How to Write an Executive Summary for a Proposal – the Detailed Guide

Written by Vanja Maganjic


While creating a business proposal, you might not think to focus too much on your executive summary. After all, is anyone even reading it? 

If this is a question you’ve asked yourself, it might be why your proposals are not getting the results you want. In our research into the business proposals sent out through our service, we discovered that the introduction is the section clients spend the most time on. 

With that being said, it makes sense to work a bit more on your opening proposal chapter. In this article, we’ll explain the importance of an executive summary, give you some actionable tips for writing it, and more. 

Our guide will work for any type of industry and company and every tip we give is based on our own research and data. 

What is an executive summary?

An executive summary or a proposal introduction is the opening chapter of your business proposal. It summarizes the proposal and sets the tone of the proposal for your client. Seeing how it’s at the top of the document, it needs to catch the attention of the reader and provide value without being too long. 

Despite being first in order, it should be the last thing you write in your proposal. Only once you have detailed your solution can you write an impactful summary of it. Your executive summary should outline the solution you’re providing for your client and how it’s going to solve the problem at hand. 

Executive summary example

The rest of the proposal can detail the solution, provide time scales, social proof and the pricing. 

The executive summary is created to help clients, investors and stakeholders understand your solution and whether they want to proceed with the proposal. It needs to have a strict format, which we’ll explain in detail a bit later. 

The importance of an executive summary

Don’t be surprised if writing the executive summary takes as long as the rest of the proposal. Your introduction holds the power to encourage clients to read the rest of the document. If it’s hard to get through, they might close the proposal then and there. 

Your executive summary shouldn’t be longer than a page and you should be mindful of the words you use. Our tip is to use your client’s words to describe the problem they’re facing. It will show them that you’ve listened to them and understood their point of view. 

Of course, before you even start working on your proposal, you should conduct a discovery call. It will help you better understand your client’s needs and goals as well as how to shape your approach. 

There is no place for guessing in your proposals, you need to have the answers to all of your questions before you write out your solution and decide on the price. 

Once you describe the problem in your client’s words, briefly explain what your solution is and how quickly can you bring them results as well as a return on investment. 

If you’re just starting out with proposal writing, it might be hard to reach the right balance. Luckily, we can help you with that. 

The bits of information you need to have in the executive summary are: 

  • A greeting customized to your client
  • A brief overview of your client’s issue
  • A few sentences about your solution
  • A call to action that encourages your client to keep reading

The most common mistakes people make in their proposal introduction are trying to oversell their products and services and not personalizing their approach to every individual client.  

With Better Proposals’ merge tags, you can rest assured, knowing that even when you recycle your documents, you won’t need to manually rewrite the name of the client, brand, or company. 

How to write an executive summary?

As we’ve already said, don’t start writing your executive summary until you’ve finished the rest of the proposal. Only then will you be able to condense everything into a short introduction. 

Your summary should be driven by emotion. It should create excitement among your readers and make them want to start a business relationship with you. If you oversell your expertise from the start, you’ll cheapen your proposal and your clients will have a hard time connecting with your solution. 

Although there are a lot of sources on the Internet that say that your introduction needs to outline each of the proposal chapters, it’s best not to do this. If your next chapters are only repeating the facts stated in the summary, you’ll end up with a long and complicated document. 

Think of your clients while creating your proposals and make sure they are easy to read and speed up your proposal process instead of lengthening it. The introduction should pique the interest of your readers and get them to read the rest of your proposal, instead of giving them all the answers upfront. 

Don’t underestimate your clients by thinking they won’t read the entire proposal. When it comes to important things like business, they will want to know every piece of information you’re offering. 

Keep it short

There is no need to write out a long prelude to your proposal. Let your solution speak for itself. If you need to hype it up with fluff and empty sentences that don’t bring anything new to the table, your proposal will fail. 

Short proposal introduction

A good rule of thumb is to write everything out and then edit out anything that isn’t bringing new value or information. Make sure your introduction holds enough information, while still being easy to get through. 

The tone of your proposal should be hopeful and enthusiastic. Even if you’re going to be in a bad spot if you don’t win this deal, you shouldn’t show that in your proposal. Keep the tone light and win over the client with your eagerness to help their business. 

Know when to talk about yourself

We know that this might sound counterintuitive, but your executive summary isn’t the place to talk about yourself, your company and your accomplishments. If you do that, you’ll lose the attention of your client. 

They are interested in how you’ll help them reach their goals, not in your values or the history of your business. 

Use your introduction to reel them in and make them feel excited about working with you. There will be better placements in your proposal for talking about your achievements. For example, a positive review will go a long way in your pricing section. 

Remember, your clients already researched you and your company and had a meeting or call with you, so you don’t have to repeat that information. Instead, talk about your customized solution and how you researched the client’s company and their competitors. 

Show that you’ve done your work and truly understand your client’s issues and potential problems that may appear in the future. 

Rely on a good proposal tool

In order to speed up your proposal process and not have to create all of them from scratch, you should invest in a good proposal tool. With Better Proposals, you’ll be able to quickly create and send a beautifully designed proposal that will help you win more deals. 

We have a vast library of proposal templates that you can easily customize to fit your needs. The editor is easy to use and doesn’t require any design experience. If you can navigate Facebook, you’ll easily be able to master our proposal editor in no time. 

All of our proposals are web-based, meaning they will get sent as custom landing pages.  This allows you to track your proposals and clients with analytics. You will get notified every time someone opens or forwards your proposal and you’ll even get to see how much time they spent reading each of the sections. 

The proposals serve as a one-stop-shop for the majority of your proposal process. They come with a digital signature solution that allows your clients to sign the proposal as soon as they agree to the terms and conditions. This means that you can avoid printing out your proposals altogether. 

Why is this important? Because printing decreases the chances of conversion by 88%

Printing out a proposal

The easier you make it for your clients to receive and agree to your proposal, the quicker this whole process will be. That’s why other than the digital signature, we also included a payment option that allows the client to pay the first fee through the proposal itself. 

We support PayPal, Stripe and GoCardless, which will cover the majority of your clients. 

Ask for help

Once you write your proposal introduction, make sure to ask your colleagues what they think about it. 

Do they think it’s:

  • easy to get through
  • written in the right tone of voice
  • evoking the right emotions
  • making you want to read the rest of the proposal

Listen to what your team members have to say and make changes if needed. Make sure to proofread it and end the executive summary with a CTA that invites the client to keep reading. 

If you’re using Better Proposals, you can rely on proposal AI to help you out once your proposal is done. It will give you actionable tips on how to improve your proposal. The data our AI uses is gathered by analyzing all the successfully signed and paid proposals using our service. 

In order to be even more effective, proposal AI will use only the data from the proposals that fall into your industry. 

Extra tips

Now that you know how to write an impactful proposal introduction, we’ve prepared some extra tips for you. 

Firstly, make sure you’re not placing blame on anyone. It’s easy to start your executive summary by stating how your predecessors did a bad job or how the client’s company should’ve reached out to you earlier. 

This won’t get you far. Negative emotions aren’t a good start for a business relationship. You should state the problem at hand and go straight to your solution. The less you focus on how things got so bad, the more space you have to write about your approach, as well as the benefits and ROI. 

Secondly, if you’re in a highly competitive field and have a lot of competition, you can acknowledge that in your proposal. If your prices are higher than theirs, you’ll have to justify that. On the other hand, if you have a different process than others, you’ll need to dive into those differences and explain how you’ll bring results to your clients. 

Thirdly, think about the words you’re using. Our advice is to stay away from buzz words like:

  • Streamline
  • Synergy
  • Holistic
  • Alignment
  • Circle back
  • Touchpoints
  • Diversity
  • And similar ones

They will cheapen your proposal and make it seem like you’re trying to overcompensate for a solution that won’t necessarily meet their expectations. 

Lastly, make sure your summary, as well as the rest of your proposal, is in line with your branding. As important as customization and personalization are, some parts of your proposals shouldn’t change. 

You need to be true to who you are and keep your style thought your proposal process. 

Key takeaways 

Gaining new leads and turning them into clients isn’t an easy task. You have to work on your first impression, invest time in building a relationship with your potential client and get to the point at which they request a proposal. 

Once your proposal process starts, you might get overwhelmed, especially if you’re creating them from scratch. However, if you’re using helpful tools, you can raise the quality of your process as well as speed it up. 

Our guide will help you write amazing executive summaries that will engage your readers and make sure they read the entirety of your proposal. You don’t need to take our word for it, instead, read a case study on our client Cre8iv Click. 

Sign up for Better Proposals’ free trial and experience the ease of creating and sending beautifully designed documents. If you have any questions, our customer support team will guide you through them. They will happily be there for you every step of the way. 

About Vanja Maganjic

Vanja Maganjić is an experienced writer with a unique passion for creating content that helps brands connect with their customers. She believes in brands that stand up to the man and thinks that storytelling is an essential part of what makes us human. Her long term goal is to become the cool auntie that gives out family-sized Kit Kats on Halloween.
Categories: Proposal Writing Tips