Companies need to focus on their strategic alignment, improve their sales force behavior and enhance their selling capabilities in today’s tougher environment, consultancy Accenture said in a report released recently. The study, «Selling in turbulent times,» singled out the weaknesses in corporate selling exposed by a weak economy and a raft of uncertainties. The survey questioned 178 senior executives from a wide range of industries from financial services to energy, technology, media and manufacturing. Respondents came from all over the world. Two-thirds of the respondents worked at companies targeting other businesses while about a 10th focused on consumers. «A weakened economy and uncertainty about when times will improve have made sales harder to close and heightened competition in many market sectors,» the report said, based on the gloomy response from slightly more than half of the respondents. Weaknesses uncovered by the more difficult times could prove to be damaging over the long term, Accenture said, as they could «continue limiting sales effectiveness even after the economy improves.» For companies that have invested in building up their customer relationship management but have failed to see any results, the problem could lie in the lack of real insight into what people are likely to buy in the future, it said. Businesses, however, could boost sales even in a tough environment by focusing on three key areas, the report said. It said aligning the right sales people and programs with the customers and channels, and improving sales behavior through effective recruitment, advanced training techniques and delivering rewards are crucial. The third element involves strengthening selling capabilities, the study said. This means designing and implementing the right sales processes and tools, and implementing customer analytics to focus the sales force on the right opportunities, messages, buyers and sales tactics. Taking measures now to improve the selling strategy will enhance a company’s selling power in tough and good times, the report concluded.