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Top 7 Reasons Engineers are Afraid to Become Sales Engineers - Sales Engineer Training
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Top 7 Reasons Engineers are Afraid to Become Sales Engineers

Have you been approached by someone in sales about a job, or maybe you’re the one your company sends out to see customers because you have a “good personalty”. Have you ever thought–I might want to do sales, but the whole idea makes me a little nervous. Fear not, this article on the duties of a Sales Engineer will put you mind at ease.

This article details the seven most common reasons that Engineers are scared to try the role of Sales Engineer.

1) I’ll lose my technical edge, my Engineering skills will get rusty

This is usually NOT a big issue, here’s why:

As a Sales Engineer (SE), you probably won’t get into as much technical detail as when you did engineering work, but you also won’t have to do the boring parts of the project like documentation and sustaining engineering. Sales Engineering will expose you to many different environments, technologies and challenges while working with customers. This diversity can be a great way to round out your technical knowledge.

As a Sales Engineer, you already have a solid background in the technology that you sell and support. If you try Sales Engineering for a year or two, you should have no problem moving back to a purely technical role; with the benefit of a broader technical perspective. One thing to think carefully about though; if you don’t like multitasking and lots of priorities, you won’t enjoy the FAE role.

 

2) Sales people are sleazy, I don’t want to be considered sleazy

Some sales people are sleazy, no question about it. Most aren’t, so you’re not likely to have to deal with sleazy sales people. That said, you do need to enter into the world of sales with your eyes wide open. Consider the following, are they examples of lying?

  • In customer demos, your competition consistently glosses over the parts of their product that are hard to learn or use. You know that your product is better, but you feel compelled to explain every negative detail because you want to be honest. The result–they win, you lose, and the customer gets an inferior product.
  • You read the competition’s data sheets and their product looks superior to yours “on paper”. Since, you don’t have any idea how the competition’s product works in the real world (unless you have used it) never concede on a feature unless you have hard evidence that your product is inferior.

NOTE: Sales Engineers should never lie, but you need to be aware of how the game is played. If you don’t like the game, sales is probably not for you.

 

3) Sales is easy, I won’t learn anything of value

The conventional wisdom is that sales is the “lowest paid” easy work; so don’t be fooled. Yes, you can get by on your technical knowledge, but to be effective, you need to do your part in closing the technical sale.

As for things of value, how about these for starters: presentation skills, demo skills and lots of contacts in the engineering community. These things are invaluable if you ever want to enter engineering management, start a company or find a new job.

4) I’m used to a salary, this “commission thing” scares the heck out of me

This is a big issue for many engineers looking to make the move to technical sales–here’s some food for thought.

You don’t have to be on commission to be a sales engineer. You may want to try a salary only job before you make the jump to a salary + commission plan.

If you are interested in making more money, typically the risk/reward world of salary + commission is the way to go.

Generally the more heavily weighted your plan is towards commission, the more money you can make–if you win sales! You can find jobs with varying degrees of risk built into their pay plans. Early on, you may want to opt for a 90% salary and 10% commission for stability, then later opt for a 60% base and 40% commission plan to raise you total income.

5) If I do sales, I’ll have to lie

No you don’t have to lie and you never should. See item 2.

6) I will have to give “speeches”

Yup, you will. Almost all Field Application Engineering or Sales Engineer positions require you to present your products. You may also be asked to do talks for trade shows, user groups and other similar activities. Presentations are nothing to fear, just be sure to take the time to understand your prospects needs as well as your product. Done well, a presentation or demo is a service to your prospect that will help them to make an informed decision.

7) I’m not sure if there is a worthwhile career path in sales

There are great career paths in sales, the key question is: are they great career paths for you.

If you enjoy the challenge of lots of balls in the air, learning new things, and working with people, sales engineering may be for you. Many Sales Engineers have gone on to sales and sales management and even started their own successful companies.

Do you have questions/fears about making the move to sales engineering? Let me know about it in the comments section.

 

  • Kamlesh says:

    Thanks for giving a broad sense of sales Engineer.

  • AMEY MORE says:

    Comparing with other profile of engg do sales engg get good salary

  • Sam says:

    is it wise to move to marketing and sales after having a Bsc in mechanial engineering and having a two years experience in ship building?

    and how to do that? should i go for a masters degree in strategic marketing and professional courses in sales?

  • Pat says:

    Hi Sam,
    The decision to move to sales depends a great deal on your goals, personality and desire.
    Sales can be a great career, or a big mistake if it is a bad fit.
    I would take some time to decide if you like doing engineering or would like a change. Next thing about the sales role and if that would be a good fit for you.

    Do you like working with lots of different people on lots of different projects; do you think you would enjoy this or would you rather work on one thing until it is done?
    Your technical background and education can be an asset if you are selling products or services that you have experience with.
    Getting a degree in marketing and taking a sales course are both good things to do, the issue is are they the best way to reach your goals?
    Sales can be a way to increase your income, if you succeed. It can also be very low paid work if you are not successful.

    The best thing for you to do is to seek out peers who are in the Sales Jobs that you are considering. Ask them what it is like and try to imagine yourself in the role.
    If you feel you would like sales after talking to a few people, I would try to contact a few sales managers for an “Informational Interview” with the goal of learning what a manager expects from a sales person and to get feedback from the manager on your suitability for a sales role and what they would suggest to help you secure one.
    Good Luck
    pat

  • Pat says:

    Hi Amey,
    In the US Sales Engineering pay is comparable to Engineering pay ~50-100k US. The path to more income as an engineer is technical advancement or Management.
    The path to more income as a sales engineer is to win more business and to become a manager.
    I would say that the top end salary for sales engineer is higher (~150k+ US) than that of an experienced engineer provided you and your sales team are winning sales.
    Finally as a sales engineer, you can move into sales where it is possible to make a very good salary if you are successful.
    Good luck
    pat

  • MIRANJAN SARELLA says:

    Thanks for your boosting on Sales Engineers , by the way I’m working as Technical Sales Engineer. Till today i’m fed-up in giving “DEMO” ,but doing it successfully.

  • Noman Ali says:

    very nice sir,,hope to read more from you

  • srj says:

    Hi,

    I am working for a product base company, quite a successful organization in its domain. Presently I work as QA and planning to move to pre-sales solution architect role as I want to get into product marketing manager kind of role in future. considering pre sales job as it may help me collect the skills like communication and market understanding.

    Does sales engineering help to get in to product management and product marketing kind of role in future? I

    Thanks,
    Saurabh

  • Jonathan says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for posting this. I have been trying to get into this type of field of engineering but the job postings that I do find require a numerous amount of work experience. Coming out of University with Industry work experience which none of it had to do with sales is giving me a hard to find a job with the right fit. Are Sales Engineers generally already been working than recent grads?

    Thanks

  • Noman Ali says:

    Dear Sir,

    i Find this article worth million dollars,every time i feel confused in my profession,i just read this.
    I will forward this to my junior graduates who will surely be motivated to sales

    Bundle of thanks for sharing this

  • parash moni borah says:

    Hi I am Parash. I have been appointed to the post of sales engineer under the distributor of L&T switchgear. my salary is about 10000 now. They told me that if I achieve my targets they would give me my incentives. What does that means? And one more question in what other engineering sector my experience in sales engineer post will help me out in my distant future. Where can I show my experience?

  • Ignatius says:

    Nice content but I need you to clarify me that the sales job offered in all the companies possess the growth if not then how to be pick a right one.

    Thanks.

  • Akshay says:

    Hello,
    read your post and to be honest i loved it.
    i am a fresher who passed out recently ,i have done my engineering in the field of computer science,
    i recently got an offer for sales engineer in the company webyog and i would really appreciate it if you could tell me the career growth and prospects about this role, would it be a beneficial experience as i want to do my MBA also?
    thank you

  • Pat says:

    Hi Saurabh,
    Yes, I have known many people who move from Sales Engineering to Marketing. Since Marketing creates content for the sales team, which includes sales engineers, it is a great way to develop empathy for and understanding of you future “customer” the sales force.
    Pat

  • Pat says:

    Akshay,
    The career path for a sales engineer are manifold including:
    Sales Engineering Management
    Sales
    Sales Management
    Marketing
    Marketing Management
    CXO positions and founders of companies.
    All B2B companies sell something, so time spent on the sales team is great since it gives you a broad understanding of the financial engine that fuels the company.

    An MBA can be of value if you want to rise up in the company to the Director or CXO level. Their are a number of great Technology MBA programs that are a good fit for someone with a Sales engineering background.
    Good Luck
    Pat

  • mehbub says:

    since past 4 months i have been working as a Area sales engineer for industrial sensors….it is providing me an overall growth… but still i am confused to stick on this or switch to networking as my tech background is telecommunications..plz help

  • Saif says:

    I have joined as Sales Engineer recently in a company which manufactures Flameproof and Explosionproof Equipments.At the beginning,you have to work as normal Sales person+sales engineer. You must understand Marketing Strategy and also must know to make the clients beleive that your product is better than others.There is a lot of hard work at the start.

  • Pat says:

    Hi Mehbub,
    Only you will be able to decide if the SE Role is right for you.
    You could make a list of Pros and Cons for each role to help clarify your thoughts.
    I would also think about what you want for a career path. If it is purely technical and later technical management, the engineering path may be better.
    If it is sales, SE manager, higher level management roles or even starting your own company the skills you develop as a SE will benefit you.
    Good Luck
    Pat

  • Shirjil Khan says:

    I believe Sales Engineers have the highest average starting salary in professions related to engineers. They are the front line, talking to customers and bringing in the profits, and this makes it an important job in a company.

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