Why a tender executive summary is important (and how to write one)

I am frequently asked about the importance of a tender executive summary. In reality, it’s an important tool to make sure all your key points stand out and you create a good first impression.

While a tender executive summary is not assessed against any criteria, it has three main purposes:

  1. It establishes the tone of your tender response.
  2. It contains the points of differentiation between you and the other tenderers – the ‘why us?’.
  3. It is a tool for you to highlight the key aspects of your response that you want to be noticed and assessed.

Tendering is just as much about differentiating yourself from your competitors, as it is demonstrating you can do the work. The best place to start is the executive summary.

So what do you put in a tender executive summary and how should you write one?

1. Introductory statements: confirm you can do the job

Firstly, use your executive summary to confirm that you comply with all the key aspects of the tender, demonstrate that you have experience in providing the required product or services, and introduce your proposed solution. So include a paragraph about each of these at the beginning of the executive summary.

An executive summary sets the tone of your response, and as such creates an early impression of your business in the mind of the assessor.

Bald statements about experience or solution offerings that are positioning or marketing statements contain little substance and can create an impression of a) arrogance or b) not having the required understand of what the purchasing entity requires. So keep it factual and evidence-based.

2. Highlight key points of differentiation

The next part of the tender executive summary is to highlight the key themes within your tender that are linked to the ‘why us?’ question.

Never assume the assessor will understand why your points of differentiation are important – always point them out within the context of the tender requirements.

For this section to be clear, use headings and dot points. As an example, I recently worked on a tender where the key themes of the response related to superior levels of customer service, the size and agility of the organisation, and the heritage of the organisation, which enabled it to intimately understand and deliver against the requirements of the tender. We then gave concrete examples under each of these headings to demonstrate these attributes and how they would deliver benefit to the procuring organisation.

3. Describe contributions to local development

If the tender has a strong emphasis on local content – national, state or local – then the next part of your tender executive summary should describe how you will contribute to local development, whether through the transfer of technology and know-how, skills development or economic development. If your business is headquartered outside the jurisdiction that you are tendering for, then you should also confirm your commitment to local content in your executive summary. This can all be described under a heading of ‘Local Content’.

4. Summarise value for money

You then need to give a short overview of the value aspects of your tender. This does not mean you discuss price. It means you demonstrate why your tender represents strong value for money – drawing together a combination of your points of differentiation, contribution to local content (if relevant) and value-adds or benefits you will be offering as part of your tender response.

Use your tender executive summary to identify the points of your response that you don’t want the assessor to miss.

If you are offering value-adds then please state them in the executive summary so it’s very clear to the assessor. Otherwise these may be missed, or their ‘value’ not clear, if the assessor has to determine their relevance to the tender.

5. Presentation

Finally, the formatting and length of your tender executive summary is very important. For your message to get across to the evaluation team, your executive summary must be clear and direct and not too long.
I think 1 to 1.5 pages is enough for an executive summary for a tender of any size. The use of headings also helps with the flow of the document and ensures your key points will not be missed.

Ultimately, however, you must be guided by the requirements of the tender and what the procuring agency is looking for. As an example, certified management systems such as Quality, OH&S and Environment may be key evaluation criteria or points of differentiation and thus should also be highlighted in the executive summary.

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