An excellent executive summary could mean the difference between selling or sinking your proposal.
I was recently invited to a networking event where I was given 30 seconds to explain what nFold does.
Impossible? Not if you like a challenge that gets your little grey cells working. If you only had 30 seconds to pitch (the proverbial elevator pitch), would the written equivalent be an executive summary on a page?
An excellent executive summary could mean the difference between selling or sinking your proposal. It is an essential component of a sales proposal (if not the most). Yet, many salespeople don’t know how to write one that grabs attention.
Knowing what an executive summary is, may be the first step writing the perfect one.
An executive summary provides busy people with information fast to decide a course of action. Mainly, it helps them determine if they should spend their precious time reading the rest of your proposal.
There are many ways to structure an executive summary. Strategic Proposals’ 5-Section method, Tom Sant’s NOSE model and Shipley’s four-box model, to name three. It is not so much about choosing a perfect model than using your chosen model perfectly.
Regardless of the model, there are a few universal rules when it comes to executive summary writing. Here is my favourite five:
1. Write it first
Seeing as an executive summary is not an abstract of your proposal (did you know that?) but really a business case, you write it first. By writing it first, you ensure that the rest of your proposal aligns with the win theme and strategy. It keeps the proposal team marching in the same direction.
And to the sceptics, it is (obviously) not the final version.
2. Less is more.
Get to the point as fast as possible but without sounding brusque. Don’t waffle or try to impress with big words. You might not sound as clever as you think – especially if you use words the wrong way.
Human being’s attention span has reduced drastically over the past 20 years. It is now estimated to be even shorter than a goldfish’s attention span.
3. Paint a picture
“One picture is worth a thousand words.” This saying was invented by an advertising executive, Fred R. Barnard in 1911.
Compare the following. Need I say more?
4. As unique as a snowflake
Snowflakes are renowned for their uniqueness. Because a snowflake’s shape evolves as it journeys through the air, no two will ever be the same.
Think snowflake when you write an executive summary. No two customers are exactly alike. Don’t write as if they are, even when selling the same solution to them.
5. Review, review and review
Who does not have a funny – or horror – story about hitting send a split second before seeing a mistake in your writing? Toady, instead of today; booby when it should have been Bobby… the list goes on. Always review before hitting send: use an online tool like Grammarly, send it to an editor or ask a colleague. Whatever you do, don’t just right and send. (See what I did there?)
I did it, I explained nFold in 30 seconds. The truth be told, it took a heck of a lot longer to write the 30-second pitch than to do the actual pitch. But I guess fun was had by all ????. Why not try it?
By the way, if you were wondering what goes into an elevator pitch, here it is:
Hello, I am Izane Cloete-Hamilton, Master of Inspiration at nFold.
We are proposal strategists who help our clients win more sales proposals, tenders, and bids.
We collaborate on a once-off proposal or by taking ownership of your entire proposal operation.
We educate through Masterclasses teaching you global proposal best practices, and through APMP certification.
We automate with proposal tools that provide data-driven insights and eliminate manual, admin intensive and time-consuming tasks.
This is 74 words. According to Zizzo Group, you can say 75 to 85 words in a 30 Second radio Spot. https://zizzogroup.com/blog/radio-word-count/