"If we can convince a customer to visit our place, we'll make the sale about 90% of the time," says Jim Ake, CEO of $11-million Electronic Liquid Fillers Inc. (ELF), in LaPorte, Ind. So Ake encourages prospective buyers by subtracting the cost of one round-trip airline fare from the invoice if the customer places an order for ELF's bottling machinery, which costs from $8,000 to $70,000.

ELF gets about one visit a day from a prospective customer. To the 50% of ELF's customers that are small companies, the airfare offer can be a deciding factor on whether to fly out, while big-company customers don't even bother sending in tickets for reimbursement.

"When they 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."

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