships based on the background purpose given in the request for proposal.
  • State the benefit of partnering with your company as a vendor based on the background purpose given in the request for proposal.

Part 2: Your Company’s Differentiators

Next, you can really sell your company. You know what the prospective client needs and the expectations from vendors (found in the request for proposal). Present the top 03 company differentiators that relate specifically to the purpose of the request for proposal. SELL YOURSELF!

We’ll admit that most of your proposal should speak to the client and reference the client more than it references your company. Read more about it here. However, in this part of the Executive Summary, it is highly recommended that you sell the key differentiators of your company to the prospective client.

For example, perhaps the prospective client is working with an incumbent that charges high prices. Your differentiator could be discounted pricing or areas of cost savings like 24/7 customer support or nearby offices to reduce travel costs, and so on.

Part 3: Your Solution  

The whole purpose of writing a business proposal is to explain your solution for the prospective client’s problem in detail. Use the third part of your Executive Summary to explain how your company will achieve the benefits that the client is looking for using your solution. Do both. Present your solution and the anticipated benefits based on your understanding of what the client’s requirements.

Be sure not to guarantee anything, as things may change if given new information later. Yet, providing proof points or sample figures from past performance that demonstrate potential benefits of your solution is a great selling point in this portion of the Executive Summary.


Your business proposal’s first page(s) are crucial to catching and keeping the reader’s attention. Look at the Executive Summary as a RFP response tool to be competitive and to set the tone for the rest of the business proposal.

In fact, if you want to write your Executive Summary last, instead of first, that’s not a bad idea.

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