Sales Engineer Salary Range
Pay Plans and Quota
Base Salary: 80% of total income - You are guaranteed to make this amount regardless of sales performance.
80/20 is pretty standard for an SE so we will start here. The most important thing to know is if the commission portion of the plan is reasonable and attainable. You can have the best commission plan in the world, but if you can't win enough sales, you will not make the money you were hoping or expecting.
Assuming an $80,000 base and a possible $20,000 in commission, you are guaranteed to make $80,000 but the additional $20,000 depends on sales performance.
How Do Equity Packages Work?
What Factors Determine What you Earn?
Type and Size of Company
The complexity of the solution you support is a key factor in what you can earn. Working with very technical and complex products that require special skills and knowledge to use and deploy will allow you to command a higher wage if you have the requisite skills and knowledge to do the job.
Solution complexity is reflected by the product or technologies used and also in the skill and knowledge needed to customize it to the needs of your customer. You should focus on being the company expert for your product or service. Do this well, and you will be able to command more money than your peers.
Job Title, Role and Duties
Typical progression in Sales Engineering is a continuum from new SE to SE Leadership. Let's take a look at each role:
New SE - Lowest Pay, as you are just learning your craft.
Experienced SE - You have a few years experience and have developed many of the core skills you need. You can command a middle of the range salary here.
Senior SE - Very experienced, with strong skills. You should be able to command a salary on the upper end of the scale.
Principal or Lead SE - Very experienced and effective in the role, often takes a lead role in training and coaching new SEs. Pays on the upper end of the scale.
Specialist SE - You are a senior who focuses and has deep experience with specific technologies and products. You will be at the high end of the pay scale. You are often brought into deals as an expert in your area to help close deals. This is a great role if you want to remain technical and avoid management.
Length of the Sales Cycle
Products and services with long sales cycles, six months to multiple years require advanced selling skills and great SE AE teamwork. These items are often high ticket (price) and as such the approval cycle can take a long time and involve multiple decision makers and influencers. In general, if you have or can get experience with high priced, high complexity products, you will be paid more.
Location, Location, Location
As an SE, you will often be remote as opposed to being in an office. Where you are located is an important factor in how much you can make. Do keep in mind that this difference in earnings is to offset the differences in the cost of living (rent, housing, food, necessities) in a geographical area. For example, Sales Engineers in California are usually paid more than Sales Engineers in Minneapolis Minnesota. In general, just focus on where you want to live and you will be fine.
Your Experience Level
Experience here applies to your experience with your products, market, company and competition. This does not always translate to years in a job or role. I have seen many talented Sales Engineers rise quickly through the ranks because they learn rapidly and are very effective at their jobs. Your focus should be on constant improvement and new experience as opposed to doing the same things for many years.
Education and Degree
Often a bachelor's degree is required, but not always. In Sales Engineering, if you know your role and can be effective, you can compensate for any lack of experience. Many roles depending on the industry do not require a particular degree, but some are very specific. Your degree is important and it does matter, but in sales the real currency is making sales. If you can do that you can get the job.
Your SE Skills
As an SE, you need a wide array of skills such as: demo and presentation skills, interpersonal skills and organizational skills to succeed. If you can master all the critical skills you need to be a great SE, you will be able to command more money.
For more detail on the types of skills you need, please see this article.
How Well You Interview
All things being equal, the person who does a better job in an interview will be selected over a candidate who does not interview as well. In addition, if you interview well you will be good at demonstrating your value. Employers will take this into consideration when offering you a position and the more value they perceive, the more money you can ask for and get.
Who You Know
Your network is invaluable as you look at jobs and also to help you to validate the salary you are offered. Be sure to keep up your network. Getting a referral can be a major asset to you as you interview. Employers who receive recommendations from a trusted source are much more likely to grant you an interview and offer you a job!
How to Negotiate your Salary
When discussing pay with a prospective employer, be prepared with three numbers:
- What is the minimum you need to take the job
- What is the high end that you would like to get
- What are you comfortable with and believe is fair
Armed with these figures, you are ready to negotiate. Employers will often give you a range. In some cases this is a jumping off point and in some cases the pay is set by the job (this is often true in government jobs). With hope, you will receive an offer in the middle of your acceptable range.
Based on the offer, you can ask for more or accept or decline the offer. Do remember to consider intangibles and other aspects of the role besides pay. It is typically OK to ask for around 10% more than the offer if you feel your value commands it.