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As our world evolves with new technologies, trends and innovations, the demand for sales engineers with technical expertise to help customers make informed purchases increases. These professionals work in the technology, construction, healthcare, food, manufacturing, renewable energy, aerospace, and financial industries.
Sales engineers serve as the conduit between product development and sales teams, creating a continuous flow of information. These professionals help sales teams better understand the technical features and capabilities of a product or service. They also pass on customer feedback to product development teams to ensure modifications and enhancements align with the organization’s goals and customer needs.
If you are technologically savvy and like to keep up with the latest trends in technology, a career as a sales engineer may be right for you. This article outlines how to become a sales engineer, including essential skills and job growth projections.
What does a sales engineer do?
Sales engineers combine technical expertise and sales acumen to support sales teams. They explain and demonstrate product features, benefits, and requirements to sales teams, interested parties, and potential customers. Sales engineers work closely with product development teams to incorporate customer feedback and insights into data-driven recommendations for improvements and solutions.
These experts are needed in multiple industries and are especially important in the software, engineering, and manufacturing industries, where the products and services being sold are often highly technical and complex.
Salary and Career Growth for a Sales Engineer
The demand for sales engineers is generally high, especially in the technology industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary for sales engineers is $108,530, with the top 10% earning more than $195,000.
A number of factors determine a sales engineer’s salary, including educational background, training, experience, certifications, industry, and location. The BLS projects employment of sales engineers to grow 6% between 2021 and 2031, which is about average. Around 6,900 jobs are expected to open annually in this time frame.
Steps to Become a Sales Engineer
Sales engineers need technical knowledge, interpersonal skills, and strong sales capabilities. Next, we explore how to become a sales engineer. Keep in mind that the path to becoming a sales engineer can vary by position and industry.
get a degree
Many employers require sales engineers to have a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, or a closely related subject can provide a strong foundation for sales engineers. Some sales engineers with a bachelor’s degree in business administration or a bachelor’s degree in marketing complete their technical training on the job.
Most bachelor’s programs require students to complete 120 credits, which typically requires four years of full-time study. These credits are divided between general education and specific specialization courses. Curricula vary by specialization; degrees in engineering and closely related technical fields involve courses in advanced mathematics and physical sciences.
Students enrolling in engineering programs can earn concentrations in civil, mechanical, electrical, aerospace, chemical, biomedical, or software engineering. Computer science majors may focus on areas such as software engineering, networking and security, computer systems, or artificial intelligence.
In some cases, candidates without bachelor’s degrees may qualify for sales engineer positions with sales experience and technical training or experience. Some certificate programs waive education requirements in lieu of relevant experience.
Get relevant work experience
Experience in customer-facing roles, especially technical sales, is crucial for sales engineers. These professionals must have a broad understanding of the sales process, knowing how to use their technical expertise to facilitate deals that benefit the customer and the company.
While there are no specific certification requirements for sales engineers, certification can validate your industry experience, demonstrate your commitment to career development, and provide a competitive advantage when applying for jobs. Below are some certifications worth looking into.
Certified Sales Engineer (CSE). The CSE credential, offered by the North American Association of Sales Engineers (NAASE), is a globally recognized industry standard that demonstrates technical expertise and sales acumen to prospective employers and clients. You must have a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts related to business to earn this professional designation. NAASE waives the educational requirement for those with at least four years of relevant experience.
Additionally, applicants must have at least three years of sales engineering experience, plus LinkedIn endorsements and recommendations demonstrating experience working in sales engineering. No exam is required to earn the CSE certification.
Certified Sales Professional (CSP®): The CSP certification, offered by the Sales and Marketing Institute International (SMI), is a globally accepted credential that demonstrates a dedication to professional development, recognizing professionals who meet high standards of education, experience, expertise, and ethical conduct.
To earn this professional designation, candidates must have at least one year of sales or consultative selling experience, be knowledgeable in all areas covered by the CSP curriculum and knowledge set, and pass the CSP validation exam.
Engineer in Training (EIT) Certification: The Trainee Engineer Certification is a professional designation that validates knowledge of the industry and demonstrates an understanding of fundamental engineering concepts. EIT certification can give you a competitive advantage when applying for jobs.
To earn EIT certification, candidates must meet specific state requirements, pass an exam, and apply to the state board for certification.
The EIT exam is computer-based and can be taken any time of the year at a Pearson VUE test center. Most engineers take between three and six months to study for EIT certification.
Core Skills for a Sales Engineer
- Research and analysis skills. Sales engineers must identify problems, generate solutions, and implement solutions. They need investigative and analytical skills to spot patterns, interpret data, and extract insights to develop practical solutions. These skills allow sales engineers to better understand customer needs, help companies identify opportunities for growth and development, and provide technical support.
- Technical skills. Sales engineers need strong technical skills to inform customers and answer questions about product specifications and features, key features and benefits, unique features compared to similar products on the market, and popular integrations. These professionals need to know the technical ins and outs of their products so they can identify and resolve issues and recommend improvements to product development teams.
- Communication skills. Whether delivering a presentation or answering technical questions from customers, sales engineers must clearly communicate complex and highly technical information in an easy-to-understand manner.
- Problem solving skills. Identifying and solving customer problems is vital to this role. Sales engineers must be able to assess a situation, determine the cause of a problem, and develop solutions that address customer needs.
- Time management skills. In a typical day, sales engineers can handle multiple tasks, including product demonstrations, customer meetings, administrative work, and research. Strong time management skills help sales engineers meet deadlines and balance their responsibilities.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on Becoming a Sales Engineer
Is it difficult to get a job as a sales engineer?
Becoming a sales engineer can be challenging and competitive, but it can be done with the right skills. This specialized field requires deep technical knowledge and sales skills. Specialized technical training or certification can be beneficial.
Are sales engineers well paid?
Sales engineers are generally well paid. The BLS reports that the average sales engineer earns more than twice the national average salary. Those who work in web search portals, libraries, archives, and other information services earn the highest salaries, averaging $254,480.
How much does a sales engineer earn?
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for sales engineers is $108,530. Several factors influence your earning potential, including formal education, experience, specialization, industry, and location.