Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
CHOOSING A CAREER / JAN. 08, 2015
version 5, draft 5

How to Become a Sales Engineer in the US

sales engineer
istock

When you want to buy a smartphone, all you need to do is read a few product reviews and hit the shop. The same cannot be said for individuals or companies that purchase technologically and scientifically advanced products such as industrial manufacturing machines. They need sales engineers to help them understand how these products work. If you are a qualified engineer with excellent selling skills, this could be your job.

What Do Sales Engineers Do?

The duties of sales engineers include:

  • Making presentations to potential buyers of technical products
  • Providing technical support to clients – This may involve taking part in product installations and servicing
  • Customizing products to meet the needs of clients
  • Coordinating the delivery of purchased products to clients
  • Training a client’s employees on how the product works
  • Conducting research to support the development of new products.

Evidently, sales engineers are not your typical sales representatives. They do more than just convince clients to purchase a product.

Work Environment

Sales engineers have regular 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday work schedules. Their job involves extensive travel, as they have a duty to find new customers for their employers. Those who are in charge of large sales territories may spend several days away from their families.

When they are not on the road, they can be found in their employers’ retail outlets attending to customers.

The job can be physically demanding, since it may involve lifting or moving heavy products.

Salary

The following table highlights the average annual salaries for sales engineers in various industries:

Industry

 

Annual Wage

Electric power generation

 

$162,160

Oil and gas

 

$134,500

Information services

 

$119,750

Software Publishing

 

$116,920

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Entry Requirements

To become a sales engineer, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in an engineering or scientific field. The kind of products or services you wish to sell dictate your academic field. For instance, if you want to sell software, you should pursue a degree in computer science or software engineering.

Other fields include:

  • Electrical engineering – You will likely sell electrical products, such as CCTV cameras
  • Mechanical engineering – You will sell manufacturing equipment
  • Civil engineering – You will sell construction machinery
  • Biomedical engineering – You will sell medical equipment
  • Weapons engineering – You will sell weapons such as missile systems

According to the BLS, individuals without a technical degree can also be hired as sales engineers, as long as they possess vast experience selling technical products.

Important Qualities

To be a successful sales engineer you need:

  • Excellent penetration skills
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Strong sales skills
  • Superior customer service skills
  • Strong technical and practical skills
  • Good problem-solving skills
  • Vast knowledge of the product or service you sell
  • Self-confidence
  • Good communication skills
  • Good business skills
  • Good teamwork skills.

Career Advancement

After getting employed, you will undergo on-the-job training to familiarize yourself with your employer’s products and services.

As you continue to gain more work experience, you can take the following steps to enhance your career advancement prospects:

  • Pursue a professional certification from the Sales Engineer Alliance or the Association for Manufacturing Technology – The latter is only available to engineers who sell manufacturing systems, equipment and machinery.
  • Pursue a master’s degree in engineering management, industrial and systems engineering or sales management

Job Opportunities

Depending on your technical background, you can be hired by:

  • Software publishers
  • A range of equipment manufacturing firms i.e. medical equipment manufacturers, electrical equipment manufacturers or computer manufacturers
  • Merchant wholesalers
  • Marketers of technical product
  • Independent sales agencies.

After gaining vast experience and advanced qualifications, you can climb the ladder and become a technical sales manager. You can also move into related professions, such as product research and development. Here, you will use your knowledge of client preferences to help manufacturers develop products that meet user needs.

Finally, the BLS predicts a 9 percent job growth for sales engineers from 2012 through 2022. Although this does not meet the 11 percent average growth for all jobs, more sales engineers will be needed to sell technologically sophisticated products that are being released by the day. The best opportunities will be available to engineers selling computer products.

So if you’re an engineer with great skills in selling and building relationships, then maybe you can become a competent sales engineer.

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