7 tips – How to write an Executive Summary for a Proposal

Jennifer Tomlinson
Written by Jennifer Tomlinson / Aug 22, 2023

As Executive VP of Marketing, I work to identify business needs and help QorusDocs’ clients generate revenue more effectively and efficiently. I spearhead efforts to increase brand awareness through digital marketing and client engagement.

Undoubtably, your firm’s proposal will not be the only pitch coming across the desk of your potential client. With an inbox potentially overflowing with competitors’ proposals, your prospective client is looking for a proposal that stands out from the crowd, a proposal that immediately conveys the value your professional services firm can deliver; the reader wants to feel confident right out of the gate that your organization can get the job done.

As a member of the proposal or business development team, it's your job to instill this feeling of confidence in the reader right from the outset as they review your proposal. To accomplish this objective, your proposal needs to lead with a compelling Executive Summary that not only offers a synopsis of your skills, knowledge, and experience, but leaves no doubt in their mind that your firm can deliver services that meet—or ideally, exceed—your prospect’s unique needs and expectations.

So how do you write an Executive Summary for a proposal that ticks all these boxes? The key is to shine a big spotlight on your firm’s differentiators, in tandem with pertinent examples that demonstrate your capabilities. Here are a few pointers for writing an Executive Summary that increases proposal buy-in.

7 tips for writing an executive summary for a winning proposal

  1. Lead with gratitude

    In the Introduction section of the Executive Summary, express thanks for the opportunity to propose your services for the project or contract. Using first-person language (e.g., We are pleased to have the opportunity…) can help establish a more conversational and approachable style.
  1. Grab their attention

    The Executive Summary should grab the reader’s attention and unmistakably demonstrate why your firm is best positioned to perform the work. How do you ensure all eyeballs are on your firm? Get straight to the point: identify the missing gaps or opportunities that affect your prospect’s highest-level strategic goals and showcase how your firm can address those needs. Mission accomplished.
  1. Use the power of three

    Executive Summaries commonly highlight three key selling points or differentiators that communicate your business value and potential impact on a prospect’s operations. This parameter is backed by research that shows that people have a limited working memory of three to four items. While your firm may excel in many areas, reducing the cognitive load by honing in on a trio of select differentiators will help focus the client on your offering.

    We suggest you craft your Executive Summary around three differentiators: 1) your team; 2) the firm’s experience; and 3) other standout features that position your organization as the ideal team to complete the work. Remember to reference the prospect’s industry and business environment to demonstrate your understanding of the context of their challenges.
  1. Differentiator #1: Team

    Since clients seeking professional services are investing in your people and their expertise, your team becomes a key differentiator. What skills and knowledge does the team bring to the client? What experience do they personally have that will benefit the client? Have they performed this kind of work for a similar client in this industry?

    In a few sentences, you need to convince the prospect that your team can solve their problem. Name the team members most likely to have an impact on this project and clearly present why they are the best match for this project, including examples of similar work performed for satisfied clients. (Be sure you have permission from past clients to reference their name, logo, and a description of the work performed.)
  1. Differentiator #2: Experience

    Your prospective client wants to know that you’ve been down this road before, that you can walk the walk. Past experience is demonstrable proof of your firm’s capabilities and will help prospects envision how you can also help them with their pain points.
  1. Differentiator #3: Standout features

    This section of the Executive Summary is your opportunity to highlight any other outstanding features of your firm that establish your suitability for the project. What else differentiates your team and experience from the competition? What makes your firm the best choice for the work?

    Perhaps your firm has expertise in a particular niche area or you’ve previously completed work that lays the groundwork for your prospect’s project. Or maybe you have the ability to serve the client across multiple locations that are favorable to their geographical needs. By thoroughly understanding the prospect’s business, industry, and unique challenges, you can determine which additional capabilities and features of your firm would resonate the most.
  1. Make life easier with a template

    If you’re still not sure where to begin and would like more guidance for writing an Executive Summary for a proposal, we’ve got your back. The QorusDocs Executive Summary template walks you through drafting an introduction, how to effectively convey your unique differentiators, and a conclusion that reaffirms why your firm should be selected for the project.

    In fact, we’ve got templates for all your proposal writing needs. At QorusDocs, we’re committed to helping our customers pitch more often, create compelling proposals and response documents, and win clients more consistently. In addition to our customer-focused webinars, success stories, and informative e-books and guides, we’ve developed a series of templates to help simplify and accelerate your pursuit process and get the most of proposal management software.

    And for even more tools, tips, and tricks tailored exclusively for professional services organizations, don’t miss the QorusDocs Professional Services Resources Hub, an extensive collection of resources that will eliminate the mystery and hard graft out of proposal writing—from Executive Summaries, CVs and bios to responding to RFPs, RFQs and more. Time to get busy and start winning new clients!

Download Insiders’ Guide to Planning Great Presentations in Professional Services Pursuits