How to Write an Executive Summary: Step-By-Step

Picture this: You’re in a bookstore, and you come across a cool-looking book. Great title. Looks like somebody cared enough to make the cover look good, too. There’s just one thing, though. You don’t know who the author is.
Should you take a chance on him? Will the book be worth your time and money? To find out, you start reading the description. “Nah,” you tell yourself a minute later, “I’ll pass,” suddenly visualizing the piles of crime novels sitting on your bedroom floor still waiting to be read.
Now imagine that instead of a contract employee deciding whether to buy a book, you’re an investor looking for a project to finance. You pick up the first file in a stack on your desk. Instead of the blurb on a hardback’s dust jacket, you go over the executive summary.

Will you want to know more about the project? Or toss the file where it will never be seen again?
The answer will largely depend on what the executive summary says.
An executive summary condenses a much longer document and conveys its findings, takeaways, and recommended action plans. It often appears as the introductory section of a research study, white paper, or business plan. In project management, it accompanies documents such as a project proposal, statement of work, or project charter.
Usually 1-4 pages long, depending on the size of the document it’s based on, it provides readers with an overview of the major points so they don’t have to read the entire material.

As is characteristic of summaries, the executive report summary is usually the last to be written and the first to be read. However, there is no rule saying it has to be written last. You can, of course, write it first and use it as a loose outline to be refined later when your project proposal or business plan is done.
Sometimes referred to as the management summary, it’s also the most frequently read section of a document and, in some cases, the only portion an executive or investor might read.

So if you’re looking to boost your business budget or secure funding for a project that’s tied to a major business development initiative, treat the executive summary report as your elevator pitch, the hook to lure your target audience into learning more about your project, business plan, or proposal.
What you include in an executive summary will vary depending on the content it covers. For example, a startup plan may contain a description of your product or service, financial projections, key business metrics such as revenue growth, and your funding request.
A project proposal executive summary may provide an overview of the project scope and constraints, a summary of the project resources, a high-level explanation of the change management plan, a description of the major deliverables, and so on.

So think about the type of information your target audience would be interested to know in the few minutes they’ll allot to your executive summary. Also, you may sometimes be required to follow certain formatting guidelines, so review any instructions relating to length and overall format.
The steps below will cover the key components to include when writing an executive summary for a proposal.
Open with a bang. Capture the client’s attention right out of the gate. You do that not by talking about yourself. Talk about them and the issue they’re trying to address.

Here’s an example executive summary format for your opening:

Firefly & Co. is a brand poised to reach great heights in the plus-sized women’s clothing industry. High-quality, reasonably priced basic wardrobe staples — you can’t go wrong with that! Especially with Firefly’s ethical and sustainable production practices.
Evidence of Firefly’s growing clout is its ever-increasing social media following. In just less than a year, it has gained over 1 million followers on Facebook and Instagram. While that is an accomplishment in and of itself, what Firefly fails to leverage are the benefits of an e-commerce store.

Tip: Be concise and direct. Build a solid case, and do so in a captivating way.
Clearly state the problem or goal your proposal aims to address. You want to assure the client or sponsor that you fully understand the situation.
Here’s an executive summary example defining the problem:
All purchases are currently done in physical stores. This limits sales potential and the possibility of gaining new customers. With the upcoming launch of Firefly’s summer bag collection, there’s no better time than now to step up its online presence.

Tip: Be very clear about the business need behind the project. The focus here is the client and their pain point, not you or your company — not yet, anyway.
Next, briefly explain the solution you’re proposing. Then, give them a mental picture of what their business would end up looking like once their problem is solved. You want to touch on the business benefits of the completed project, which will generally come in the form of:
Here’s an example of an executive summary describing the solution and expected outcome:
All this can be done with Shopify, a full-service e-commerce platform that provides retailers with an easy-to-use interface for creating professional-looking websites. It comes with all the features they need to manage product listings, inventory, sales, and customer information. It even offers customers different ways to pay — debit or credit cards, mobile wallets, and more!
These features can better translate Firefly & Co.’s social media success into profits. With a Shopify store, your customers won’t always have to travel to your store to get the Firefly essentials they need.

Tip: Keep things high level while still giving readers something to be excited about.
##promo-body-ecap##
This is where you briefly talk about your expertise and whether you’ve done any similar projects before — your qualifications, essentially. You want the client to know that you or your team can deliver on time and within budget. If you can, include relevant figures to highlight your ability to get things done.

Here’s an executive summary sample offering proof of your expertise:
We, at Wildling Creatives, have used Shopify in multiple projects, and most of our clients have seen growth in sales by up to 50% within six months of integrating their brick-and-mortar store with an e-commerce site.
We’re a team of handpicked professionals with a combined 30 years of experience in e-commerce marketing. We’re certified Shopify experts, and with our eyes for good design, web development skills, and expert knowledge in business and e-commerce, we’ve been helping brands like yours create and improve their online shopping presence for years.

Tip: Talk about your strengths, but never lie. Make sure the numbers you include are accurate. If you haven’t already, use project management software for easier tracking and retrieving of key project management metrics such as return on investment and profit margin.
Explain why they should work with you and what they can achieve by doing so. Your call to action can also include your contact information, in case the executive has a question.

Here’s an example:

E-commerce is the way forward. Done right, an unprecedented sales boom is just around the corner.
By partnering with Wildling Creatives, not only will Firefly & Co. significantly boost local sales and improve brand recognition, but it will also open its doors to international customers. We’ve done it for swimwear superstar Bonnie Smith Swim Co., and we’re confident we can also turn Firefly & Co. into the global success it’s meant to be.
If you’re ready to take the next step, this proposal outlines in more detail what you can expect and how we’ll do it. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to personally take your call at (55) 555-5555.

Tip: The goal of an executive summary is more to sell than describe, so this is where you try and close the deal.
To get a better sense of how different executive summaries look, here are templates you can download from rfply.com

Now that you’ve written your executive summary, you want to give it a run-through before you send it off to investors, clients, or potential partners. Be sure to check for the following:
An executive summary should be brief, usually just one or a few pages long. It cannot be comprehensive. If your reader has questions, they can read the details in the proposal or business plan. As a rule of thumb, the length of your executive summary should be between 5-10% of the full report or proposal.

Avoid jargon. Use language your target audience understands. Writing for medical experts will be vastly different from writing for people in finance.

Discuss the major points in the same order as they appear in the full document. Refrain from introducing information not found in the proposal. And, of course, edit and proofread. You don’t want any typos or errors in your executive summary.
Check if there are any formatting guidelines to follow. Otherwise, structure your executive summary in a way that’s easy to skim. Instead of long blocks of text, use bullet points to break down complex information, headings/subheadings to organize topics, and even images to enhance the reader’s understanding of the summary.
Also, it’s a good idea to get someone to critique your executive summary to see if there’s anything you’ve forgotten to include.

A project goes to the project planning stage because the client or a body of decision-makers believes it can solve a problem. But before that, the project manager or service provider writes a proposal, which generally takes time to write. Surely, you don’t want all your efforts to go to waste.

With a well-written executive summary, you get to highlight all the good points of your proposal and entice your target audience to take action.

 

Sales Funnel Template And Examples For 2022 – Forbes Advisor – Forbes

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Published: Aug 26, 2022, 3:00pm
Shaped like a funnel to illustrate the journey from a wide mass of prospects to a select few actual customers, a sales funnel communicates to your team your business’s sales strategy. We’ve gathered a few examples and constructed a guide to creating your own sales funnel template.
No matter how your type of business attracts customers, all potential customers are likely to ask similar questions and undertake similar steps toward determining whether or not they will buy from you. A sales funnel is a chart to visually represent your customer’s journey. A sales funnel can help train and prepare your sales team or help you understand your product and sales experience from the perspective of your customer.
All sales funnels are made up of a series of steps your prospective customers take as they “funnel” from the mass of all targeted customers to become a qualified lead, and eventually make an actual purchase. The most basic version of these steps was first imagined by advertising advocate Elias St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. Awareness/Attention, Interest, Desire/Decision and Action, or AIDA, describe the four stages that make up any sales funnel.
Awareness—also called attention—is the stage your targeted customers first learn about your product. Interest describes the moment a customer becomes interested in or aware of your product. When the customer demonstrates a preference or a desire to choose your product over others, you’ve reached the desire stage. Action follows when the customer either starts a trial or actually purchases the product.
The basic structure of any sales funnel includes three main levels: the top, middle and bottom. Each level is usually broken up into sublevels as well.
Top of the Funnel
All sales funnels will begin with awareness, the stage at which potential customers need to first become aware of your product or service. The top of the funnel is the widest section since it contains the huge mass of potential customers you target with advertising as you raise awareness about your product. At this stage, you begin by researching your prospective customers and then targeting them using online ads, content marketing, cold calls and emails to turn them into leads.
The top section will also include the next step, interest, which is beginning to pursue leads that may have had some type of contact with your brand, product or service but are not yet considering it as something they want. This can be done through product demonstrations, service proposals and through the nurturing of your leads by following up with phone calls and further targeted marketing.
Middle of the Funnel
You enter the decision stage with your prospective customer when you begin sending proposals or quotes and negotiating terms. At this point, your prospect has decided that they like your product or service, but needs to make the final decision if they want to actually purchase. Depending on your business, this could be a large or small section of the funnel. It may be a quick process from awareness to purchase, or you may have to further pursue leads for a larger sale.
Bottom of the Funnel 
Finally, you enter the action stage when you are “closing the deal” with your new customer. This is the decision-making stage for your prospective customers and is the time you need to prove your value and build trust in order to separate yourself from competitors. This can take many forms depending on how your product is delivered. Is it a single product or service, or are you bringing them into a subscription platform? Either way, onboarding and pay transactions take place at this stage.
Depending on your business, some funnels may have additional bottom of the funnel stages after purchase, designed to create customer loyalty and build repeat business. This stage is about maintaining customer satisfaction after purchase to generate a long-lasting loyal relationship with your customers.
Providing your team with a sales funnel that is unique to your specific process can be a great help in visualizing the steps each team member should take to close their deals. Download our free sales funnel template and customize it for your needs.
Download Free Sales Funnel Template
The average conversion rate across all industries is 3.9%, with B2B tech as low as just 1.7% and professional services averaging around 9.3%. An effective sales funnel helps you and your sales team strategize and focus on only those leads most likely to be converted. This increases productivity, makes forecasting and insights easier and improves customer relations.
A sales funnel can help you and your team increase productivity by helping you better understand your ideal customer and more efficiently meet their needs. This saves time that might be wasted chasing after unqualified leads.
Using a sales funnel will allow you and your sales team to gain valuable insight about your prospective customer base as they move through each funnel stage. Recognizing what your prospects are looking for and what turns them into qualified leads will provide you with better insight into your product or service development and enable you to predict sales success.
Sales funnels will also help you visualize leads that are not moving to the next funnel stage, thus allowing you better understand the needs of potential customers you’re missing out on.
A brokerage is a business representing multiple providers of products or services and “brokering” to customers. A brokerage sales funnel follows the relatively standard sales funnel by first raising brand awareness via marketing, then gauging interest by educating customers and nurturing prospects. The third stage of the funnel is key for brokerages, as this is where the funnel differs slightly from a basic structure. When customers request pricing, brokers can offer a sales quote with a presentation of the multiple options being offered. Finally, the customer makes a purchasing decision.
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) products are a bit more complicated than selling a physical item, but this business will also benefit from a sales funnel. As with most sales funnels, it begins with making prospective customers aware of your SaaS product via online ads, marketing, emails or cold calls. Next, sales reps should follow up with leads to nurture and qualify, delivering sales pitches or conducting product demos to lock in interest.
A proposal with pricing and service terms follows and the customers will consider the product, potentially asking questions or negotiating costs. Then, the deal is won or lost as the customer makes a purchasing decision. The key to SaaS products is often in the fifth funnel stage, which may come much later: the “renewal stage.” Current customers either renew existing plans, upgrade to a better plan or may cancel the service.
Enterprise sales involve selling products to larger, enterprise-sized companies. The funnels for these types of businesses look only a bit different because the types of sales are so large that there is more relationship building with each prospective customer. Sales reps will first determine if leads are actually qualified to purchase the product or service, then will conduct a demo and offer a sales pitch. If the customer is on board, sales reps can continue with proposals or service trials before closing the deal.
Business-to-business, or B2B, services often include consulting-type businesses such as IT management, law firms, accounting, marketing agencies and more. The B2B sales funnel is similar to most other funnels but includes a bit more focus in the interest stage with sales reps spending time educating prospective customers about how the service may best benefit their own business. Reps will then create a proposal, which the prospective customer may consider and negotiate before making a final purchasing decision.
Though social media and email marketing sales are often much simpler than brokerage, B2B, SaaS and enterprise-level sales, a sales funnel can still benefit a business selling via the internet. This social media sales funnel strategizes drawing customers to a product through the same AIDA steps: Targeting social media posts generates awareness, emailing with subscribed prospects attracts interest, hosting an online event to help guide decisions and finally offering the customers your product to drive action.
The key to creating the best sales funnel for your business comes from truly understanding your sales pipeline and how each step brings you closer to converting your leads into customers. Here are a few tips and tricks to consider while drawing out sales funnels:
One of the most important parts of structuring your sales funnel is knowing your ideal customers. Imagining the most ideal version of your customer will ensure you are building your sales funnel to move that type of prospect from lead to purchase by considering buying behaviors, what types of communication might be preferred and where to target to best find this customer.
Once you have created a profile of your ideal customer, determine how you will personalize each step of each customer’s journey so they have the most positive experience possible with your brand. These steps will further inform the stages of your sales funnel.
It can be easy to find a huge slew of possible leads, but nurturing those prospects into qualified leads and eventually converting them to customers can be much harder. The later stages of any sales funnel will be about engaging with your customers—whether you are creating interactive content, offering demos or trials or even just further engaging on social media or other marketing fronts, you want to nurture your leads. Customer relationship management (CRM) software can be a huge boon to this process.
A sales funnel is a useful tool for any business, regardless of whether your sales team is just you, or you have hundreds of reps executing large-volume sales day in and day out. A sales funnel takes the often confusing and text-heavy description of your business’s sales pipeline and simplifies it in an easy-on-the-eyes graphical structure. This will allow you to visualize your customer’s journey from start to finish, improving your sales processes, helping you forecast revenue, gain insight into your customers and manage your sales overall.
A sales funnel is a graphical visualization of a series of steps or stages a business uses to guide its prospective customers through every step of the sales process. The funnel may look different for different styles of business, but will contain similar stages from initial awareness of the brand all the way to the customer purchasing or renewing a product or service.
Building a sales funnel will look different for different kinds of businesses, but all sales funnels should follow a business’s ideal customer from initial prospect to qualified lead and eventually to customer. The steps may be unique to each business but are always in service of converting prospects into happy customers.
While sales funnels may have a variety of different stages unique to each type of business, each will typically follow the “AIDA” model of: Awareness, when prospects first hear about your brand, Interest, when you start to create qualified leads, Desire, when leads express a preference towards your brand or product and Action, when leads are converted to customers. With modern products, a fifth stage focused on loyalty, re-engagement and customer retention is often also important.
Any sales-based business can benefit from a sales funnel as it helps business owners, managers and salespeople alike understand the sales process and the different stages of the sales pipeline. This helps businesses improve sales processes, forecast revenue, gain insight into a customer base and manage sales overall.
Chauncey grew up on a farm in rural northern California. At 18 he ran away and saw the world with a backpack and a credit card, discovering that the true value of any point or mile is the experience it facilitates. He remains most at home on a tractor, but has learned that opportunity is where he finds it and discomfort is more interesting than complacency.
Cassie is a deputy editor, collaborating with teams around the world while living in the beautiful hills of Kentucky. She is passionate about economic development and is on the board of two non-profit organizations seeking to revitalize her former railroad town. Prior to joining the team at Forbes Advisor, Cassie was a Content Operations Manager and Copywriting Manager at Fit Small Business.

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8 Easy Steps to Writing a Winning Business Proposal

What is the hardest part about winning new clients? Some might say it’s lead generation, while others will say it’s prospecting. However, there is one part of the sales process that very few people like to do: write and send out sales proposals. Instead of being happy about having a new client that’s about to sign on, a lot of people stress for hours trying to write a compelling offer suited for a particular client.

Since we know how difficult writing a good business proposal can be, we have come up with tips on how to write proposals that will convert and turn prospects into customers. These insights are based on real facts we have gathered from researching how to write a business proposal, based on more than 189,000 signed proposals.

1. Don’t write from scratch every time

If it’s taking you hours to write a single business proposal because you approach it like you would be writing an essay, thinking each word and section through, you’ve made your first rookie mistake. While this may be a nice, thorough approach, it’s far from practical.

Instead, focus on creating a template that you can simply edit each time you pitch a new client. The template should contain all of the most important elements, along with a few sections (type of service, pricing, terms, etc.) that you would edit and personalize for each client. Instead of spending six hours on a proposal, you can spend half an hour editing a proposal template and sending it out. Easy work.

2. Get the most important details, then write an introduction

The reason why most proposals fail to get signed is not that they are poorly written (although that happens), it’s because the salesperson does not know the client well enough and their pain points. Before sitting down and writing your proposal, have a meeting or a call with the client. Find out what makes them tick and use that knowledge to write an introduction. Here you should state who you are, what you do, and how you will solve the client’s problem. The introduction is the first and most important part of the proposal, so make sure to spend enough time on it to make it compelling.

3. Get into the details

The second part of your proposal contains detailed specifications. This is where you get into the nuts and bolts of how you will solve the client’s problem. Presumably, the introduction got them hooked, and this is where you will show them you really know how to solve their pain point.

Next, your third section should contain timelines. Too many business owners get this part wrong and end up losing the deal or fighting deadlines they can’t manage, simply because they failed to include a timeline in the proposal. Be sure to clearly state what you will be able to do and by when. This also can be beneficial later in case there are disagreements.

4. Show them you can really get the job done

What’s the best way to demonstrate to a client you can create and design a great website for their restaurant? Show them examples of restaurant websites you’ve done before. And this should be your fourth section. In your template insert examples of work you’ve done before that are similar to what you’re proposing.

5. Ask for the money (and make an offer they can’t refuse)

Pricing is the fifth section of any good proposal, and it’s the part of the proposal that gets the second most attention. Pay attention to how you name this section. While calling it “price” is nice and straightforward, it will get your clients thinking of paying, instead of investing. To avoid this, call this section “investment” or “return on investment.”

While your price is dependent on the product or service you’re selling, according to our research, upselling and options aren’t good for conversions. To reduce friction and make it easier for clients to sign, your pricing and offers should be simple and straightforward. Offering just one option is enough, and the client will have an easier time making a decision.