October 10, 2023
10 min read

Difference Between a Business Plan and a Business Proposal

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It’s natural to get confused between a business proposal and a business plan if you are planning to turn your idea into reality. While business proposals and plans may sound similar on the surface, they have differences — such as distinct purposes and formats. 

A business plan describes your business goals, strategies, and financial projections. A business proposal, on the other hand, proposes a specific solution to a problem or opportunity and helps you persuade the relevant stakeholder to invest in your business. 

However, writing a business proposal or a business plan can be challenging, especially if you are confused about their purpose. In this blog, we will explain the difference between a business plan and a business proposal and its major components.

Business Plan

A business plan tells the investors how you plan to ship your product to enough people to clock revenue. It’s about the strategies that will make you the first buck. 

A business plan keeps your team on the same page — you can use it as a guiding light. It can help you track the progress of your business, give you a roadmap, and help you make decisions about your business’s future.

Plus, it can be helpful when it comes to pitching your business idea to a third party, for example, when seeking a loan.

Components of a Business Plan

A business plan is majorly divided into three sections, which include an executive summary, a sales and marketing strategy, and a financial plan. 

An executive summary is a brief, clear, and compelling overview of your business. It is usually the first section of the document, and it contains the most important information, such as your strengths. 

These can be further broken down into the following sections:

  • Description of products and services, including mission, vision, and objectives of the business
  • Target market
  • Competitive advantage
  • Industry and Competitor Analysis
  • Marketing strategy
  • Operating plan
  • Team structure and qualifications
  • Internal business analysis
  • Management introduction 
  • Financial analysis
  • Cash flow statement or sales forecast
  • Break-even analysis

Business Proposal

A business proposal is a separate written document that outlines a specific business opportunity, project, or idea and presents it to potential clients. 

It intends to persuade them to take action, such as accepting a business deal or entering into a partnership, thereby helping you get new customers or partners. 

A business proposal should be customized to the needs and interests of the receiver. A generic proposal will rarely help you meet your business goals. 

At the same time, ensure your proposal is well-organized, persuasive, and creative. Check out these free business proposal templates to impress your clients. 

Solicited and Unsolicited Business Proposals

Proposals are solicited from you, or you send them on your initiative. 

You write a solicited proposal in response to a prospect’s or customer’s request for a product. They may ask you verbally, or they may issue a written request for proposals (RFP). A solicited business proposal contains a detailed description of the product, service, or solution that you offer to solve the customer's problem or need. It’s generally easier to write because you know what the customer wants or expects. 

But if you’re writing the proposal on your own, which is the case with unsolicited business proposals, then you’re convincing the receiver to work with you or buy from you. Such proposals are often challenging to write because you have to convince them they have a problem and you have a solution.

Components of a Business Proposal

The following are the key components of a business proposal:

  • Title page
  • Executive summary
  • Introduction
  • Problem statement
  • Objectives
  • Scope of work
  • Approach
  • Timeline
  • Budget
  • Benefits of Return on Investment (ROI)
  • Conclusion
  • Call to Action (CTA)

Business Plan vs. Business Proposal

While a business plan outlines your goals and explains how you will achieve them, a proposal sells your product to potential customers.

In the following table, we have summarized the main differences between a business plan and a business proposal:

Streamline the proposal creation process

To wrap up, a business proposal is a document that pitches your products or services to a potential client, while a business plan outlines your goals, strategies, and financial projections for your business. 

With business management software like Cone, you can easily streamline and automate your proposal creation while ensuring your proposals are bespoke and customized. Sign up for free and experience the seamless proposal creation process for yourself. While you’re at it, check out other business proposals and management resources we have for you.