Business Proposal and Business Plan: What’s the Difference?

Business Proposal and Business Plan: What’s the Difference?

Business proposal and business plan are relatively similar but distinctively different terms, making many use these two words interchangeably.

You’ll see distinguishing features in their content, structure, writing style, purpose, and goals. Even so, there are various similarities between a business proposal and a business plan.

The main distinguishing factor to note is that a business plan documents the growth strategy and presentation of facts, while a business proposal is a specific ask for an individual to take action (buy your service/product, partner with you in business, and invest in a particular business). 

Let’s look at the two terms in detail and highlight a few examples when it’s appropriate to use.

What is a Business Proposal?

A business proposal is a company’s documentation that goes directly to its prospective client. It’s usually written in an attempt to sell a company’s product or service.

While a business proposal is not an estimate, it’ll have certain financial details. An estimate is unofficial and simply a way to skim over the real costs without presenting the real picture.

In a nutshell, a business proposal shows a particular business idea intended to get investors to support this particular endeavor being suggested.

Although a business proposal shows an overview of what the company does (just like a business plan), its main aim is to provide information about the suggested business idea. 

It answers any questions or concerns potential investors may have about the suggested business idea.

Prospero business proposal software can help you easily draft a competitive and compelling proposal to beat other bids. With its user-friendly interface and various proposal templates, you don’t have to create everything from scratch.

Business proposal template Prospero

Let’s now look at the importance of a business proposal and a business plan.

Reasons for a Business Proposal

The main reason a proposal is written can only be understood based on the type of proposal you want to draft. They’re two types of proposals; invited and non-invited proposals.

Invited proposal

An invited proposal is submitted in response to an advertisement from a potential client. A good example is government agencies inviting contractors to bid on a particular service.

Alternatively, businesses request for proposals from a group of suppliers they’re willing to consider as prospective clients.

Non-invited proposals

Non-invited proposals, on the other hand, are submitted to potential clients even when they haven’t requested one. In both instances, a company must develop a compelling proposal to convince buyers. 

Proposals are limited in the scope of a particular need or project and written to specific audiences.

The main reason why businesses write proposals is to solicit or grow company opportunities. You can think of a proposal as an external document to present or sell the company to external players.

It shows what the business is all about and how it intends to carry out a particular project or use that opportunity to generate revenue for both parties.

What is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a factual description of a company on the operational and executive levels. It’s a written presentation of a company’s grand vision.

The document is typically tactical; it states where and when you want to start a project. Moreover, it will highlight when you’ll want to move on to the next phase of the project and how to accomplish that project.

Business plan Prospero

It makes potential investors interested in a company (especially small startups that haven’t made a name for themselves).

A business plan will also provide an idea of what the business requires from professionals, such as attorneys and potential employees. It indicates whether or not a company’s business goals are realistic, let alone achievable.

Reasons for a Business Plan

Business plans are visions for your company and how you intend to execute all these visions. They outline financial projections of what a business will cost to develop and operate, plus an estimate of the revenues the business will generate.

Its main purpose is to provide a reasonably detailed description of the company for use by potential investors, suppliers, accountants, and prospective employees, among other people.
For instance, one of the prerequisites for an SBA loan is an extensive and organized business plan.

Moreover, it’ll provide a quick but comprehensive view of what your company does and its chances for success.

The main reason companies write business plans is to convey and record information.

Structure of a Business Plan and a Business Proposal

Here, the two documents have various components featured on them. Here’s a detailed description of their structure below:

Structure of a Business Proposal

Overall, the structure of a proposal will depend on whether it’s solicited or unsolicited.

A solicited proposal responding to a request for proposal takes the format of an RFP. Here are the components of a business proposal:

  • Usually, it takes a quick description of products and services relevant to the RFP goals.
  • Outlining the company’s scope of work.
  • Answers to questions posed in the RFP.
  • Estimate detailing tools, materials, labor, delivery, and other elements that’ll affect the project’s cost.

An unsolicited proposal to create a business opportunity follows the same format. It, however, anticipates questions potential clients might have.

A proposal is a marketing document designed to convince prospects to do business by presenting a value disposition plus a call to action.

Try creating your business proposal here.

Structure of a Business Plan

A business plan has three components; sales tactics, business model description, and financial goals. More elaborately, it consists of the following section of information:

  • A summary of the executive
  • Product/service description
  • Industry analysis
  • Operating plan
  • Marketing strategies 
  • Internal analysis
  • Built-out plan
  • Structure of leadership 
  • Introduction of management 
  • Financial goals

The business plan is more like an information document displaying the company’s operation and potential.

Many companies fail to follow this format while writing their business plan or proposal, a reason why most don’t win bids or prospective clients. 

Using Prospero to write a professionally compelling business proposal and integrate your business plan can help you get investors interested in your company so that they want a sit at the table.

Proposal writing software Prospero

What’s the Difference Between a Business Plan and a Proposal?

Business proposals differ from business plans in content, writing style, purpose, goals, and structure.

The sole distinguishing factor between the two terms is that a business plan is a factual presentation of facts, whereas a business proposal is an external market document that highlights a quote and a call to action.

Let’s look at some distinguishing features between the two terms:

Business Proposal vs. Business Plan

A business plan provides a detailed description of how the business was set up, plus its project.

On the other hand, a business proposal is a purposeful sale document illustrating how a business will execute a particular project. Usually, it’s drawn and submitted to another enterprise or organization putting forward a business arrangement.

In addition, the structure of a business plan contains three elements, including a description of the business model, sales tactics, and financial projections.

On the other hand, the structure of a business proposal takes the format of an RFP if it’s solicited.

A business plan shows the scope of a business and, in turn, clarifies your thinking as a business owner and also gives you information that you hadn’t considered before.

Conversely, proposals show a limited scope of a specific project or need for a particular audience.

While trying to craft these two documents, you must seek proficient experts to help you write compelling proposals and plans to convince potential investors and other partners to invest in your business.

Types of Business Plans and Proposals

A business proposal can be divided into solicited and unsolicited proposals. How different are they? Let’s delve right in.

Solicited Proposals

This is presented in response to a request for proposal (RFP). It’s usually submitted responding to a work statement from sponsors.

These sponsors use the request for proposal to solicit a specific proposal for research, training, or to provide services or goods. The RFP includes standard terms, conditions, and assurance that the company is asked to accept. 

A good example is when an organization or government agency wanting to buy products or services from a particular sector invites contractors to place bids.

In other scenarios, some businesses will ask suppliers to provide RFP to those they’re considering a partnership with.

The business is competing against other businesses that want to secure the same contract. It’s, therefore, in their best interest to provide compelling and competitive business proposals.

Prospero can assist you in such instances; it has the experience and expertise to curate excellent proposals that win contracts. Call it today to generate a proposal with its Prospero business proposal generator.

Unsolicited Business Proposals

This proposal is submitted to potential clients, even when they haven’t asked for one.

In such circumstances, a business wanting to secure a contract will suggest a product or service to a potential organization in return for funds.

A good example is when an organization tends a proposal to develop an application or renders some training services to its staff.

Just like solicited business proposals, a company must curate a well-researched proposal that will convince prospective clients you’re the right candidate for the job.

Types of Business Plans

Business plans are also categorized into four types, including

  • short plans,
  • presentation plans,
  • working plans,
  • and what-if plans.

These types require different degrees of labor and are not always proportional to results.

Presentation Plan

Using PowerPoint to outlay information about a business changed the way companies created their business plan. Many businesses lose sleep trying to figure out how you’re going to present a business plan that can affect a company’s future.

Working Plan

This is a plan used to operate your business. The plan can be long in detail but shorter in presentation. There’s no room for informality or candor while preparing it.

If you’re considering presenting this plan to a loan committee, you’ll have to describe a competing rival primarily on a price basis.

A working plan used to create outlines for internal use may have some elements omitted; probably, you’ll not need to add an appendix with a resume of key executives.

Internal policy considerations may guide what to include or exclude in the working plan.

What-If Plan

A business must prepare for unforeseen circumstances. The company may want to have a contingency plan when seeking bank financing.

This plan is usually curated in the worst-case scenario that you can foresee your business surviving. It’s important to shelter yourself from things like loss of market share, the defection of a key member of management, and heavy price competition.

A contingency plan can help cover the fears of bankers and investors by demonstrating that your business has considered more than one rosy circumstance.

Moreover, your business can benefit from a what-if plan in situation acquisition. It can help you outline the worth of the acquisition and how it can affect the core business.

Take Away

In summary, you can say that a business plan is more of an internal document, whereas a business proposal is an external one that is used to sell the product or service of a company to prospective clients.

In addition, a business plan guides the activities of a company internally in terms of revenue projections and marketing strategies that must be achieved in a particular time frame.

On the other hand, a business proposal will show external parties like a government agency and sponsors what the business is all about to convince them to invest in your business. The proposal should outline how you will carry out a particular project to generate revenue.

Whether trying to curate a business plan or proposal, it has to be compelling and competitive to beat other bidders. 

Why Not Give Prospero A Try?

Working with Prospero to generate professionally written proposals or plans is essentially wise. It has a variety of templates for different industries and comes with a lot of customization options. Some ready-made content are also available so you won’t need to write from scratch every now and then.

You can manage and track the performance of your proposals through its built-in analytics, so your sales team would be more productive and efficient.

It’ll increase your chances of securing contracts and proposals that can take the business to the next level.

Sign up today and create your first proposal!


She is the Marketing Manager of Prospero. She specializes in content writing, marketing, and SEO.