Part three of Mike Kingston’s five articles guaranteed to increase your win rate from your sales proposals, quotations and tenders.
Writing your Executive Summary
The executive summary or introduction to your sales proposal is one of the most powerful weapons in your sales armoury. Written persuasively it can crush competing suppliers and promote you to the number one preferred-supplier position, even when your price is higher.
In part one of this series you explored the critical importance of influencing the senior decision-makers. However, because you don't always get to meet the senior management team during the sales process, and even when you do they tend to forget what you present, your sales proposal or quotation is often your only chance to influence the final buying decision.
How do you make everyone read your executive summary?
The trick here is to focus your executive summary on the senior decision-makers’ primary desired outcome. Use self-interest to compel them to read. This will also compel operational staff and key influencers to read, if only to safeguard their position.
The following six-step Executive Summary format is based on the author’s consultancy work with over 400 UK and International companies. Don’t follow it slavishly. Adapt the approach and format to suite your business and industry. But do remember, this is a summary, so try to keep it to one page.
Here are the five sections to the recommended structure
1. A seductive title and sub-head
2. The Affinity paragraph
3. Three desired outcome paragraphs
4. A concerns and fears paragraph
5. Summary and return on investment (ROI) justification paragraph
Section 1. Start with a seductive title and sub-heading
The title performs two functions. The first is to arrest the attention of the reader. Will a quick glance at the title stop senior decision-makers in their tracks? The second function of the title and subheading is to seduce decision-makers to read what comes next.
If you sell a product consider the most significant differences it makes to a customer’s business. For example, if you sell an automated production machine, does it improve component quality, increase production output or reduce labour costs? If you sell a telecoms or IT system, does it increase the number of inbound calls they can handle with the same number of staff or improve their customer service for significantly less cost? Will they be able to ship customer’s orders on the same day and gain a competitive advantage?
The most effective title connects the senior decision maker’s primary desired outcome with the product or service you are selling them. Here’s an example title and subheading for a marketing agency’s proposal to a garden centre group.
“Increasing sales to current customers by 20% or more”
A marketing campaign to encourage customer to purchase across a wider range ofgarden products, targeted to add 20% of additional sales in the first year.”
Notice how the title connects with the customer’s most important desired outcome. The subheading expands on the title to ensure everyone understands exactly what this proposal is about and what they can expect to achieve.
Section 2. Add an Affinity paragraph
Start your executive summary body copy with a short introductory paragraph of two or three sentences, a mini epic of what you propose. The job of the first paragraph is to build affinity, to let the decision makers and others involved in the purchase know that you understand what they want to achieve from the purchase and why. If you don’t do this, prospective customers will have little or no confidence in your ability to deliver what they want. Would you buy a computer system from a salesperson who doesn’t understand why you need it and what you want to achieve?
Here's the opening ‘Affinity’ paragraph for the marketing proposal.
“Your research has identified that the majority of your customers only buy a part of their gardening requirements from your centre. The proposed marketing campaign employs classic retail marketing strategies to encourage customers to buy across a wider range of stock and products. Similar retail campaigns have delivered a 20% or higher increase in sales within the first year. (Please see the three case studies in Appendix 4).”
Section 3. Add three ‘desired outcome’ paragraphs
This section of the executive summary is designed to give senior decision makers an overview of how your proposed service will deliver their three most important desired outcomes. Notice how each point starts with the ‘customer outcome’ headline, to grab immediate attention.
“The proposed marketing campaign has three key elements;
To stimulate sales across the product range
When customers arrive at your centre they are handed a gardening guide relating to that months gardening activities. The guide will include time-limited offers to stimulate range purchasing and encourage return visits. An example of the gardening guide and special offers are shown in Appendix 1.
To increase customer visits
Customers will be invited to attend free gardening workshops, held on quiet mid-week trading days. The workshops will feature seasonal stock and related gardening products. Run by your expert staff, workshops will separately target novice and expert gardeners. (Example workshops, suggested by your staff, are shown in Appendix 2).”
To make your garden centre the customer’s first choice to visit
Customer will be invited to give their email address, to subscribe to receive a digital version of the monthly gardening guides. They will also be emailed weekly with details of the gardening workshops and special offers.”
Section 4. Add one ‘concerns and fears’ paragraph
Have the senior decision-makers expressed any concerns or fears about running a promotional campaign or using your company? Are they worried about upsetting their regular customers? This is the place to dispel those fears.
“The objective of the marketing campaign is to help your customers to garden more successfully. Customers will see your staff as valued friends, building greater loyalty and encouraging more visits.”
Section 5. Summary and ROI justification
In this final paragraph you summarise what your marketing campaign will achieve for the customer, together with a financial justification if it is appropriate.
“The marketing campaign, with its educational theme, will encourage customers to visit more often and invite them to buy across your full range of plants, shrubs, gardening tools and equipment. Similar educational focused marketing campaigns have encouraged many customers to bring their relatives and friends, building your customer base and further increasing your revenue.”
It’s important to remember that the executive summary or introduction is about how the customer gains as a result of the purchase. It’s not about you!
In the next part of this series, writing the ‘Body Section’ of the sales proposal, you get the opportunity to boast about your capabilities and the features and associated benefits of your product or service. But here again, everything must be connected to what the customer wants to achieve. I’ll show you, step-by-step, how you drive nails into your competitor’s coffins.
Coming up in part four of ‘How to write a sales proposal or quotation’ - How to write a body copy section that drive nails into your competitor’s coffins
Review previous articles here:
© Author: Mike Kingston FInstSMM, April 2015