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The Executive Summary: Your Proposal's First Impression

How to make your Executive Summary a Powerful Opening Pitch

When it comes to winning government contracts, the executive summary is one of the most important sections of your entire proposal. Too often, companies treat it as an afterthought instead of using it to really sell their capabilities upfront.

 "A lot of times companies shove the executive summary to the back and leave it as an extra. It's not a big deal," says proposal consultant Jen Siciliano. "I think that's a missed opportunity to crystallize what sets your company apart."

The executive summary will likely be the first section the agency evaluators read. It's your chance to grab their attention with a compelling pitch that clearly articulates why you are the best choice for the contract. Following are some key tips from Siciliano on crafting an impactful executive summary.

Customize It Specifically for This Opportunity

Don't recycle a generic corporate overview. The executive summary must be customized precisely for the particular opportunity you're pursuing. It has to be tailored to this opportunity and customer. You're saying this is our company and this is how we can specifically help you solve your challenges.

Frame It Around the Customer's Underlying Needs

Rather than simply restating the RFP requirements, position your capabilities around the core issues driving those requirements. Tell the customer we know what your issue is and why it's a hot button problem. This is our philosophy on how to attack that kind of problem head-on.

Provide Relevant, Specific Proof Points

Vague claims about being the "industry leader" ring hollow. Instead, cite directly applicable examples that substantiate your qualifications. You want to say we have addressed this type of problem on X past contracts with agencies A, B, and C that are relevant to this customer.

Ditch the Marketing Fluff and Corporate-speak

The executive summary should be clear, concise, and jargon-free. Customers don't want to hear about your 'wheelhouse’, they just want to know exactly what you do and how they will benefit from your offering. Use straightforward language focused tightly on your capabilities relating to the customer’s specific requirement.

Have an Objective Second Set of Eyes Review

The executive summary is too important to be dashed off at the last minute by the owner or proposal manager alone. Bring in someone detached from writing the proposal to review it objectively. You want someone to look at it and say 'hey, that's a claim we can't back up' or 'you're using boilerplate content from a different proposal that doesn't apply here.

The executive summary sets the tone for the evaluators' perception of your entire proposal from the very first page. By investing upfront effort into tailoring a tight, customer-focused, and hard-hitting executive summary, you can grab hold of the evaluators' attention and compel them to keep reading to learn more about your solution. Don't squander this critical first opportunity to sell your company's differentiators head-on.

Follow the tips above to make your executive summary an opening pitch that really packs a punch.

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