An executive summary is the essence of a business document. Many good proposals have been rejected because of a badly written executive summary. An effective executive summary needs to be a very well written and polished sales ‘pitch', which will ensure an affirmative decision, post it being read.
How do you ensure that your executive summary gives your business proposal or report a good support or reading, that it captures the essence without losing the soul? Follow these points and you are on your way.
- Who is the target audience of your summary? Normally there are three types of readers: the ones who will just read the beginning and the end and will not follow the technical details, the others who will be interested in all the details including even the appendices and the last that will only use it for decision-making. Your summary must be framed with its reader group or groups in mind.
- What is the most forceful statement that you seek to make? Make that statement.
- The summary must address either of these two - an existent problem that you are seeking to solve or an available opportunity or prospect that you seek to take advantage of.
- Succinctly give your solution to the problem, in as brief and simple a way as possible, how you are offering to solve and whose problem is it that you are addressing.
- Define and quantify the opportunity that you see and or the inefficiencies or losses you seek to reduce.
- Now briefly outline why you see yourself as best suited to solve the problem or avail of the opportunity to its best advantage. This has to be in positive terms, i.e. why you are best suited to do this. Not why others cannot do it like you.
- Establish your credibility by referring to past performances or references.
- Give a model or plan of the way you seek to approach the issue or how you will be exploiting the opportunity. Highlight the advantages of your plan, its efficiencies, scalability, and adaptability and when it will yield returns.
- Attach the basic details on the team who will achieve these successes. State the reasons why they are best suited to achieve it and with the least possible waste.
- Ask for the support needed from the management (reader group) that you seek to implement the proposed plan. This must be clearly stated in unambiguous terms. If there is a phased approach to the support you need i.e. ‘x' million dollars this year and ‘y' million next year to make a success of the plan, state that clearly now in your executive summary.
- Some don'ts when writing executive summaries:
- Don't make your summary a long one.
- Keep it to one page.
- Don't have long complex sentences.
- Don't overload on technical details.
- Keep this to the absolutely necessary and minimum.
- Don't focus on your product or yourself, instead focus on the benefits which will accrue and the groups who will benefit.
Finally, read it yourself and see, does it appeal? Would you yield to the strength in the document? If not, review and edit until you are happy with it yourself. Your executive summary will definitely succeed in its objective once you have done all this.