The way Jim Ake figures it, "if we can convince a customer to visit our place, we'll make the sale about 90% of the time." Akefounded Electronic Liquid Fillers (ELF), a $15-million manufacturer, in LaPorte, Ind. The company encourages prospectivebuyers to make the visit by promising to subtract the cost of a round-trip airfare from the first invoice when theyplace an order.

At times, ELF gets a visit a day from prospective customers. To the 50% of ELF's customers that are small companies, theairfare offer can be the deciding factor on whether to fly out. Big-company customers, on the other hand, often don't evenbother sending in receipts for reimbursement.

"When prospective customers see this company has meat on its bones and will be here to service the equipment, it means a lot,"says Ake. "It's well worth the cost."