Using the phone to sell a product or service is relatively inexpensive. So whether you're doing the calling in-house or hiring a service, you can afford to experiment with telesales. Here are four ideas from Jack Falvey, managing director of Intermark, a small Londonderry, N.H., consulting firm.

  1. Introduce mail with the phone. Call people to ask them to watch for material you've mailed, or ask their permission to send it. Mailing to willing recipients saves postage and gives you a better-qualified lead.
  2. Follow up a mailing with a phone call. The mailing should include a response vehicle, such as a postcard to send back or a number to call. But making a follow-up call can double your response.
  3. Conduct a market survey. Use the phone to learn what features or benefits that customers value in the product or service you propose to sell. Or use your calls to test a price.
  4. Conduct an after-market survey. Call customers to find out if you met their expectations. Doing this during a market test will give you an indication of what your long-term success will be.