Get a top-level description of the sales engineer role and what it involves. Learn why there is a need for a blend of technical and business skills: part sales and part engineer.
- So, what is a sales engineer, or SE, and what do they do? First of all, it's an accidental profession. You can't go to university and get a degree. You can learn about sales, you can learn about marketing, you can learn engineering, but not about being an SE. Why accidental? Well, think back to when you were nine or 10-years-old, sitting around the dinner table with your parents or grandparents. They ask you, what do you want to be when you grow up? No one ever said "a technical sales engineer," yet there are about 500,000 of us around the world and that number is growing quite quickly at a rate of eight to 10% a year as there is a shortage, which makes it a great profession.
Defining what you do is harder. It's the cocktail party question. You meet someone at a party and you ask what they do. You get a response like doctor, lawyer, architect, small business owner. You ask an SE what they do and within 20 seconds, your eyes will just glaze over. The best description is this, think about a salesperson in a tech company making a sales call on a customer. The characterization is, they typically shake your hand, buy you lunch, and then try and sell you something.
However, they have to bring someone with them who actually knows how the product works and can explain that to the customer at multiple levels, in effect, the technical conscious in the sales force. That is an SE. Now, you can read job descriptions here on LinkedIn if you're interested in becoming an SE, or if you are one. You can also ask yourself these questions to see if this is the right fit for you. Do you like working directly with customer prospects to learn their business challenges? Are you comfortable with developing and delivering demonstrations specific to each customer? Could you cover both the technical speeds and feeds of your product, and then explain the impact of that functionality against a customer's business problem? And these are just three of the top skills.
You will see there is a comprehensive and complex mess of business, social, and technical skills involved. That's why finding a technical sales engineer is so hard. It's not a profession for people who like structure in their life. You can fully expect to be dealing with different customers in different situations and with different needs and requirements. Plus, you need to build rapport with them so that they trust and respect you. It's not always easy, but if you had the skills and the desire to learn, it can be an extremely rewarding job.
- Roles and responsibilities of the technical sales engineer
- Matching technology to the business
- Making the pitch
- Putting it all together for the win