When you're selling to a foreign prospect, the pomp and circumstance of formal meetings may get in the way of closing a deal. After 20 years of selling internationally, Wayne Cooper decided to balance the formality with an evening of casual entertaining.

It began when Cooper, CEO of 13-year-old Arcon Manufacturing Inc., in Charlotte, N.C., invited a delegation visiting from China over to his ranch to cook its favorite dishes. "They had been on the road for a month and missed their native cuisine," explains Cooper, who then sold them a grain-storage system the next day after a year and a half of meetings.

To keep things simple, the five- to six-person delegations cook just for themselves, Cooper, and his wife, Judy. Business is not discussed. "In meetings prior to the dinner, they feel like you are trying to put one over on them and are suspicious; afterward they want my advice," claims Cooper, who now turns his kitchen over to visiting chefs once a month.