25th Sep 2017 AUTHOR: Robert Machin

The Executive Summary: A two-edged Sword

A well-written Executive Summary is a two-edged sword – it can serve to engage and excite the client and inspire and guide your internal tender response team.


  • Always, always include an Executive Summary and write it first!
  • Use your Executive Summary to excite your prospective client and inspire your Tender Team
  • An effective, compelling Executive Summary is the result of a scientific process and artistic flair – follow the process and you will enhance your chances of success.

Challenging the old definitions and using your Executive Summary to drive your bid will help you to “win more tenders, more often

What is an Executive Summary?

According to conventional definitions it is a “brief but comprehensive synopsis of a business plan or proposal, which highlights its key points and is generally adapted for the external audience.”

A New Approach

An effective Executive Summary can be so much more. A well-designed Executive Summary can be the highlight of your submission. It can have a two-fold purpose - to engage and excite the client (external) and, to inspire and galvanise the Tender Team (internal).

For the client (external), the Executive Summary is:

  • the most important section of the tender or proposal
  • often, the only document read by the key decision-makers
  • able to connect your solution directly to the client’s needs
  • able to differentiate you from your competition

For the Bidder (Internal) the Executive Summary:

  • is a tool to obtain senior management commitment and to inspire and energise the Tender Team
  • is the means to communicate your tender strategy to subject matter experts/stakeholders
  • drives the overall tender development and keeps the Team on track
  • provides the model and framework for the final response document

Write your Executive Summary First

When written first, before your Tender Kick-Off meeting, the Executive Summary can set the scene for the entire bid process. After all, why would you plan a journey without knowing your destination? The Executive Summary details the destination and helps all contributors to focus on the end-game.

By defining the end-game with an upfront Executive Summary you are making the task clear and helping your Team to focus on the client from the outset. Every subject matter expert (SME) can formulate their response with the client in mind – they are connected to the problem being solved and therefore will be motivated to be part of the solution.

To underscore the importance of this ‘new approach’, writing the Executive Summary upfront involves crafting your offer with benefits to the client addressed by the features of your offer. It means writing with a client-focused solution clearly in mind, not just documenting your past achievements and successes.

Writing your Executive Summary is a process

The creation of an effective Executive Summary is part art, but mostly science. There is a process to be followed which will ensure you meet your two-fold objective of persuading your client you have the best solution to meet their needs and, inspiring your Team to construct the best possible response.

Writing your Executive Summary first, forces you to focus on your client’s needs and assess your ability to fulfil them. This process can support the Bid, No-bid Analysis and make sure everyone is on the same page.

The Executive Summary writing process involves:

  • understanding the client’s vision and connecting it with your solution
  • demonstrating features, benefits and proofs
  • understanding and addressing the evaluation criteria
  • harnessing your capture management (discovery) activity to solve client problems
  • ensuring content is clear, unambiguous, compelling a persuasive
  • employing effective writing principles – non-technical, comprehensive, client-focused and evidence-based

There are many other aspects to writing an effective Executive Summary such as: How long should it be? What is its purpose? What should be included? The answers to these questions will depend on your objectives and your prospect. Suffice to say, that challenging the old definitions and using your Executive Summary to drive your bid will help you to “win more tenders, more often”. Use your next Executive Summary to engage and excite your client and inspire and energise your Tender Team.

In short, an effective Executive Summary is a pitch, it highlights the offer, engages the reader, compels the audience to read on - it can turn you on or it can turn you off.​ Tender Success can help you to establish a process to write your executive summary.

robRob Machin is a senior consultant for Tender Success. For more than 25 years he has assisted Australian businesses with their capture planning & management. Contact Rob to ensure your next response is a success.