Kathie McDaniel admits, even brags, that she’s a stalker.

When she’s shopping, getting her hair done, buying a cell phone, on Facebook, pretty much everywhere she goes, the Highland Homes director of sales and marketing is looking for her next best home-sales agent. Where other people see an especially helpful retail worker, she spots a potential top home seller.

“Look everywhere,” she told a packed audience at the International Builders’ Show session “POP! 30 Secrets to Building and Managing a Firecracker Sales Team.” Specifically, she suggests that going outside the home building industry to mine job candidates can be fruitful.

“Look for those who are working for very little money, used to working weekends, in a competitive environment.” She looks for the hairdresser who can talk you into getting your hair colored in addition to the cut.

The Lakeland, Fla.–based McDaniel uses blind messages sent through social media to attract candidates and then sets up rules in her e-mail so that every candidate is automatically replied to and asked to answer a short questionnaire. That sorts out less-serious candidates and gives her a window into how diligent, articulate, and tech savvy the candidates might be.

“Shop for attributes,” she said, not necessarily home sales experience.

McDaniel tries to set up interviews with potential sales agents at inconvenient times for them to see how they respond, because that’s what customers will do. 

“Are they going to stay past closing time” for a customer, she asked.

She also interviews at sales centers where she can have the agent role play to analyze how much training they might need.

She uses Skype as an interviewing tool too, to see if they are familiar with the technology or driven enough to become familiar with it for the interview, and also to see how professionally they present themselves.

McDaniel suggests asking candidates to tell their life story from the time they can first remember. If they start telling her about their work experience right away, she can tell they aren’t listening. She also gets a sense about the candidates’ personality and how they handle adversity and challenge.

Kerry Mulcrone of Kerry & Co., a sales and marketing company that specializes in processes, emphasized the importance of creating company cohesiveness by consistently repeating the same company message to customers from the marketing material to the sales agents.

“Make sure that everyone sings the same song,” she said.

She suggests teaching sales agents to look to other industries for selling techniques. She takes her sales agents to the mall, sends them out to shop, and instructs them to come back with stories about their experiences with sales techniques while shopping. 

“You have to learn how people buy,” she said.

Mulcrone says the best motivator is free: praise. “Always catch them doing something right.”

Melinda Brody of Melinda Brody and Company, a mystery shopping and sales coaching company, suggests that sales managers hire agents who have different and better skills than their own. 

“Hire someone who is smarter than you, more creative than you,” she said. “That is the person who bullies you to be a better manager.”

Brody suggests that you hire sales agents who can find solutions to their own problems, and empower them to make those decisions independently, rather than looking to you for answers.

“You don’t want to be the fire marshal,” she said. “I want them to put out their own fires. … You have to step back as a manager and empower other people.”

Teresa Burney is a senior editor at Builder.