Magazine subscriptions at $12 a year can sell over the telephone, but what about the services of a software programmer costing $100,000? Ashok Trivedi figured it was worth the cost of a few phone calls to find out. When his company, Mastech, was a cash-strapped start-up, it could not afford branch offices to serve major corporations in their local areas.

Trivedi needed to differentiate his company from the competition. One way to do that was to use telesales instead of branch offices. Selling by phone allowed Mastech to pass on savings to its customers and bid more competitively for work.

Telemarketing has since enabled the Pittsburgh-based company to extend its sales territories to places like Battle Creek, Mich., and Wichita, where competitors' branch offices don't reach and where demand for programmers familiar with leading-edge software can far exceed supply.

As a result, prospects are more willing to listen to a sales pitch over the phone, since they are more in need of the service. Now more than 50% of Mastech's $195 million in sales come from its in-house phone reps.