At 9 A.M. on any given Monday morning, new-home sales associates across America are picking through trays of bagels and drinking lukewarm coffee before their weekly sales meeting. The sales manager might come in at 9:10, look hopefully at everyone and say, “So, how's traffic?”

The meeting will probably go downhill from there, with people griping about the marketing department not generating enough leads, or prospects who can't sell their houses, or how the builder down the street just slashed his prices by $50,000 and who can compete against that? And just when someone tries to turn it all around by talking about the sale he made, the division president will come in and use that very sale as an example of how a contract was screwed up.

That's not what should happen at a sales meeting—ever. That weekly block of time should be used for one thing only—to motivate the sales staff and give them the tools to be successful. Used to its full advantage, a year's worth of weekly sales meetings can give sales associates an in-depth set of skills. With on-going training, they'll be able to interpret their buyers' personality types, ask insightful discovery questions, give a dynamite model demonstration, show a home site, create urgency, overcome objections, and ask for the sale with every customer who comes through the door.

“If you only do two things right, what would you want them to be? Hire great people and run a great sales meeting,” says Atlanta-based sales and marketing consultant John Rymer. “If I've got great salespeople and keep them motivated, educated, and sharp, the rest of my work could be pretty easy.”

So, why do weekly sales meetings have a reputation for being deadly dull and, even worse, something to dread? Primarily, it's because the sales manager is still trying to figure out what he's going to say when he walks in the door.

“The average sales manager puts zero preparation into a meeting,” says nationally recognized sales trainer Myers Barnes of Kitty Hawk, N.C. Ideally, a manager should put in two to three hours of “intense preparation” during the week for a one-hour meeting, he says.

When Millie Allen Eubanks was vice president of sales for Ideal Homes in Norman, Okla., she would create a schedule at the beginning of the year and “then just start rotating” through a list of about 10 topics she wanted to cover regularly, such as closings, involvement questions, objections, and follow-up. She typically spent four hours a week in preparation, creating an agenda, finding good reference material, coming up with fun, interactive ways to present the topic, and assigning various parts of the meeting to different team members. “I think more sales managers should spend more time on it than, ‘Oh shoot, I need to do a sales meeting,'” says Eubanks, who now is an associate facilitator and coach for nationally known sales trainer Bob Schultz of Boca Raton, Fla. “You are the sales team's life's blood.”

To find out how sales managers can make the most of the weekly sales meeting, Builder asked six top sales trainers—Barnes, Schultz, Rymer, Eubanks, Nicki Joy of Gaithersburg, Md., and Denver-based S. Robert August—as well as sales managers at large and small builders around the country. Here is what they recommend:

Ditch the Monday morning meeting. This will probably be the most controversial recommendation of all, for no other reason than it's always been done that way. But the pros are fairly well aligned on saying that it makes far more sense from a motivational perspective to meet on Friday because that's when the sales team ispreparing for weekend traffic. They'll leave with some go-get-'em encouragement and new training tips to try out right away, instead of trying to remember on Saturday what was talked about on Monday.

If the idea of meeting on Friday seems “bizarre,” as one sales manager told us, think about this: When does a coach give his team a pre-game pep talk? The morning after the game, or right before the players take the field? As for the sales associates who say they can't come to a sales meeting on Friday because that's their day off, we like Schultz's answer: When they are the ones signing the loan papers that put their personal assets on the line, they get to make the rules. Meet on Friday.