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How to Write an Executive Summary for Your Proposal?

Sep 26, 2021
(updated: Dec 6, 2022)
Lesson duration: 5 min

First impressions count.

Like, a lot. 

They might say not to judge a book by its cover, but future investors might judge prospective projects based on the proposal executive summary they receive from you. This is why it is so critical that you write a summary that packs a serious punch and inspires your reader.

Writing a business plan is daunting, but if you believe in your offering, the process delivers immense satisfaction. It is a commitment that determines your long-term growth in the market. 

So, congratulations to you! 

You have taken the first steps to your well-deserved success. That is if your executive summary is up to scratch. 

Executive summaries encapsulate your vision, goals, and outcomes, all in a few paragraphs. Technically, you can write up to four pages with the text structure following that of the marketing plan. In our opinion, however, it is much better to use the executive summary to entice. It is the nutshell version—your elevator pitch that needs to intrigue The Suits. The full document proposal will elaborate on your key points while the executive summary reveals all the main points.

Some view the executive summary as the back cover of a book, assuring readers it's worth their time to read the whole thing. It highlights the key points and offers readers an overview of a longer report or proposal. As such, a one page executive summary can be just as noteworthy as a four-page affair, if you follow our top tips.

By adding all the critical information in an easy-to-read, enticing document, you can create a truly powerful executive summary that gets you noticed by that prospective client you have been wanting to impress.

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Knowing your competitive advantage inside-out and understanding market expectations will help you build a convincing argument in your executive summary. When your executive summary is on point, you have a competitive advantage over other key players in the market and your work will most likely get noticed.

Sell your plans to industry leaders by knowing how to write a top-notch executive summary for your marketing plan

What Is An Executive Summary?

Before we explore how to write a top-notch executive summary and what is included in the executive summary format, it is important to understand what it is and how it differs from longer projects, proposals, and reports.

Essentially, an executive summary is your project management proposal or the key points of a longer project or report. It serves as a quick overview of what a company can expect from you and your project.  In essence, it highlights all the major points and offers a comprehensive overview of what your business can offer and why the prospective stakeholders should invest.

The information in an executive summary should be concise and intriguing. Most investors and stakeholders only go this far and that’s why a short document (with bucket-loads of panache) can be a real winner and secure new clients and projects for your small business.

Bittersweet, but true. The adage "dynamite comes in small packages" is perhaps especially pertinent when it comes to the art of writing a brilliant executive summary. By adding the main points of your larger reports, you show potential investors and clients the key facets of your work.

Who Writes An Executive Summary?

Before thinking about writing an executive summary, consider answering these questions:

  • Do you have an idea you would like to pitch to investors and stakeholders? 
  • Are you currently writing a project proposal or business plan? 
  • Are you looking for capital from the bank to fund your business
  • Do you have a new project in mind and need an entrepreneur to step in?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should write an executive summary. The executive summary is a major part of putting your project plan into the world. Not only does it serve as a brief overview of what you are pitching, but it also demonstrates to potential investors you understand what you are doing. In your executive summary, you can highlight your vision and showcase why your project and proposal is worth investing in.

Before you start writing your summary, ensure you know what to include. Here we unpack the top things, a sample executive summary if you will, to include when writing an executive summary.

Your Project Only Has One Chance

We live fast. In fact, everyone is constantly busy. So, if you expect entrepreneurs to take time out of their days to read your proposal, best make sure it lives up to their standards. 

An executive summary does precisely this—it outlines your product or service and highlights the main reasons and main points. Many investors and stakeholders read only the summary as this gives them enough insight into whether they are interested in investing in you or not.  For this reason, this initial summary has to pack a real punch and wow that prospective client.

There should be no question about why the executive proposal summary matters. It is an absolute must in today's world and in business plans. With so much competition around, your executive summary has to seriously shine.

Aren’t Cover Letters For That?

Maybe. They could make life a little easier if they were, but they just aren't the same thing. An effective executive summary can and perhaps should inspire your cover letter. 

The cover letter is your hello; the executive summary is the introduction to your story; and the proposal, your story.

The cover letter is the personal touch. It gives you a moment to introduce yourself. It is your chance to show your character, gain trust, and provide a pinch of what the investor can expect in the proposal. And then, most executive summaries pave the way for the business proposal by highlighting the main points and core vision. This document contains the most pertinent facts, enticing potential clients with key findings and new ideas.

Avoid mundane cover letters, and do not use the same one for every business you approach. Indicate to the stakeholders you can relate to them and pinpoint particular aspects about you and your work that make you the right candidate or business for the job. Therefore, you need to know who you are addressing and what their business entails, too. This certainly requires some research into the prospective client and the services or products they offer.

Use interesting quotes, statements, or ask a questionThank you for the opportunity, is what everyone else says. 

Think about that.  

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When writing your cover letter, keep it short yet informative. Here are some pointers to capture your reader's attention:

  • Include your details in the header. There is nothing worse than an opening paragraph reading: My name is Uma, and I am a….
  • Address the investor or stakeholder directly. To whom it may concern is a classic convention—yes. But it does not set the right tone when asking for capital. You want the potential investor to feel like you are approaching them directly (and not merely sending the proposal to hundreds of potential stakeholders – even if you are!)
  • Grab their attention. As mentioned earlier, start with a quote, statement, or question. Grab the reader’s attention from the get-go.
  • Write a short paragraph on your background and credentials showing you have the experience required to make your idea or business plan work. 
  • Show your interest. Let the stakeholder know that you will follow up. Don't just leave it in their hands. You need to take responsibility for your success and show that you are a go-getter with a can-do attitude.
  • End the letter. Remind entrepreneurs of the purpose of this cover letter—the business plan. Tell the investor theywill find more information in the executive summary. Now, you can finally express your gratitude for his time. 

Email Is the New Cover Letter

What to send first? The business plan with an executive summary? Or the cover letter? A business proposal arriving in bits and pieces is not going to get you what you need. You need to send a comprehensive email with all the pertinent documents attached. An entire report highlighting all the major points, if you will. Your entire value proposition.

Investors and stakeholders will invest in someone who can present the whole package. Apply this thinking to how you hand over the proposal, too. Remember, your first correspondence sets the tone for what you can offer, and potential investors will be examining every step of the application.

Of course, you want investors to read the cover letter first. So, break the old rules of a separate document. Keep your offering tight. Your email is the new cover letter. 

Writing your cover letter as the body of the email and only attaching the business proposal keeps your introduction and presentation professional. 

How To Write An Executive Summary For A Project Proposal – One That Stands Out

Again, the executive summary is a brief overview at the beginning of your business proposal. It should be attention-grabbing and summarize the gripping details of the proposal, including your short and long-term goals.  

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From indicating your target market, forecasting financial projections, listing your competitors and introducing your team, decision-makers and other stakeholders—write the perfect executive summary that captures all the crucial components. Here is what you can do to stay ahead of your competition when it comes to creating an awe-inspiring executive summary.

1. Keep It For Last

Know your topic. An executive summary is a summary of your business plan. Keep it that way. 

Not only will it be hard to write a comprehensive outline of what to expect right off the bat, but your executive summary will also become long-winded and off-topic. 

There is no rush.

Write it at the end of the entire document to ensure you included the most encompassing details and conclusions. 

2. Stand Out From The Get-Go  

Forget about what the others do or how your parents did it. Grabbing an investor or stakeholder's attention means you need to do things differently in this day and age. You need to show them that you are a trailblazer in your field and impress them with innovation and creativity. As business expert Steven Jeffes wrote: “Innovation is the unrelenting drive to break the status quo and develop anew where few have dared to go.”

We are not saying, be outrageous. What we are saying is to keep your executive summary thought-provoking and informative and highlight your unique, competitive edge and how you will satisfy your potential client's needs.

What is holding you back from starting your executive summary with an interesting quote relating to your proposal? Or an intriguing statistic that highlights why your small business is filling an important gap in the market?

You can incorporate a finding that supports your research or perhaps even include a statement to better inform these prospective decision makers. 

Knowing your product, target audience, and understanding who you are pitching to will help. Keep your opening statement relevant to the reader and be sure to offer a short company description so that they can understand who you are and what you are all about.

Don't reveal too much, but enough to have them want more. Your business plan will handle the more in-depth findings, but the executive summary will illuminate the most important points of your entire proposal.

3. Define The Problem

Your team's findings are crucial. Include your research highlights, competitor analysis, and the problems and goals your business proposal aims to address. You also want to highlight the fact that you have a proposed solution to the problem or problems. This solution part will come in the next section, however from the very start you want to remind potential clients that you have the solution.

Yes, your proposal will flesh out all the details in the larger document, but you need to give the investor an idea of what to expect. 

Ask yourself: 

  • What is the problem, and what is it solving? 
  • Is it suited to the business? 
  • Why is my business/team the best equipped to solve this problem and what can your executive summary offer?
  • How do we differ from other players in the market?

It is easy to get side-tracked, so promote points to strengthen your case. 

4. Describe The Solution And The Outcome

You have nailed the problem. 

But now, your executive summary needs to prove that you can solve the problem. You need to briefly explain that you are the best in the business and your company will solve problems with professionalism and finesse. Show how your new ideas can meet the gap in the market and result in some fantastic return on investments (ROI) for you and your investors. Grow brand recognition. Show investors why they should invest in you and your budget baseline.

So, what is the solution to what you are proposing? 

Typically, this is where your business comes in. You have identified the need in the market, and your company provides the solution. 

Use this section to focus on the authority you have in the market. Expand on how your business can effectively provide solutions to the key points identified. And detail how you will use time and money to reach these outcomes. 

Remember to touch on your investment needs and any pertinent financial information in this paragraph. You might include financial projections for a particular time period and briefly describe where the potential investment amount will go.

finding solution using proposal

5. The Proof Is In The Pudding

Communicate that your business and past experiences can deliver what your investment proposal is promising. Here you might include a few sentences about your customer base to showcase past achievements and offer some information about your company history and past successful projects.

Briefly discuss your expertise, qualifications, and what the business has achieved so far. You need to prove you are the right person for the job and your team knows how to execute the proposed tasks within time and budget. Past examples are a great way to bolster your claims and show tangible examples of your success.

Talk to your strengths and include examples or forecasts if necessary. Organizations and business leaders appreciate projecting expectations and showing initiative, and it will confirm your position and business plan. 

Practical Pointers To Consider When Writing Your Executive Summary:

  • If you are unsure, use templates. There's nothing wrong with them—honest. In fact, templates add a huge amount of professionalism to the mix and this is what potential investors are looking for.
  • Always check your spelling. There are great tools available. Nothing screams a lack of professionalism like typos in a formal business document. Happily, there are some amazing (and free) tools to ensure this doesn’t happen.
  • Mind the length. It is your elevator pitch, not the full-blown proposal. Keep it short and to the point. A one page or two page document will do. Remember, your reader has limited time!
  • Keep your tone of voice professional yet engaging. Showcase your approachability and brilliant communication skills. This document is your chance to shine and set the tone for how things will run going forward.
  • Focus on the content. Let the business plan guide you and remember to include all critical information. You can extend and bolster these points in the longer document or full proposal.
  • Avoid clichés. Honesty is the best policy—it will lead to a great partnership in the future and show that you are the real deal. 

What To Be Wary Of When Writing An Executive Summary:

  • Unnecessary repetition in the executive summary—remember to include just the most pertinent points and your writing should always be to the point.
  • Providing too much of the organization's background. You want to add a brief history without getting into a deep dive into how your company began.
  • Giving too much detail—remember it is a summary. The in-depth information will be available to potential clients in the full document, not a one page report.

Content discrepancies—the executive summary and proposal should match. However, the latter is an expansion of the core points raised in the executive summary.

Is Your Business Plan Ready For Its Executive Summary?

Every great proposal or business plan needs an excellent executive summary. It is an essential part when approaching outsiders and potential investors. Whether you are targeting investors, stakeholders, banks, or executives, a well-written executive summary is what will have them turn the page. 

The main goal is to introduce potential partners to your aims and objectives—your business idea—and gain their interest. 

Executive summaries can be overwhelming at first, but they need not be. There are easy ways to get ahead of your competitors, and using the correct platforms will make your life easier. The best advice is to start with your business proposal and then write an executive summary. 

Use a professional executive proposal template for a project proposal or executive summary sample, and employ the above tricks for winning decisions. 

Own your success by implementing them into your writing, or get in touch with us. At Indy, we can help guide you to executive summary perfection. We also have a full suite of tools to help small business to survive, and of course, thrive. Whether you want to write an outstanding executive summary or propose a new business model, our templates are ideal for sending a captivating proposal template every single time. Other features and service offerings include:

  • Invoice generator (to send and monitor invoices and follow up on when clients have paid). It also links to various payment options and systems for added ease and can store client’s financial information for future projects.
  • An online calendar that effortlessly links with your Google calendar. This is a great way to ensure that you and your team are always on the same page with projects and deadlines.
  • A chat feature so that you can communicate with collaborators and always stay in the loop regarding daily tasks and larger projects.
  • Space to upload files and forms so that you can store every important business document.
  • A task tracker and time checker so you can keep on top of every project and monitor hours spent on particular components of the project.
  • Proposal and contract templates for ultimate professionalism with every client interaction. This includes your executive summary template for those all-important investment pitches.

Indy allows you to manage every aspect of your business and grow your customer base with professionalism and ease. Try it for free and enjoy the wonder that awaits your company!

Get started today!

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