The role of a sales engineer isn’t widely known outside the world of large software and hardware companies. Naturally a sales engineer combines skills of both a engineer and sales representative. I like this definition from Pragmatic Marketing.
Sales engineers (SEs) are the technical glue of a technical sale. Sometimes called “systems engineers,” “pre-sales support,” or “field consultants,” SEs act as the sales team’s technical encyclopedia during the sale, representing the technical aspects of how the product solves specific customer problems. They perform technical presentations for the product. They own the demonstration script for the product
Others have argued that sales consultant is actually a more accurate name for the role. SEs almost always work together with one or more sales reps. Although startups and smaller software companies often combine the roles of SEs and sales reps. SEs don’t typically don’t exist in most consulting companies. Certainly not my company. The SE role is typically covered by a collection of other individuals including project/program managers, business development staff, and technical experts/engineers. My position as a senior/project manager often requires me to fill the role of a SE and sales representative in selling our services and demoing our products.
It’s a specialized profession that requires deep technical knowledge, as well the ability to think creatively, quickly assess people, and handle difficult situations. Many programmers or engineers would not make good sales engineers because they lack the right mix of personality and initiative. However, for those that are able to make the transition it’s generally an exciting and rewarding career.
Here are some useful sales engineering resources.
- Mastering technical sales – Mastering technical sales blog
- Tech demo guy
- Jeff Goldstein
- Sales process engineering
- The sales engineer