Sales Engineer Career Path Guide for 2022
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Globally, the digital transformation market is forecasted to expand from $469.8 billion in 2020 to $1,009.8 billion by 2025. Across industries, organizations are overhauling their front-end user interfaces as well as back-end business processes to increase productivity, boost operational efficiency, streamline product development, introduce new revenue streams, and improve customer experiences.
The digital products facilitating this shift range from advanced design softwares to IoT solutions for industrial machinery. Sophisticated hardware, electronics, and telecommunications products are also in demand. Digital transformation is driving high-tech B2B sales, and the work of connecting these digital products with consumers who need them falls on sales engineers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for sales engineers is steady, with projected growth of 8% between 2020 and 2030. If you have strong previous sales experience and an interest in tech, sales engineering might be right for you.
What Is a Sales Engineer and What Do They Do?
Sales engineers use a combination of technical knowledge and sales acumen to sell technical products, often in B2B (business-to-business) settings. They are responsible for showing consumers how these products will help them meet their business goals through product demonstrations and detailed technical proposals. Sales engineers also offer product support and assist customers with technical issues that arise over the course of a contract.
Sales engineers are also responsible for generating leads, nurturing sales prospective customers, and building relationships with existing clients. They must be able to assess a client’s equipment needs and system requirements, identify unrealized or ambiguous client pain points and frame them as concrete problems. To close the deal, a sales engineer must also be able to achieve client consensus about how a technical solution will benefit the client’s operation.
Possible Sales Engineer Career Tracks
With the right skills and experience under your belt, you’ll have access to a variety of sales engineering roles. Below, we’ve summarized a number of sales engineer descriptions to show you where a career in this field can lead.
Related: What is Tech Sales?
Taking a sales rep position will help you build the skills you need to move a deal forward. Sales representatives focus on identifying prospective clients, generating leads, and converting those leads into customers. In addition to cultivating and maintaining customer relationships, they must also negotiate contracts and draft sales agreements.
Sales reps must be able to use in-depth product knowledge to convey how their solutions will meet clients’ needs. A sales rep’s daily responsibilities might include writing proposals, planning pitches, cold-calling leads, and facilitating meetings with extant and prospective clients.
Sales representatives command an average annual salary of $64,629 per year, although compensation may vary based on experience, industry, and location. Sales reps also earn commission on the deals they close.
Associate Sales Engineer
Associate sales engineers often offer sales support to more experienced sales engineers. They are responsible for generating new leads as well as growing existing accounts within their territory. These sales professionals might concentrate on clients with less complex or moderately complex needs, or might focus on expanding sales opportunities with established customers. Like their more seasoned counterparts, associate sales engineers are expected to conduct product demonstrations, facilitate sales meetings, and offer product support.
The average salary for an associate sales engineer is $76,843.
Sales Engineer/Corporate Sales Engineer
Sales engineers must assess a prospect’s technical requirements and apply extensive knowledge of the products on hand to illustrate how a deal will satisfy the client’s unmet needs. To close lucrative deals and grow sales opportunities, sales engineers must be able to cultivate relationships with decision-makers at all levels of an organization and negotiate the competing needs of multiple stakeholders within an organization. They must also be skilled in the art of sales and understand how to appeal to company culture in sales presentations to move deals forward.
After a sale is made, sales engineers assist with product implementation and customer support. In addition to resolving technical issues, the duties of sales engineers include leading client training and facilitating other customer success initiatives. Depending on an employer’s business practices, some sales engineers team up with non-technical sales reps and concentrate solely on the technical aspects of the sale as opposed to generating leads and identifying prospects.
The average sales engineer salary is $80,347—plus $20,000 in commission annually.
Senior Sales Engineer
This high-ranking position requires in-depth, industry-specific expertise, often cultivated over the course of five to six years in the field. Senior sales engineers may supervise members of the sales team, specialize in a particular area, or shoulder responsibility for a larger sales territory.
To land this role, you’ll need to demonstrate advanced solution selling abilities and be able to align the goals of cross-functional departments within an organization to drive sales at scale. Senior sales engineers have perfected the art of analyzing customer needs and influencing prospective clients to make purchasing decisions based on technical analysis. Typically, these professionals focus on clients with complex needs.
Senior sales engineers take home an average annual salary of $126,778.
Field Sales Engineer
True to their title, field sales engineers work with customers in the field. Like post-sales engineers, these professionals conduct site visits to resolve customer issues as quickly and efficiently as possible. To ensure that deliverables are working smoothly after implementation, field sales engineers research the efficacy of their products in the field, identify design opportunities, and report their findings to product development teams.
Field sales engineers also use knowledge gleaned in the field to contribute to territory planning, make sales projections, and develop account relationships at procurement, technical, and senior management levels within client organizations.
The average annual salary for a field sales engineer is $90,441.
Extended Sales Engineer Career Tracks
Technical expertise and sales experience can also open doors to lucrative marketing and sales-adjacent roles. Read on to learn more about related positions that utilize sales engineering skills.
The primary responsibility of an engagement manager is to maintain client relationships after deals close. As part of a sales team, engagement managers focus on solving client issues and communicating with a diverse portfolio of accounts. Success in this position translates to increased customer retention, rising customer satisfaction, and sales growth with existing accounts. In addition to keeping customers’ content, engagement managers are also tasked with identifying opportunities to sell additional products to current clients.
Engagement managers must nurture client relationships throughout a project’s lifecycle, and must track client progress in order to provide prompt, thorough, and appropriate support. They also tailor support solutions to suit the needs of each account, and ensure timely delivery on client requests.
The average salary for an engagement manager is $129,190.
Customer Success Manager
Customer success managers focus on customer retention. They meet regularly with new, extant, and prospective clients, and direct customer success team members regarding the implementation of customer service procedures to maximize customer satisfaction.
To improve customer retention, customer success managers must establish themselves with clients as an authority in their industry. Professionals in this supervisory role also hire customer service personnel, communicate across departments about recurring product issues, and formulate new customer service goals.
The average annual salary for a customer success manager is $57,955.
Product marketing professionals are tasked with communicating the value of a product to a target audience of consumers. Product marketers are product evangelists, and their work is integral to organizing a successful product launch. To effectively promote new products, product marketers must first conduct market research to determine consumer wants and needs and assess competitors. They must use their findings to determine key product features that will drive sales.
Product marketers must also understand the client’s purchase process and structure product marketing strategies accordingly. These professionals work to design campaigns around marketing intelligence, and identify key activities that will both enhance customer retention and expand customer acquisition.
Product marketers earn an average annual salary of $89,792.
Post Sales Engineer
In this role, the technical aspects of the job take precedent. After a sale is complete, post sales engineers offer technical support to ensure customer satisfaction. Post sales engineers use their technical knowledge of the products sold to maximize client success while simultaneously gathering critical intelligence to boost future sales. Because these professionals operate in client environments, they are also able to identify opportunities for upselling and expansion, and can relay important information about design opportunities to R&D departments.
Because they are not formally tasked with moving product, post sales engineers are able to build a different type of relationship with customers that focuses more on the technical functioning of the product itself. Pairing sales engineering with post sales engineers lets the sales engineer concentrate on generating leads and closing deals.
Post sales engineers earn an average annual salary of $90,727.
Sales Engineer Skills and Requirements
Sales engineers must have the technical skills to explain how complex product functions and showcase the benefits of their products. In addition, sales engineers need sales skills to generate new business and grow established accounts.
Top sales engineering skills include:
- Public speaking prowess. Sales engineers must present technical presentations and proposals in client meetings as well as at trade shows and seminars.
- Engineering knowledge. Sales engineers utilize engineering knowledge to conduct product demonstrations. To close a deal, sales engineers must be able to explain technical aspects of the product and pinpoint the value added by each feature. Engineering knowledge is also necessary to help resolve client issues that arise after a sale is complete.
- Technical discovery skills. During a discovery call, sales engineers must use critical thinking, curiosity, and technical knowledge to accurately assess a prospect’s operation, evaluate customer requirements, and identify a specific customer problem that their product could solve.
- Strong interpersonal skills. Sales engineers must be able to cultivate meaningful relationships with prospective and existing clients in order to drive growth. This role requires empathy, curiosity, and a knack for connecting with strangers off the bat.
Sales engineers often acquire necessary technical expertise via tech bootcamps, engineering programs, or a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Graduate school training is not necessary to become a sales engineer.
Sales Engineer FAQs
Wondering whether sales engineering is right for you? Get answers to your top sales engineering questions below.
Is Being a Sales Engineer a Good Career?
Sales engineering is an ideal career for technically-minded extroverts who thrive in dynamic a work environment. The day-to-day duties of this role are often in flux, and sales engineers must juggle a variety of accounts and potential customers simultaneously. This career carries high earning potential, particularly with commission. Best of all, sales engineers can often transition with ease into a related field like consulting or product management—or ascend to a sales management role.
A sales engineering career also comes with challenges. In addition to working irregular hours, sales engineers travel regularly for meetings across large swaths of sales territories. Your satisfaction in a sales engineering role will depend on your personality type as well as your ability to adapt to these requirements.
What Is the Highest Position in Sales?
A chief sales officer (CSO) occupies the most senior sales position within a company. These c-suite executives oversee all sales activities and are responsible for driving revenue growth. In addition to hiring, supervision, and daily operations management, chief sales officers spearhead the design and implementation of sales strategies and analyze their efficacy to determine whether changes are needed. On average, a CSO earns $217,103 annually.
Is Being a Sales Engineer Stressful?
Because the income of a sales engineer is dependent on commissions earned from sales, this can be a demanding role. On the other hand, if you have a natural competitive streak and a deep reservoir of self-confidence, you might enjoy the challenge of closing deals. While some personality types find revenue quotas intimidating, successful sales engineers are uniquely motivated by pressure to meet or surpass their sales goals.
Are Sales Engineers Real Engineers?
Sales engineers are often qualified engineers. Both types of professionals have the extensive technical knowledge and work directly with technological products, but do so in different capacities. Sales engineers use their technical expertise to sell products, while engineers use their skills to develop and improve products.
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