Sales Engineers Overview
Many sales engineers have worked in an engineering specialty, and typically a bachelors degree in engineering is required to gain employment. Job competition is expected, and earnings are usually based on both salary and commission.
Nature of the Work for Sales Engineers
Sales engineers, or technical sales support workers, advise large companies and institutions on how to operate complex products and services. In addition to customer service, sales engineers also decide how products and services could be designed or reworked in order to suit the customers’ needs.
Extensive knowledge in scientifically and technologically advanced products is required for sales engineers. They understand their functions, components and the scientific processes that make them work. Using their technical skills, they explain the benefits of products and services to potential customers. In addition, sales engineers demonstrate how their products are better than those of their competitors. After conferring with customers, they typically modify products to cater to a client’s specific needs. Some sales engineers work for independent sales companies, while others for firms that design and manufacture technical products.
Sales engineers have similar responsibilities as a salesperson. After gaining the client’s interest in purchasing their product or service, they then must negotiate a price and close the sale. Sometimes, a sales engineer will focus on the technical aspect of the job, while a salesperson concentrates on marketing and selling the product.
Sales engineers do not use the typical sales technique of “benefits and features” in which a salesperson explains the product to the potential client and lets them figure out how it would be useful. Instead, they typically use a “consultative” style of sales, which is when they concentrate on a client’s problem and then show them how their product or service will solve the problem.
When a client needs help solving a problem with product installation, a sales engineer will help them figure it out. They are more frequently asked to help with market research as they are the most familiar with clients’ needs. Also based off clients’ purchasing needs, a sales engineer may assist in identifying and developing new products and services.
Sales engineers typically feel strong pressure and stress, as their salary and job security directly relates to their success in sales. It is normal for a sales engineer to work over 40 hours a week in order to reach sales goals and all client’s needs. Despite this, they are often able to determine their own schedules. This enables them to easily schedule meetings and appointments around vacations.
Some sales engineers travel extensively because their regions may cover several States. For this reason, they must be away from home for long periods of time and are frequently travel by airplane. Those who cover a smaller region only spend a few nights away from home and travel by car. Increasingly, sales engineers have to travel internationally to settle deals.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Sales Engineers
Typically, employers require applicants to hold a bachelors degree in engineering, although others who have sales and technical experience or training may become sales engineers. Those with an associates degree or bachelors degree in science or in business without previous sales experience may hold the title of sales engineer.
Engineering programs offered at colleges and universities usually last 4 years. Each one offers courses in physical sciences and math in addition to general education courses. Most degree programs require individuals to choose a specialization before graduation, while others offer a general engineering curriculum. A few specializations include mechanical, electrical, biomedical, chemical, computer hardware and civil engineering.
New graduates with engineering degrees may need sales experience and training before they can work independently as sales engineers. Training 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 has been completed, sales engineers may continue to partner with someone who lacks technical skills, yet excels in the art of sales.
Before working as sales engineer, recent graduates with bachelors degrees in engineering may be required to earn additional training and gain sales experience. Prospective sales engineers may train with an experienced sales mentor who is familiar with the employer’s business practices.
Sales engineers are encouraged to continue their education through their careers. Their knowledge of products is an asset to the company, and they must be able to use it to sell them. In engineering fields that are constantly changing, including advanced electronics and information technology, sales engineers may find that their technical knowledge is constantly out-of-day. In these cases, they must have frequent retraining.
Often, a sales engineer will start their career as an engineer. Great communication skills are important as they must interact with customers on a daily basis. Strong mathematics and science skills are also important because they work with complex, technical products. Sales engineers may advance in their careers by earning a higher commission rate or gaining a larger sales territory. They may also become a supervisor or marketing manager. Others choose to advance to different occupations, such as consulting.
Top 10 Most Popular General Engineering Schools
1. Colorado School of Mines (Golden, Colorado)
2. Kent State University, Kent (Kent, Ohio)
3. Lamar University (Beaumont, Texas)
4. University of Maryland, College Park (College Park, Maryland)
5. University of Illinois, Urbana, Champaign (Champaign, Illinois)
6. University of Alabama, Huntsville (Huntsville, Alabama)
7. San Jose State University (San Jose, California)
8. Old Dominion University (Norfolk, Virginia)
9. McNeese State University (Lake Charles, Louisiana)
10. University of California, Davis (Davis, California)
See All General Engineering Schools
Online School: University of Arizona Global Campus
Employment and Job Outlook for Sales Engineers
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to grow about as fast as average (increase 7 - 13%).
Sales engineers hold about 71,640 jobs and approximately 34 percent work in wholesale trade establishments. An additional 24 percent of sales engineers work in manufacturing establishments. A few are employed in computer systems design and related services and telecommunications firms. A small number of sales engineers are self-employed.
Sales engineers should expect an employment growth of 9 percent in the next decade, which is about as fast as average. A demand for sales engineers will grow from the continued variety and technical nature of the products and services to be sold. Companies will be forced to update and improve their products more often because of advancing technology and the competitive nature of the industry.
Those employed in technology companies should enjoy the fastest growth. Organizations are always looking for the most sophisticated and technological products, which creates a demand for sales engineers trained in the field. However, employment in the manufacturing industry is expected to continue to fall as organizations outsource their sales functions to independent companies.
Due to the relatively high earning potential that sales engineers can attain, there is expected to be job competition. Those who have the personality characteristics required for a successful sale have the best prospects. As firms grow their sales forces, new positions will arise every year for sales engineers who leave the labor force, or transfer to another occupation.
Earnings and Salary for Sales Engineers
The median annual wage of the combined salary and commissions for sales engineers is $83,190. The top 10 percent earn more than $140,910, while the bottom 10 percent earn less than $48,780. The middle 50 percent earn between $63,430 and $110,060. Those employed by the computer systems design and related service industry earn a median annual wage of $95,580.
The product sold and type of firm depend on the level of compensation that a sales engineer will receive. Usually, employers pay sales technicians a combination of salary and commissions, or provide them with a salary and bonuses. Sales engineers employed in an independent sales company might only earn commissions. Commissions are typically calculated on the value of sales and bonuses are based on an individual or department’s good work.
Typically, manufacturing employers reimburse sales engineers for travel related expenses. Some companies provide employees with free vacation trips or gifts for excellent performance, while others may get to use the company car and earn frequent-flyer mileage.
Annual Salary for Sales Engineers
On average, Sales Engineers earn $83,190 per year.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook