Salespeople vs. Accountants

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Sales or Accounting?

There are two perspectives about which department is more important to the success of a business:  sales or accounting.  I’m here to argue that they are both important; there needs to be a symbiotic relationship between the two.  But the part I find most interesting is the difference in the personalities behind the two departments.  I’ve had a fascination for long time with the difference between introverts and extroverts, and suddenly it occurred to me that typically, salespeople are extroverts and accountants are introverts.  I thought an analysis of the two the departments would be interesting.

The argument usually goes that without sales you have no business.  I can’t disagree with that.  But I also believe that you can’t have a successful business without a strong accounting department making sure everything stays in line.  Makes sense, right?

What I realized.

What I realized today, is that salespeople, being the extroverts they are, believe it is their job to go out and meet as many people as they can and get as many of them as they can to buy their service or product.  In order to convince people to buy from them, salespeople will typically negotiate until they make the sale.  Which can sometimes mean they don’t leave any margin for profit.  But hey, they made the sale, so they’ve done their job and have justified their position. 

On the other side, the bean counters in the back quietly look at the sales and crunch their numbers until they realize that the salespeople have sold the product or service at a loss.  If no one is watching, the salespeople will sell and sell and sell, but they will be giving the service/product away which is costing the business money.

For example, in one business I know (don’t worry, they weren’t a client) landed a deal with Trader Joe’s.  The management and sales team were so excited because it meant they would sell a huge volume of their wine.  But the CFO kept trying to explain to them that it didn’t matter how much they sold if they took a loss on every case, which is what was happening, they were losing money.  Management and the sale people couldn’t understand.  But if you don’t get those introverted accountants to do their job and figure out if the product is being sold at a profit, you may end up putting yourself out of business, as happened in this case.

The long and short of it is, those extroverted salespeople may overshadow the introverted accountants, but in the end, the business is dependent on both departments.  Salespeople will argue that they are a revenue center, which is true enough, but it’s the accounting department that is a cost savings, and sometimes, company-saving, department. 

Don’t overlook the quiet, introverted accounting department, they have backbones made of steel and will hold the company together with their critical analysis of the numbers and where the company is making money and where it isn’t.

To sum it all up.

We all love a great salesperson, they are the life of the party, they make us feel good, and they keep a good company going by bringing in sale after sale after sale.  But remember to temper their enthusiasm with a dose of reality from the number crunchers quietly working away behind the scenes.  Both departments are critical to a company’s success and though they are sometimes like oil and water, they both deserve the respect and understanding of what the other brings to the table.  Working together may be challenging when the personalities can sometimes be so polar opposite but both departments are critical to the success of any company.

Sherry Lutz Herrington is the owner of Sherrington Financial Fitness, a business consulting and accounting firm specializing in strategic business planning and solid financial accounting for businesses. She is also the author of Strong Women Thriving (, a blog which focuses on empowering women to be financially savvy, particularly after experiencing financial abuse. Sherry is currently writing a new book that both shares her personal story and addresses financial abuse. She can be reached at

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