Both marketing and sales are vital to your firm’s success. But to get the most out of both, you need to treat them differently.

Marketing and sales share a common goal – making your accounting business more profitable. This is the similarity that makes people mix up the two functions. However, you must understand that they’re very different.

Despite the same end goal, the way they contribute to that goal differs greatly. Drawing a clear line between the two will allow you to focus on each separately so that none of your efforts goes to waste. In the end, the results will reflect this.

Just ask an Accountant I coach, Andrew Pitre. Knowing the difference between marketing and sales, he was able to sign three clients at an average hourly rate (AHR) of around $400. Better yet, he managed to land the clients even though his competitors offered similar work for much less.

This goes to show that with a deep understanding of marketing and sales, you can win without having to undercut the competitors. Even if the odds might not seem in your favor, you can still beat them.

Of course, this will only happen if you know the key aspects that separate marketing and sales. 

Definition of Marketing vs. Sales

Derived from the term ‘market’, marketing analyzes customer needs so that a business can tailor their products and services to meet those needs. It involves increasing the product’s value in a way that increases both sales and brand images.

The reason why people often confuse sales with marketing is that they converge at the end. By definition, sales happen in the final step of marketing, which is why the two are always interlinked.

You might be wondering, what does this look like in practice?

Let’s say that you wanted to sell bookkeeping services.

The first step would be to let potential clients know about this. You can do this in many different ways, or better known as marketing campaigns. You could advertise on social media, get referrals, or pay to drive traffic to your website.

These are all marketing efforts with the aim of getting people interested in working with you. If they do what they’re supposed to, you get these people to the final step – the sale.

A prospect may call you on the phone or set up a meeting, which is where the sales initiative begins. 

In this context, marketing aims to warm up strangers and turn them into prospects. Sales, on the other hand, have the goal of converting prospects into paying clients. 

Again, the end goal here is the same, but marketing and sales play a different part. They act in separate stages and work together to draw someone in and get them to work with you.

Now, this is just a rough overview of how sales differ from marketing. Let’s go into more detail and break down the eight major differences.

1. Approach

The strategy itself is different. Sales have a fragmented approach as opposed to marketing, which is much more integrated. That’s straightforward enough.

Marketing covers everything from the first exposure to your offer to post-sale activities.

For example, you could use social media to let people know what you have to offer. You could follow that up by telling them more about it through your content, which you’ll keep doing until they call you. This is where the sales part comes in. And when you do make the sale, you can nurture your relationship with the client with additional marketing efforts. 

In this sense, sales is a part of marketing, with the latter integrating all activities of client acquisition and retention.

2. Orientation

Marketing always aims the customers (market). On the other hand, sales primarily focus on your product or service.

Therefore, your content marketing may focus on client problems by providing valuable information. You’d do this to show them that you can help.

And when you get to the sales part, you show the prospect how you can help. You discuss the benefits of your service and how it fixes the issue they’re having.

3. Focus

Both sales and marketing need to act in the interest of the firm and support its growth. However, sales are primarily focused on the firm itself. In comparison, marketing shifts the attention towards the market.

This is apparent in the metrics that your firm tracks to measure progress. Marketing requires the measurement of engagement, market share, and similar metrics. The focus here is on the outside of the company.

To the opposite, the top sales metrics measure the firm’s internal performance and results. These include revenue, profits, and other financial metrics.

4. Process

This is where the difference between marketing and sales is the most visible. It’s also what you need to pay special attention to if you want to improve both.

By definition, the sales process involves the exchange of goods and services for adequate compensation. You sell someone your bookkeeping services and you get paid on the agreed amount and terms.

On the other hand, marketing requires the identification of client needs and the ways of meeting them. This would mean finding the businesses that need your accounting services and defining the best way to deliver them.

5. Scope

In terms of scope, marketing affects the processes that happen before the sale. As mentioned, the process requires the identification of customer needs.

As your firm goes about it, the sales process creates a specific service for meeting those needs. In addition, it involves the transfer of those services to the client.

So, if you realize that there’s a gap in the market for compliance services, you’ll tailor yours in a way that meets the needs of your clients. You’ll then close the deal by selling those services.

6. Objective

Although both sales and marketing support the company in the direction of profit growth, their objectives differ. If marketing doesn’t meet its goals, it will be very hard to meet sales goals.

This is because the main objective of marketing is to instigate consumers in a way that will lead to a sale. On the other hand, the objective of sales is to actually close the deal.

Let’s assume that you put out a blog post titled ’10 Tips for Preparing for the Next Tax Season.’ The objective of this marketing effort is to show a prospect that you can solve their problem. But it doesn’t make them a client.

It will only get people interested enough to get into your sales funnel. If they reach the sales call or meeting stage, you’ve met the marketing objective. You then use the sales process to actually close the deal and convert the prospect into a paying client.

7. Duration

Sales initiatives last for a limited, short amount of time. A meeting or sales call can last from a few minutes to a few hours in some cases. 

In contrast, marketing is an ongoing, long-term effort. 

You may be running a Facebook ad every day for two years. But the actual act of selling happens once in a while and lasts a much shorter period of time compared to marketing.

8. Relationship

Finally, sales and marketing involve a different kind of relationship with your prospects.

Sales are one-to-one but marketing relationships are one-to-many, as you’re targeting the general population instead of individual prospects. 

For example, our client Jon Neal targeted his marketing efforts at those in three separate industries. He closed a deal with a restaurant client for $6,550/month, a car service company for $2,750/month, and another one in property investment for $3,000/month. 

Conversely, our client Nate Bybee used the sales process to take a $22,000/year client up to $60,000/year. He did this by sitting down with the client one-on-one and selling more services.

In Summation

As you can see, there are many differences that separate marketing from sales. And yet, it’s necessary for the two functions to work together if you wish to grow your accounting practice.

The key is to identify which aspects of each that you should work on and improve. You’ll increase the effectiveness of each step required to turn a complete stranger into a paying client.