Wait! Don't start writing it yet! The first thing you should know about writing an executive summary is not to start writing it until you have a solid understanding of what solution you are providing for your prospective client. The purpose of an executive summary is to convince your prospective customer in one to three pages that he or she needs to buy your solution, so it's not actually a summary. As Tom Sant says in his book, Persuasive Business Proposals, "The executive summary is the single most important part of your proposal. It's the only part that's likely to be read by everybody involved in making a decision."
Four items should go into an executive summary: (1) A summary of the problem; (2) Your solution; (3) The benefits of your solution; and (4) Ask for the sale.
A Summary of the Problem
What is the problem you are trying to solve for the client? What is your client concerned about? What is keeping them up at night? The main point for your client must be woven into the narrative of the executive summary.
Our first priority is to keep your students safe while we are constructing the new 250,000 SF facility....
After our initial energy analysis, we see that your company is losing approximately $2million dollars a year due to...
Present your solution as simple as possible and avoid jargon or acronyms unless these are commonly understood by your reader.
With an open floor plan, our solution will grow sales by more than 50%…
We can help your firm reduce waste by 25% by...
The Benefits of Your Solution
Help your potential client understand why your solution is better than your competitors. Elaborate on three benefits (no more than five) that explain your solution and provide concise evidence on how each benefit eliminates a pain point for your customer.
Ask for the Sale
It is important that your potential client knows how important this opportunity is to you and your company. Depending on the type of client, you may want to interject an emotional appeal as to why you are passionate about your prospective client's project. Just make sure not to use any of the words or phrases we discussed in AEC Cover Letters that Stand Out.
There are several schools of thought on how to write a great executive summary, but the best executive summaries start on a whiteboard with your team outlining why your solution is the best for your potential client. Write the executive summary first and then make sure the rest of your proposal and RFP response clearly articulates and demonstrates why your solution is the best fit for your client. After you've finished the proposal, go back and make sure that the executive summary still in fact explains the benefits of your solution.