Quick question, CPAs: How many of you think you’re in sales?

Since most of you like sales as much as you like botulism, I’m guessing almost none of you raised your hand.

You wouldn’t be alone. In his closing keynote at the American Society of Association Executives’ 2012 Annual Meeting in Dallas, best-selling author Dan Pink shared the results of a recent survey in which 7,000 people nationwide were asked for the first word that came to mind when they think of sales. Here are the results in a word cloud:

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Look familiar?

Here’s the problem, though: According to Pink, we’re all in sales. Every last one of us.

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One in nine Americans works in traditional sales. The rest of us dabble in what Pink calls “non-sales selling” — promoting our services, networking, fishing for new clients. Regardless of what we want to call it, we’re selling.

And that means we need to come to grips with the facts of modern-day selling — namely, sales doesn’t mean what you think it means. According to Pink, the role of sales has changed more in the last 10 years than the previous 100 years combined.

How? Pink says it all comes down to “information parity.” In a world where buyers have as much (if not more) information than sellers, the notion of “Buyer Beware” has been turned on its head. Information has empowered today’s consumers, and that has ushered in an era of “Seller Beware.” When their potential clients have as much information as they do, sellers must embrace values like honesty, transparency and integrity.

When that happens, everyone wins. The buyer gets the truth, and the seller gets the buyer’s trust — and, by extension, the buyer’s business.

How cool is that?

Information equals truth, and truth equals trust, and trust equals business.

By extension, can we assume that information — honest, valuable, transparent information — equals business?

That’s not your traditional definition of “sales,” but who cares? In a world where we’re all salespeople, maybe it’s time to redefine our terms.

What are your thoughts on the role sales plays in the CPA profession?

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