pen near black lined paper and eyeglasses

Executives hate being summed up. They want to be briefed, and that’s exactly what your executive summary should provide.

While the phrase “executive summary” is often used, treating it as an executive briefing will put you in the right mindset for persuasion.

Everything may be traced back to Dr. Tom Sant. Do you know who he is?

Dr. Sant’s subject area knowledge should be in your toolkit if you rely on proposals or briefings to earn a career in sales.

He is the author of many publications, including Persuasive Business Proposals. I really suggest it, and not only because I used to work for one of Dr. Sant’s businesses.

It’s useful because he connects proposal writing to the psychology of human decision-making. It’s a master lesson in how to create proposals and executive summaries using compelling language in sales.

I’d like to concentrate on one of Dr. Sant’s most useful recommendations, which goes by the acronym NOSE, for the purpose of this article—and to keep us focused on the executive summary.

  • Needs: Describe how you comprehend the prospect’s issues. Confirm the outcomes people expect when their issues are resolved.
  • Solution: Make a suggestion on how to fix the issue.

According to Dr. Sant, by aligning your executive summary with NOSE, you’ll be able to answer three questions that executives want addressed during their briefing:

  • Is it true that we’re receiving what we need?
  • Is it truly worth spending the money and effort on?
  • Is it possible for them to deliver?

Many salesmen make the error of emphasizing “summary” over “executive.” The majority of the time, summaries do not offer solutions.

They’re more like to glorified table of contents for a bigger proposal.

Create the executive summary with the knowledge that it will most likely be the only portion of the proposal that gets reviewed by executive-level decision-makers. Without providing all that goes into a proposal, you must evoke the appropriate reaction from it.

It’s undeniably a top-flight persuasive problem, but it’s the one your executive summary must overcome.

Executives want to see that you are aware of their requirements and intended results, as well as their pains and desires. As check writers, seeing this level of knowledge expressed in the executive summary helps to alleviate any concern they may have.

Many executives just want the briefing to help them overcome their anxiety of making a bad choice or choosing the incorrect vendor, both of which may be career-ending mistakes.

5 additional pointers on how to write a powerful executive summary

The template has many recommendations written in-line. It’s a template with instructions, similar to one of those fresh dinner boxes that come with all the goods and recipe you need to cook a meal, but without all the unexpected prep work (“Wait, I still have to marinate this meat and chop all these veggies?”).

In fact, there are so many that I couldn’t fit these four in, so I’m including them here:

Make a title that includes a dynamic verb: Unfortunately, “Proposal for Prospect Company” is the most common title for an executive summary. Use the executive’s attention-getting title to your advantage.

“Improving lead generation…”, “Visualizing revenue forecasting…”, “Streamlining cloud storage…”, or whatever your product will accomplish for them.

When feasible, use the recipient’s full name: When recipients see their name on the top page, they feel valued and individually attended to.

A 3:1 ratio of receiving business name to your company name is ideal: Make the paper seem like it was written just for them, not for you.

Demonstrate that you have a thorough understanding of your prospect’s requirements: This material should be provided by sales or business development personnel, either from personal experience or from a structured discovery process that must take place prior to the creation of a proposal with an executive summary.

Only 3-5 options should be shown. The brain dismisses numbers six and above as trivia, and they are virtually never read.

Ensure that your main functions correspond to the intended business results of your prospects: It’s probably not a good match if they don’t.

Template for an executive summary: Use it or refer to it, whatever is most convenient for you.

Until the cows come home, I could teach you *how* to create an executive summary. But, if you’re anything like me, the best practices won’t truly sink in until you see them in action.

That’s why, based on Dr. Sant’s NOSE, I created an executive summary template. Replace the in-line instructions with suggested material to create an executive summary that will wow your audience.

At the absolute least, it’ll answer executive-level strategic concerns about your plan.

Thanks to Keith Norrie at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.