The B2B Executive Summary
Writing a good B2B executive summary can be a challenge, and more often than not what is produced and submitted is a missed opportunity. The clues are in the name ‘Executive’ and ‘Summary’, however, unfortunately the focus is all too often on the summary rather than the executive. For the vast majority this is written when all other parts of the RFP have been completed and it results in a condensed summary of each section, highlighting facts about the company’s history (yawn), products / services, and people. Most executives don’t care; they are busy people running a business and have team members responsible for evaluating these aspects of your proposal.
Switch the order of work
Here’s an approach that I have been using for some time now with great success, draft the B2B executive summary at the beginning of your RFP preparations. Why, well its simple really, by doing this you will have given serious thought to the prospects needs and how you will address them, this structure should then influence and be incorporated in every sub-section of the bid. This is even more important if like many companies different parts of the response are completed by different individuals within the bid team and written in isolation they can appear disconnected and misaligned. Writing the summary at the end of your preparations would be the equivalent of a group of different chefs each throwing a bunch of ingredients together in a bowl, mixing it all together, cooking it and once they have the results trying to write a recipe, the chances of a tasty dish are small at best.
So pull the bid team together, big pot of coffee, discuss the opportunity, share what each of you know about the company and the buying team and agree the bid strategy, structure and the key components of your value proposition for this specific requirement. Try it, not only will the end product be better but there will also not be a need to burn the midnight oil to get it finished at the death.
Writing for the Executive
What you know is crucial, this will form the basis of creating a compelling two page summary for executives, if you don’t understand their challenges, issues, needs, concerns, criteria etc. how can you position the relevance of your proposition / solution and submit something of business value to them. So if you received the invitation to bid out of the blue and were not given the chance to engage with key stakeholders then forget it, it amazes me how many sales teams still smoke too much ‘Hopium’ and think that the 1000/1 chance of winning the deal is worth the time, effort and cost to produce something.
MAKE SURE – Before you start to write remember the golden rule, this B2B executive summary is about THEM not about YOU.
3 part summary
A great method to compose the summary is to divide it into 3 parts based on a cause and effect relationship that will take them on a logical thought process and position you as business partners not product / service providers. It uses the principle of the business case method taught at MBA graduate school to deduce problems and allows you to present your understanding of their needs and how using your solution increase revenue / efficiency, reduce costs, and mitigate risks or other drivers for the expenditure.
Part 1 – The Primary Problem, this is the issue or pain that has been identified by their management, try to describe it as it has been relayed to you by them. In this part reference the business case not the product or service that you’re trying to sell them. Use this chance to succinctly show a true understanding of their business requirements.
Note: This will tend to be an operational, performance or process problem
Part 2 – The Secondary Problem/s, they are caused by the Primary Problem and is/are a reaction, fallout or symptom of the primary problem existing. A word of warning, don’t confuse the primary with the secondary problems which are normally revenue or cost issues. Briefly describe how the primary problem causes the secondary problems.
Note: This will be a results based problem
Part 3 – The Problem Resolution, this will be the larger part of the summary and where you include your solution and how it resolves the primary and secondary problems.
Remember this is a summary, so don’t get carried away by trying to squeeze in detailed information that will be covered in others sections of your response.
Just to reiterate the ability to write a compelling executive summary that sings to the execs relies on the sale professionals to engage with stakeholders and ask good questions, without good intel the document will resemble a mish mash of irrelevant information that will turn them off.
The B2B executive summary is a crucial part of your bid, it may be the only part that the executives will read, so don’t make it an afterthought, grasp the opportunity with both hands and make it count.