What Is a Sales Engineer? (And How to Become One)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn what a sales engineer is and how to get a technical sales job. Discover the skills and qualifications for this role.

[Featured image] A sales engineer explains technical products to a client.

Technology sales is a fast-growing niche, with emerging technologies like big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, and cloud computing changing how businesses work. If you enjoy sales positions and working with the latest technology, then you might consider a career as a sales engineer.

In this article, you'll learn more about sales engineers, including what they do, how much they make, and how to become one. At the end, you'll also explore online, cost-effective courses that can help you gain job-relevant skills today.

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. Sales engineers also act as the link between the customer and the company, playing an essential role in ensuring product-market fit and that other sales professionals have the tools and knowledge they need to carry out their sales duties.

What does a sales engineer do? 

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.

What's the difference between a sales engineer and a traditional salesperson?

Sales engineers are different from traditional salespeople because they sell more technical products. They need to have technical expertise to explain these products in detail to customers. Sales engineers often work with clients on a more consultative basis, helping them find the best solution for their needs.


Sales engineer salary and job outlook

Sales engineers usually work for companies that create products requiring some technical expertise, such as computers, software, or medical devices. You can expect to be well-compensated as a sales professional with such specialized knowledge.

According to Glassdoor, the average total annual salary for a sales engineer is $129,117 as of December 2023 [1]. Some of the other sales engineer roles and annual salaries you may see advertised include:

  • Field sales engineers: $132,188 [2

  • Technical sales engineers: $130,631 [3]

  • Applications sales engineers: $157,479 [4]

Sales engineering is a rapidly growing industry with great potential. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for example, projects that employment in sales engineering will grow at about 5 percent, as fast as the average for all occupations between 2022 and 2032 [5].

How to become a sales engineer

To become a sales engineer, you'll need the right educational training, skills, and qualifications. Here's what you can expect to encounter on your journey toward a career in the field:

1. Consider obtaining a degree.

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, or to major in sales and business. While not all sales engineers have a degree, many have a four-year bachelor's degree in engineering or related field. In some cases, an employer might prefer candidates with a master's degree, so make sure to check the requirements of your target industry before jumping it the career.

Read more: Types of Engineering Degrees: Your Guide

2. Hone the right skills.

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 in the following areas:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills

  • Relationship building to understand client needs

  • Strong negotiation abilities to maneuver contracts and close dealsA strong technical background, so you're able to understand complex products and systems

3. Apply to the job that matches your skill set.

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. In effect, sales engineer job titles are just as varied as the companies that employ them.

Some of the sales engineer positions you may consider include the following:

  • 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.

Learn the basics of sales engineering

If you want to work at the intersection of sales and cutting-edge technology, consider pursuing a career as a sales engineer. With the University of Maryland's The Fundamentals of Technology Sales course, you'll learn a proven four-step methodology for success as a technology sales professional, and develop your knowledge of how to sell to private companies, public companies, and local, state, and federal governments.

Article sources


Glassdoor. “How much does a sales engineer make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/sales-engineer-salary-SRCH_KO0,14.htm.” Accessed December 18, 2023.

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