What Does a Sales Engineer Do?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn what a sales engineer is, technology sales, and how you can get a technical sales job. Discover the skills and qualifications for this role.

[Featured image] Sales engineer explains technical product to a client

A sales engineer is responsible for the technical sales aspects of a company's products and services. You'll work with customers to understand their needs and develop solutions that meet those needs. Sales engineers also work with other departments within a company to ensure that the products and services they're responsible for are designed and manufactured correctly to meet client requirements. 

Technology sales is a fast-growing niche, with emerging technologies like big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, and cloud computing changing how businesses work. The business technology industry is worth over $5 trillion globally and over $1.8 trillion in the US alone. To become a sales engineer, you'll often need at least a bachelor's degree in engineering, although many companies prefer candidates with an advanced degree. You'll also need strong communication and interpersonal skills and experience in customer-facing roles.

What is a sales engineer? 

A sales engineer is a sales professional responsible for selling complex, technological, and scientific products through a consultative sales process. They work closely with other members of the sales and marketing teams to develop product sales information and with clients to clarify requirements and provide suitable solutions. As the link between the customer and the company, they play an essential role in ensuring products are correct for the marketplace and that other sales professionals have the tools and knowledge they need to carry out their sales duties.

What are the primary duties and responsibilities of a sales engineer? 

As a sales engineer, you're responsible for writing proposals, providing technical support, and training customers on the use of products. You'll work with clients to understand their needs and develop solutions that meet their requirements. Sales engineers also work with product development teams to ensure products are efficiently manufactured and meet customer expectations. Here is a breakdown of the duties and responsibilities you can expect to do as a sales engineer:

  • Identify potential customers and develop relationships with them.

  • Understand clients' technical needs and requirements.

  • Provide clients with solutions that meet their needs.

  • Keep abreast of new products and technologies and effectively communicate their benefits to potential customers.

  • Work closely with other sales team members, such as account managers and sales executives, to identify and pursue new business opportunities.

  • Communicate the features and benefits of your company's products or services to potential customers.

  • Troubleshoot technical problems that may arise during the sales process.

Do you need to be an engineer to work as a sales engineer?

You don't necessarily need to be an engineer to work as a sales engineer. However, it's helpful to have a background in engineering to understand the products you'll sell. Sales engineers often have a four-year degree in engineering, but not all do.

Read more: Types of Engineering Degrees: Your Guide

Key skills of a sales engineer 

Many of the competencies of a sales engineer are similar to those of a traditional salesperson. You'll need to be organized, persuasive, and able to close sales. Due to the technical nature of sales engineer roles, you'll need an advanced skill set:

  • You'll need to have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. 

  • You'll need to be able to build relationships with clients and understand their needs. 

  • You'll need to be able to negotiate contracts and close deals. 

  • You'll need to have a solid technical background and be able to understand complex products and systems.

Qualifications and certifications 

You may need a bachelor's degree in engineering from an ABET-accredited program. In addition, you'll want to have strong communication and interpersonal skills. You'll also be able to work independently and be self-motivated. You'll be knowledgeable about the sales process and the products you'll be selling and have the certifications and qualifications that enable you to come across as credible to clients.

How much do sales engineers get paid? 

Sales engineers usually work for companies that make products that require some technical expertise, such as computers, software, or medical devices. As a sales engineer, you can earn an average annual salary of $116,145 [1].

Some of the sales engineer roles and annual salaries you'll see advertised include:

  • Field sales engineers: $145,171 [2

  • Technical sales engineers: $108,678 [3]

  • Applications sales engineers: $120,555 [4]

Industry Overview 

Sales engineering is a rapidly growing industry with great potential.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in sales engineering will grow at about 6 percent, as fast as the average for all occupations between 2021 and 2031 [5].

This trend is primarily due to the increasing demand for new and innovative products and services. As a sales engineer, you would develop relationships with clients and customers, identify their needs, and then find or design solutions to meet those needs.

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Who are typical employers of sales engineers? 

Your typical employer as a sales engineer will be a company that sells technical products. This could include anything from computer software to medical equipment. Some sales engineer roles are with companies that develop their products, where they can feed into the product development process. In this case, your job will be a bridge between the technical and sales teams, ensuring they present your company's products in the best light possible and meet customer needs. You might also work as a sales engineer in an independent sales firm.

Example job titles and duties 

Sales engineer job titles are just as varied as the companies that employ them. Sales engineers may take on the following roles:

Pre-sales engineer: As a pre-sales manager, you'll research and identify potential customers, provide them with information about the product and service offered, and help them determine whether it meets their needs.

Post-sales engineer: As a post-sales manager, you'll build on the work done by pre-sales managers and be responsible for ensuring customers use your product or service successfully. You'll work closely with other departments, such as customer success, marketing, and support teams, to ensure your customers continue to receive value after purchasing something from your company.

Sales application engineer: As an application engineer, you're responsible for managing the entire life cycle of a software solution for customers, from development to implementation, integration, and maintenance.

Solutions engineer: As a solutions engineer, you'll support customers with technical issues related to their product implementation. You might also design custom solutions for customers who want something more customized than commercially available.

Technical account manager: In technical account management (TAM), you'll manage the relationship between your IT vendor company and the customer, ensuring both parties are satisfied with the outcome. This may include providing product installation, maintenance, training, and technical support.

Solution architect: As a solution architect, you're a particular sales engineer who works with companies that need more complex technology solutions. The architecture of these systems can be complicated, so it takes someone with advanced knowledge to come up with the correct solution, to explain systems, specifications, and processes to non-technical people, and to sell to them.

Customer engineer: As a customer engineer, you'll help clients understand and resolve their product's issues at the beginning of their business development process. 

Solutions consultant: As a solutions consultant, you're not just an expert in your product or service but also have the experience to help customers solve problems. In this role, you'll be heavily client-centric in your approach.

Next steps

A career as a sales engineer can be highly rewarding financially and in terms of job satisfaction. Sales engineers typically earn high salaries and enjoy the challenges of working with cutting-edge technology. 

In addition, a Professional Certificate such as The Fundamentals of Technology Sales offered by the University of Maryland on Coursera, can give you the edge you need to succeed in this highly competitive field.

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Fundamentals of Technology Sales

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Article sources

1

Glassdoor. “How much does a sales engineer make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/sales-engineer-salary-SRCH_KO0,14.htm.” Accessed November 7, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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