Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses.
What they do
Sales engineers must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work.
They typically do the following:
- Prepare and deliver technical presentations explaining products or services to existing and prospective customers
- Talk with customers and engineers to assess equipment needs and to determine system requirements
- Collaborate with sales teams to understand customer requirements and provide sales support
- Secure and renew orders and arrange delivery
- Plan and modify products to meet customer needs
- Help clients solve problems with installed equipment
- Recommend improved materials or machinery to customers, showing how changes will lower costs or increase production
- Help in researching and developing new products
Sales engineers specialize in technologically and scientifically advanced products. They use their technical skills to explain the benefits of their products or services to potential customers and to show how their products or services are better than their competitors’. Some sales engineers work for the companies that design and build technical products. Others work for independent sales firms.
Many of the duties of sales engineers are similar to those of other salespersons. They must interest the client in buying their products or services, negotiate a price, and complete the sale. To do this, sales engineers give technical presentations during which they explain the technical aspects of the product and how it will solve a specific customer problem.
Some sales engineers team with other salespersons, such as wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives, who concentrate on marketing and selling the product, which lets the sales engineer concentrate on the technical aspects of the job. By working as part of a sales team, each member is able to focus on his or her strengths and expertise.
In addition to giving technical presentations, sales engineers are increasingly doing other tasks related to sales, such as market research. They also may ask for technical requirements from customers and modify and adjust products to meet customers’ specific needs. Some sales engineers work with research and development (R&D) departments to help identify and develop new products.
Some sales engineers have large territories and travel extensively. Because sales regions may cover several states, sales engineers may be away from home for several days or even weeks at a time. Other sales engineers cover a smaller region and spend only a few nights away from home.
Sales engineers may encounter stress because their income and job security often depend directly on their success in sales and customer service.
How to become a Sales Engineer
A bachelor’s degree is typically required to become a sales engineer. Successful sales engineers combine technical knowledge of the products or services they are selling with strong interpersonal skills.
Sales engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field. However, a worker without a degree, but with previous sales experience as well as technical experience or training, may become a sales engineer. Workers who have a degree in a science, such as chemistry, or in business with little or no previous sales experience, also may become sales engineers.
University engineering programs generally require 4 years of study. They vary in content, but all programs include courses in math and the physical sciences. In addition, most programs require developing strong computer skills.
Most engineering programs require students to choose an area of specialization. The most common majors are electrical, mechanical, or civil engineering, but some engineering departments offer additional majors, such as chemical, biomedical, or computer hardware engineering. However, some undergraduate programs offer a general engineering curriculum; students then specialize in a particular area either on the job or in graduate school.
New graduates with engineering degrees typically need sales experience and training before they can work independently as sales engineers. Training covers general sales techniques and may involve teaming with a sales mentor who is familiar with the employer's business practices, customers, procedures, and company culture. After the training period, sales engineers may continue to partner with someone who lacks technical skills yet excels in the art of sales.
It is important for sales engineers to continue their engineering and sales education throughout their careers. Much of their value to their employers depends on their knowledge of, and ability to sell, the latest technologies. Sales engineers in high-technology fields, such as information technology and advanced electronics, may find that their technical knowledge rapidly becomes obsolete, requiring frequent retraining.
The median annual wage for sales engineers was $103,900 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $59,180, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $174,270.
Employment of sales engineers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. As a wider range of technologically sophisticated products comes on the market, sales engineers will be in demand to help sell products or services related to these products.
Employment growth is likely to be strong for sales engineers selling computer software and hardware. Strong industry growth is expected in computer systems design and related services, which will greatly contribute to employment growth for the occupation. Employment of sales engineers in computer systems design and related services is projected to grow 25 percent from 2019 to 2029.
Similar Job Titles
Account Executive; Account Manager; Customer Engagement Manager; Product Manager; Product Sales Engineer; Sales Engineer; Sales Engineer, Account Manager; Sales Engineer, Engineered Products; Senior Sales Engineer; Technical Sales Engineer
Logistics Engineer, Logistics Analyst, Transportation Engineer, Fire-Prevention and Protection Engineer, Energy Engineer
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- AHS International
- Association for High Technology Distribution
- Manufacturers' Agents National Association
- Manufacturers' Representatives Educational Research Foundation
- SAE International
- The American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Magazines and Publications
Sales engineers sell a variety of complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses— including the latest information technology systems… manufacturing equipment… and scientific instruments, among others. Like most salespeople, sales engineers try to interest clients in their products or services, negotiate prices, and complete sales. But as trained engineers or scientists, they also have extensive technical knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and understand the scientific processes behind their products. Sales engineers give technical presentations where they describe the benefits and competitive edge of their products, and explain how their product will solve a customer’s problem. They may also work with clients to modify or customize a product to their needs. Some work for the manufacturer of a product… while others work for independent sales firms. Most sales engineers travel… whether locally within a small region… for weeks at a time across several states… or even internationally. The job can be stressful since income and job security often depend directly on successful deals. Engineers typically work full time and many work over 40 hours a week to meet client needs and achieve sales goals. Sales engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, though a science or business degree and technical knowledge may suffice. For some positions, sales experience along with technical experience or training may be sufficient.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org