The best business schools have always praised two things: efficiency and numbers. So, in retail, when sales go down, it makes sense to cut staff and hours, right? And from this “cut” mindset, we look for minimums: how few people do we need to stay open? What other costs can we cut to save money?

Then, when we look at the bottom line, we see results from doing this and continue the same behaviors. However, this approach is not sustainable, and it excludes consideration of critical data that is less easy to measure but just as impactful on the bottom line.

Instead of continuing to cut, here are a few considerations to better manage sales staffing.

Hello, data

We have schedules, sales results and POS details — it is time to start looking at this data differently. Instead of looking at minimums, use the date to find out how many team members must be available to maximize sales.

Get a firm grip on sales trends as the day progresses and compare similar situations to answer to determine the sweet spot between sales person presence and increase sales.

In addition, we must realize all locations are not the same. Competition, hours, physical layout, flow, and the local community may make staffing requirements vary even if we only have a couple of locations.

By understanding the positive impact staff presence can have on sales and noting that that presence might translate differently in different locations, we can mine our existing data to understand the positive impact adding staff can have instead of just the cost impact of cutting staff.

(For detailed methodologies on crunching the numbers and to geek out on research around the positive impact of sales person presence, check out this research from HBR.)

Oh, the choices!

In addition to data, sales success is all about differentiators. We must start looking at what our experience offers the customer as a basis for understanding the variables we can directly impact to make that experience better.

For example, if it is just as easy for someone to go to our location as a competitors’, or buy online instead of coming in, our experienced salespeople can be a competitive differentiator. Consider the basic difference between visiting an Ace Hardware store and a Home Depot.

While it may be possible to pay less at a big box competitor, a local, knowledgeable team may provide more value and a more positive experience.

The bottom line is, by revisiting data we have already collected, we can expand our understanding of customer flow and the relationship between staffing and sales. We can use this data going forward to look at staffing maximums instead of minimums and then exploit the in-person experience as a differentiator from both larger competitors and online retailers.

Numbers and efficiency are critical components of managing costs, but maximizing staff impact on sales instead of minimizing staff impact on costs can be an important shift to achieve better numbers.