Do you believe all sales jobs are created equal? Think again. Sales roles can vary greatly depending on the types of goods and services being sold.
In the fast-paced field of technology, advanced knowledge is a critical part of the job. Who can sales reps call on to better understand the technical aspects of the products they are selling to help them close the deal?
A well-trained sales engineer.
What is a sales engineer?
Sales engineers specialize in facilitating the sales process for technologically and scientifically advanced products. The role of a sales engineer is typically found in B2B settings, where they are tasked with selling complex products to other businesses.
Sales engineers often bridge the gap between product development and sales functions. They must be able to use their applied technical knowledge to help sales reps persuade prospects to choose their products. In the US, sales engineers typically work a full-time schedule and the average salary is $79,808 per year.
Depending on the nature of sales at their company, sales engineers can spend a large portion of time traveling to meet with customers, and their hours can vary depending on the needs of their customers.
On a normal workday, sales engineers can expect to spend a lot of time in meetings with potential customers and their sales rep colleagues, describing the technical features of their company’s products in greater detail, and creating strategies to drive sales.
Qualities of a Sales Engineer
Here are some of the key qualities of a successful sales engineer.
1. Possesses technical and soft skills.
To be successful in their role, sales engineers need to be technically minded and have the interpersonal and soft skills necessary to succeed in sales. It is critical that sales engineers are able to explain highly technical concepts and product features to sales reps and potential customers in a relatable, easy-to-understand way.
For example, if a sales engineer works for a B2B software company and is supporting a prospect who doesn’t have a technical background, they need to be able to explain the functionality of the software in an engaging, empowering way that the prospect can understand and feel encouraged by.
2. Works well with others.
Because sales engineers work closely with sales reps to provide their expertise, they must be strong team-players. In an ideal sales engineer-sales rep partnership, the two parties work closely together. They build technically sound sales strategies to better serve their ideal customers.
For example, if a sales rep needs a sales engineers’ help crafting talking points for an upcoming presentation, the engineer should know how best to communicate with the rep to help prepare for the close.
3. Ability to solve problems.
The goal of a sales engineer is to understand how the technical ins and outs of their products can help solve their customer’s problems. A successful sales engineer should be solution-oriented and always looking for ways to make their product even more appealing to the customer.
For example, let’s say a sales engineer works for a company that provides beverage dispensers to office spaces. The sales engineer should understand the common issues beverage providers are experiencing with their current dispensers. They should also be able to explain why the technical features of their product make it the best solution to solve the prospect’s pain point.
4. Can deliver complex information in an easy-to-understand way.
Sales engineers are often on hand to deliver presentations or answer technical questions that come up during sales pitches. They should be able to deliver information clearly, confidently, and succinctly to help their company win the sale.
5. Experience working in sales.
A sales engineer must understand the urgency of the sales process.. However, they must also possess the advanced technical knowledge to facilitate a deal that is good for both the customer and their company.
For example, a seasoned sales engineer should know the ins and outs of the sales process and the ideal point of the sales process that will support their rep with technical knowledge to close the deal. Ultimately, having a sales engineer on hand should speed up the sales process, not slow it down.
Now that we know what a sales engineer is, let’s discuss what a sales engineer does.
The day-to-day duties of a sales engineer can vary greatly depending on the company and the engineer’s specific statement of work. Here’s how HubSpot product manager and former sales engineer Flora Wang described her average day in the role:
“On an average day as a sales engineer, I’d hop on two to five sales calls. I had a team of sales reps I worked with directly, and we would get on calls somewhere in the sales process between demo to close.
I was often there to answer one-off questions or facilitate a technical deep dive to help reps prepare for their deals. If reps didn’t need me on a sales call to answer prospect questions, I would work with them offline to map out customer solutions or craft responses to questions with technical specificity.
I also managed ongoing projects, including an effort to scale the sales engineering function to provide even better support to our sales reps.”
Here at HubSpot, our sales engineers work directly with sales reps to facilitate the sales process but leave the actual selling to the reps. At some companies, sales engineers are the ones making the sale.
In these cases, the sales engineer is the one contacting prospects, negotiating pricing and terms, and ultimately closing the sale in addition to providing complex technical knowledge along the way.
How to become a sales engineer
From an education standpoint, sales engineers typically earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related technical field before starting the role. Having experience in the sales field to learn sales techniques is also value-added.
For sales engineers, there is no one-size-fits-all track for landing a role. Many sales engineers have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, computer science, or other related technical fields of study. Some sales engineers also have educational backgrounds in science or business and undergo technical training on the job.
In addition to education, many sales engineers have hands-on experience working in sales as a rep or working side-by-side with reps. This helps sales engineers gain valuable knowledge about the sales process, as well as the sales skills they need to perform the job.
Additionally, many sales engineers pursue continuing education opportunities to keep up with ever-changing new technologies.
For companies selling scientific or technologically complex products, sales engineers are a valuable asset to sales teams. If you are interested in exploring which type of sales job is right for you, check out this post.