How to write an RFP executive summary that boosts win rates

Could a well-written RFP executive summary improve your win rate for bids? It’s very possible. A summary of your company’s capabilities that is both powerful and concise can be the difference between RFPs that get shortlisted and those that lie unread gathering dust.

Your full proposal will detail your organization’s capabilities, the team who will execute the project, case studies, awards your organization has received, and how you will meet each requirement. This means your proposal could easily end up as a lengthy document. For this reason, it’s important to know how to write an RFP executive summary that will capture attention.

What is an RFP executive summary?

An RFP executive summary sums up the whole proposal document, but in reality it is more than simply a shorter version of it. It’s your first real chance to make an impact, and an opportunity to distinguish yourself from the competition. For that reason, the executive summary should grab and hold the reader’s attention, highlighting your most important points, and how you’re uniquely positioned as a service to meet the needs of their RFP.

It’s where procurement managers and other decision-makers with dozens of proposals to read decide whether or not to continue reading yours. If you want to stay in the running for any given bid, a powerful yet concise RFP executive summary can give you the competitive edge.

What is the difference between the RFP Cover Letter and executive summary?

When it comes to an RFP, a cover letter is an introduction, it explains what the attached document is about. An executive summary on the other hand is a condensed version of the RFP highlighting the key points within it. 

While there may be a degree of overlap in the content found in each document, a cover letter is not a concise summary of your proposal document. On the other hand, a strong RFP executive summary should give a clear picture to readers who choose not to read further. 

6 tips for writing an RFP executive summary 

Are you ready to start writing? Your executive summary should be readable as a standalone document with the power to persuade decision-makers to read your RFP in depth. Here are some tips to help you win more proposals from the moment your clients’ pick up your proposal. 

  • Write it last: Although the executive summary sits at the beginning of the document, you should write it last. By then, you will have an in-depth understanding of the organization you’re addressing, their problem, and how you can provide a solution.
  • Be concise: In most cases, a one-page RFP executive summary is more than enough. Keep it high-level, you can go into detail in the rest of the RFP, this isn’t the place for the nitty-gritty.
  • It’s not all about you: Many proposal teams use templates to create their RFPs and that’s a useful time-saver for the parts of the proposal that are about your organization. But you shouldn’t just be talking about yourself, make sure your executive summary is balanced between highlighting your own offerings and demonstrating that you understand the organization you’re bidding to work with and their goals.
  • Prove it: It’s easy to make lofty claims. Through the Covid-19 pandemic, when the RFP process was often rushed because it was an emergency, many companies won huge contracts by making promises they couldn’t follow through on. If you want to win a contract, offer proof you can follow through: numbers, case studies, and testimonials in your RFP and mention them briefly in your executive summary.
  • Avoid hyperbole: Don’t use words like ‘ground-breaking’ or ‘state-of-the-art’ unless you can back them up. Even then, it’s better to show how your technology or service is groundbreaking than to simply state it. 
  • Style and tone: Your tone should be positive and confident and your brand voice needs to be consistent throughout your executive summary. This can be a challenge when different departments are contributing across multiple versions of a document. You need to ensure that you’re using the same grammar, tenses, and acronyms throughout the document.

How to format an RFP executive summary

The way you structure your executive summary is important – but there are no rules written in stone. That said, there are some guidelines that are relevant in almost all circumstances:

  • A compelling opening: Capture the procurement team’s attention with an opening statement that shows you understand the sector and the problem the organization is facing. Then explain what your company does in an engaging way.
  • Describe the problem: Include a short paragraph describing the pain points highlighted in the RFP. Show that you have a deep understanding of the barriers that the client is facing and how your solution reduces friction and supports their buyer’s goals.
  • Offer a solution: You have shown you understand the problem, so now offer the solution. Give a short overview of your understanding of the requirements, your capabilities in this space, the team you will deploy, and an overview of how you will successfully deliver their project.
  • Close: End with a paragraph on the project’s deliverables and why your company is the right organization to meet them. Reiterate any unique benefits or similar projects your company has successfully worked on in the past.

Example of an RFP Executive Summary

Here’s a fictional example we wrote for an IT contractor responding to an RFP from a government health department in the US:

As the Department for Health in Texas, you are responsible for promoting health and wellbeing for millions of Americans. As part of that role, you hold sensitive health data, financial details, and contact information for those you serve. A data breach has the potential to be catastrophic; costing millions, damaging lives and undermining trust in your services.

At ABC IT services, we have an innate understanding of these problems, since we have carried out IT services for state health providers in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware. We onboarded our technology on time and within budget in each case, and we are confident we can do the same for Texas. You will find the full details of these projects on pages 8-12.

When your data is stored in an on-site server, it is vulnerable to hacking. By moving your data to a secure cloud, we ensure that it is safe. Our highly qualified team of security professionals is available 24/7 in case of any threat, and we provide on-site training to ensure your staff has a strong level of IT security awareness. The team we have selected to execute this project is detailed on pages 20-26.

Our extensive experience working with other states means that we are ready to hit the ground running. There is no learning curve. We’re ready to get to work for the benefit of your organization and Texans today.

Stand out from the crowd

The power of a concise RFP executive summary can’t be underestimated. It can have a direct impact on your bottom line by improving the proportion of your bids that you win.

At its heart, your executive summary is about showing you understand the problem and you’re capable of providing the solution. Beyond that, it must make your organization stand out from the crowd, tempt procurement managers to read on, and show that you have the capability to execute the project successfully.

Find out how VisibleThread can improve the clarity and compliance of your RFPs.