A sales engineer's role extends beyond mere sales, encompassing aspects of consultancy. In addition to marketing products to clients, negotiating prices, and sealing deals, modern sales engineers play a pivotal role in assisting customers in navigating complex technical products and selecting the most suitable solution to address their issues. Occasionally, sales engineers also engage in market research and research and development activities to enhance product offerings tailored to the unique requirements of their customers.
What Is a Sales Engineer?
A sales engineer is a specialized business-to-business sales representative who excels in selling intricate technical products and services. Their role demands a profound understanding of the technical intricacies underpinning the products they promote. They must grasp the inner workings of a product or service and the underlying technology that drives these advanced offerings. This technical expertise empowers them to effectively elucidate the advantages of their products and contribute to sealing deals.
Like their sales peers, sales engineers depend on commissions from successful sales, which necessitates diligent efforts to achieve sales targets and meet client expectations.
Sales Engineer Job Description
A sales engineer's primary responsibility is maintaining comprehensive knowledge of the product or service they are promoting. Additionally, they provide technical assistance tailored to meet customer needs and facilitate the closing of sales. Typically, most sales engineers work full-time, and some may extend their working hours irregularly to accommodate client demands and achieve sales targets.
Here are some of the sales engineers' daily tasks and responsibilities:
- Preparing, developing, and delivering technical presentations to the client's team, showcasing the product's features and benefits.
- Collaborating with other sales and customer support teams to assist throughout all purchasing process stages.
- Generating new leads who are potentially interested in purchasing the product and persistently following up with them from initial contact until the sale is completed.
- Establishing and attaining the company's sales objectives and goals.
- Gathering and analyzing client feedback to detect market trends and formulate new strategies to improve sales performance.
Sales Engineer Responsibilities
Much like conventional sales representatives, the primary role of a sales engineer revolves around boosting sales. Their core responsibilities include identifying potential customers, promoting the company's products or services, and successfully finalizing sales transactions.
Furthermore, sales engineers contribute to market research efforts and collaborate with product design teams to integrate user feedback. This process generates valuable data that informs the creation of products better suited for the market, ultimately leading to enhanced sales performance.
Sales Engineer Salary
The annual salaries of sales engineers can vary significantly depending on the nature of the products they sell and the company they are employed with. According to data from ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for a sales engineer in the United States is $80,786, equivalent to $6,732 per month.
Employers typically offer a combination of a fixed monthly salary and commissions based on sales achievements, along with other potential bonuses. In some cases, sales engineers may work solely on a commission basis. The commission structure can be based on individual sales performance, team performance, or company success.
The economic climate plays a substantial role in determining the commissions and bonuses received by sales engineers, as the demand for products or services can fluctuate seasonally. Since the job often involves extensive travel, sales engineers are typically compensated for on-the-road expenses such as transportation, lodging, entertainment, and meals.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of sales engineers is projected to grow by 8% between 2020 and 2030, reflecting positive prospects for this profession in the coming years.
What It’s Like Working as a Sales Engineer
A sales engineer's role typically commences with an intensive learning phase, where they familiarize themselves with the product and stay updated on all its enhancements and bug fixes. This knowledge is essential as sales engineers must effectively demonstrate how the product functions and how it can address the customer's specific needs. Additionally, they are responsible for maintaining ongoing communication with potential clients until the sale is successfully closed.
In addition to their sales responsibilities, sales engineers often engage in marketing efforts for the product or service they represent. This can involve participating in trade shows, conferences, and similar events, offering opportunities to network and promote the product, ultimately driving increased sales.
Sales engineers also engage in data analytics and prepare reports that senior management can use to assess performance. They may also support other sales teams as part of their duties.
It's important to note that a sales engineer's job can be quite demanding, as a significant portion of their income is contingent on successful sales. To become a sales engineer, one must be willing to transition from the product development side of engineering to sales. This transition can sometimes evoke mixed feelings, as engineers may reflect on their prior involvement in product development.
What It Takes To Become a Sales Engineer
Many sales engineers typically hold degrees in computer science, engineering, or related technical fields. However, in some cases, individuals may assume the title of sales engineer even without a formal degree, provided they possess a strong background in sales and sufficient technical knowledge about the product or service.
Conversely, some individuals may have degrees in science-related fields lacking prior sales experience, yet effectively function as sales engineers. A sales engineer's role also demands specific skills and certifications, which are detailed below.
Earning a college degree typically entails a four-year commitment, with a focus on high-tech fields. Sales engineers often pursue majors in computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, or civil engineering.
After completing their degree, many sales engineers undergo specialized sales education to bridge the gap between their engineering background and sales skills. This transition is essential before they can fully assume the sales engineer role.
This sales training phase is often overseen by an experienced sales mentor who deeply understands the company's products, customer base, and business practices. Initially, sales engineers collaborate with general sales representatives who may lack technical expertise but complement their sales capabilities.
However, education for sales engineers doesn't conclude with a degree. Given the continuous technological advancements, sales engineers must keep pace with evolving technology to enhance their sales proficiency. They frequently engage in ongoing training to stay current with emerging technologies, as their technical knowledge can become outdated swiftly.
Similar to any sales professional, a sales engineer requires strong interpersonal abilities. Proficient interpersonal skills enable the sales engineer to establish rapport with clients and collaborate effectively with colleagues in sales and product teams.
Exceptional communication and persuasion skills are vital, empowering sales engineers to deliver confident sales presentations and persuade clients to invest in the product or service. Self-assurance is a crucial attribute to what's required in general sales roles.
Moreover, sales engineers must possess a profound technical understanding of the products they promote. These technical competencies enable them to propose customized solutions to address specific customer issues, aligning with their products.
A well-rounded sales engineer's skill set includes capabilities in project management, computer proficiency, customer service, and expertise in delivering technical presentations. These attributes collectively enhance their effectiveness in the role.
To embark on a career as a sales engineer, having a bachelor's degree in computer science or engineering is typically a prerequisite. While extensive prior sales knowledge is not always mandatory, it is often preferred.
Recent graduates entering this field usually undergo sales training to acquire practical experience before they can function independently. This training is commonly provided in-house and includes education about the company's product or service offerings.
Some sales engineers may not begin their careers with a high-tech degree. These individuals are often seasoned sales professionals who have amassed sufficient technical expertise related to the product offered, enabling them to transition into roles as sales engineers.
In the United States, no specific certification is tailored exclusively for sales engineers. However, since the sales aspect of the job remains consistent across industries, it's common to find sales engineers with general sales certifications.
Some examples of such certifications include the Certified Professional Sales Person (CPSP) offered by the National Association of Sales Professionals and the Certified Professional Salesperson (SCPS) certification provided by Sales and Marketing Executives International, Inc. These certifications are obtained by registering for and successfully completing these organizations' programs.
4. Languages and Technologies To Know
Every sales engineer has a lot of skills and technologies to learn in their lifetime. The specific technologies a sales engineer has to know greatly depend on the industry of choice.
For example, sales engineers in the computer industry need to know how to use the cloud, have automation skills and design knowledge, and use databases well. A healthcare sales engineer will focus on different technologies than manufacturing, networking, or chemical sales engineers.
All sales engineers, however, typically need to have general computer skills. This is valuable knowledge used to operate software like CRMs and project management tools. It is also used to create technical presentations.
Sales engineers in international companies may also need to learn foreign languages to help them make sales in other countries. Some languages bi- or multi-lingual sales engineers know include Mandarin, French, Spanish, and German.
How To Become a Sales Engineer
- Take a Course
- Pick a Specialty
- Start From the Bottom
- Get Relevant Experience
- Network Like Crazy
Take a Course
Embarking on becoming a sales engineer typically begins with education. Given the requisite technical expertise, individuals aspiring to this role often pursue courses in science-related or engineering fields, depending on their industry of interest.
Common educational backgrounds for sales engineers include degrees in computer science, computer hardware engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, or electrical engineering. These foundational disciplines provide the necessary technical knowledge to excel in sales engineering.
Pick a Specialty
Following attaining your degree, the next step involves honing your expertise within the specific industry you aspire to work in. Some industries to consider specializing in include
- Architectural design
- Automation and machinery (e.g., for automobile manufacturing, etc.),
- Computer hardware equipment
- Computer systems design
Furthermore, engaging in post-graduate programs or courses may be necessary to align your skills with market demands and acquire the essential knowledge needed for a successful career in your chosen field.
Start From the Bottom
For many sales engineers, the initial step involves comprehensive sales training, particularly if they are recent graduates. This training is essential to provide them with the requisite skills to complement their technical knowledge.
Becoming an independent sales engineer typically occurs once you have acquired these essential sales skills. During this transition, you will often work under the guidance of a seasoned sales engineer or a general sales professional. They will serve as mentors, imparting knowledge about the company's products or services, sales protocols, and company ethos.
In your early career stages, you may also collaborate with general sales representatives or be part of a sales team, allowing you to acquire valuable experience and knowledge.
Get Relevant Experience
As you embark on your journey as a sales engineer, you'll have a substantial workload to demonstrate your value. Some of the projects and tasks you may become involved in include:
- Utilizing marketing automation solutions to effectively nurture leads and consolidate marketing data into a unified system.
- Researching to uncover customer pain points, thereby identifying the driving forces behind market demand. This knowledge will enable you to devise strategies for differentiation in a competitive landscape.
- Harnessing reviews, testimonials, and case studies from satisfied existing customers to establish credible proof that can influence prospective clients to make a purchase.
Remember, the more successful sales you achieve, the greater your value to the company, and the more opportunities you'll have for personal and professional growth as a sales engineer.
Network Like Crazy
As you continue your sales engineer journey, your network will be extremely valuable to your career. For starters, networking is an essential skill that will enable you to find new clients. The more connected you are, the more influential a sales engineer you become and attract more referral business.
Networking is also a good strategy to find the best opportunities to grow your career and open new doors for you. It also helps you to build powerful relationships and a support structure around your sales engineer job. You’ll also discover the latest technologies, gain insights into different fields, and get advice on improving professionally.
Sales Engineer FAQs
What is a Sales Engineer (SE)?
A Sales Engineer is a technical expert who works alongside the sales team to help customers understand how a product or service can meet their needs. They bridge the gap between the technical aspects of a product and the customer's requirements.
What are the key responsibilities of a Sales Engineer?
Sales Engineers are responsible for providing technical expertise, conducting product demonstrations, assisting in the sales process, answering technical queries, and ensuring that the product meets the customer's requirements.
What qualifications and skills are required to become a Sales Engineer?
Typically, a Sales Engineer should have a strong technical background relevant to their product or industry. Strong communication, presentation, and interpersonal skills are also essential.
What industries employ Sales Engineers?
Sales Engineers are employed across various industries, including technology, manufacturing, healthcare, automotive, and more. They adapt their technical expertise to match the specific industry they work in.
How does a Sales Engineer differ from a Salesperson?
While both roles aim to sell products or services, Sales Engineers focus on the technical aspects and solutions, providing in-depth technical knowledge to customers. Salespeople focus on the sales process and building relationships.