If we were given the opportunity to show only one part of a proposal to a prospect, we would show them the executive summary. This is because it addresses the business objectives and proves that you understand their business. It’s really important to ensure you have an outstanding summary because you probably won’t have the opportunity to discuss your solution with all of the key decision makers. This is your opportunity to prove to them that you understand their business, challenges, the underlying cause of those challenges, and how you’re going to solve them.
Here are five common mistakes we see with inadequate executive summaries
1. It’s Too Cookie Cutter
Every organization has unique challenges they’re facing. While it’s not realistic to start from scratch with every proposal, it’s also not a good idea to just copy/paste an executive summary either. Your summary has to “lead the witness” in a sense and tell the story of the organization as well as how your solution can help with their challenges. This is your best opportunity to prove you understand who they are as a business and how you can help.
2. They’re Not the Correct Length
This is definitely a Goldilocks scenario: they can’t be too short or too long. You need your executive summary to be just right. If an ES is too short, it means you haven’t spent enough time on the problems and challenges of the organization. If it’s too long, it probably means you’ve spent too much time on the technology, and since most executives don’t have the time to read a novel, it gets tossed in the “never” file (like the trash can). The key is to spend most of your time on the challenges the organization faces and then on your solution to give a high-level overview of the technology to satisfy the needs of everyone involved.
3. It Doesn’t Have Direction
You should be able to pinpoint 3-5 main issues your technology solution will address. These points should be the focus of the executive summary. You should be able to identify these issues because you have a good qualification process in which you became extremely familiar with their concerns and the root cause thereof. It also means that you don’t ramble aimlessly throughout the ES to make it easy for your audience to understand what you’re trying to say. If you can’t do this, it means you either need to have more conversations with your client or pare down your summary to the salient points.
4. It Has Errors
This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many executive summaries get into prospects’ hands with the wrong company name, the wrong solution, the wrong business problems, or the wrong manufacturer. This makes it blatantly obvious that you have copy/pasted that summary from a previous document. Having an automated sales document application can help prevent these tiny errors that can do so much to erode your credibility.
5. It Doesn’t Address the Need for Change Management
Implementation is an issue that definitely needs to be addressed as a part of the sales process. While you shouldn’t go into too much detail in the executive summary, you should definitely address the fact that you are aware of the need for your solution to integrate into the functionality of the current systems as well as your process for ensuring a smooth transition.
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