Executive Summary – Most Important Part of your Bid?

2nd March 2017

When you have written and submitted your bid, the only page you can guarantee will get read is the first page – the executive summary.  So, if you don’t capture your reader’s attention and interest on the first page, your bid won’t be successful.

The traditional approach to bid writing just doesn’t tackle this. I’ve read dozens of bids and trust me, many could be the antidote to insomnia.

How long should an executive summary be?

We know that we have to start our bid with an executive summary – the question is how long should it be?  Research suggests that it should be no longer than two pages. Yes, just two pages – or around 1000 words maximum.

Strangely, almost all advice suggests that you should write your executive summary last of all, even though it appears at the start of your bid.  Well, I couldn’t disagree more.  When writing a bid, I think that you need to start at the beginning by making a bulleted list of all the benefits you want to bring out in your executive summary (you can flesh it out and update it later). The most important part of your bid is the first paragraph, followed by the first page. If you can’t capture your reader’s attention quickly, you lose that initial advantage.

Bid Writing: A Simple, 4-Step Structure

The purpose of your bid is simple: to prove to your reader that your product or service will provide the best answer to their problem.  Because of this, I have found the following simple structure works best:

  1.  Elevator Pitch (first paragraph). The elevator pitch is the big idea (one minute reading time).
  2.  Executive Summary (one or two pages). An executive summary proves to your reader that your big idea is viable (five minutes reading time).
  3.  Main Body (as short or long as it needs to be – but the whole story). Your main body supports the claims made in the executive summary.
  4.  Appendices (the supporting act). The appendices support the main body.

And don’t be frightened of calling a spade a spade. Title the first section ‘Elevator Pitch’ – readers will know exactly what that means. It has to grab attention. In fact – make sure you use headings in your executive summary because it helps people to skim read your content.

Remember that it’s impossible to write your executive summary without knowing what the elevator pitch is. Equally, it’s impossible to write your main body without knowing what executive summary you’re trying to support.

I’ll be writing some more blog posts to help you write your executive summaries, so keep an eye out for more help on this soon.

Find out how to write better elevator pitches and executive summaries by giving me a call.

Alison Reeves

My clients win more Bids, Tenders and Proposals.  Don't forget - you only get one chance to make a first impression.  Most business is lost through poor communication, not through the products or services you offer. Bid Writing, Bid Writing Training Courses, Case Studies, Reviewing Editing and Proofreading, Tender Proof your Business, Build a Better Bid Library, General Business Writing Training.

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