Whenever I can, I include telemarketing as part of a comprehensive lead-generation program. When it comes to setting sales appointments, populating a database with decision-maker names, or filling seats at an event, there's no contact method that's more direct or more effective. The results of telemarketing are usually measurable, too, which is also a rare benefit for any campaign tactic.

But, actually, you can expect more from your telemarketing programs than appointment-setting and seat-filling. In fact, telemarketing can lend tremendous support to helping you achieve other aspects sales and marketing initiatives.

Think about it: Your telemarketers, internal or outsourced, have more direct contact with your prospect universe than anyone else within your organization. There's no reason you shouldn't use that contact to your advantage.

Here are four primary benefits to telemarketing that are often overlooked, but can help you derive even more value from your calling programs.

1. Get in on the ground floor with a new customer

It's always exciting to make those "jackpot" calls where you discover a company with a big initiative already in progress—and they invite you to participate. What a rush! Unfortunately, experienced salespeople will tell you, actually winning those deals is a long shot—it's the "incumbents" who have invested the time and built the relationship that usually have the edge over the newcomers. That's particularly true in a complex sale.

Ongoing telemarketing gives you the opportunity to be that incumbent. Cold-calling enables you open a dialogue with the new, undiscovered people, often before they've even begun the buying process. Think about it—someone who doesn't know you exist, with only a marginal understanding of the problem you solve—is not going to come looking for you. Telemarketing is a very direct method of identifying those people.

When you're in an account first, you can be the one to educate them, help them set benchmarks, and even help them format their RFP. It may be a long and nurturing process, but it can yield a lucrative relationship.

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Michelle Palmer is president of Leading Edge, a marketing firm that specializes in developing and implementing lead-generation programs for mid-market companies. Reach her via mpalmer@LeadingEdgePrograms.com.