What Is a Sales Engineer? (With Steps To Become One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you are considering a sales career, you may wonder ‘What is a sales engineer?' Becoming a sales engineer can be a rewarding choice for confident communicators who understand technical products and services. Learning more about this career can help you decide whether it would suit you. In this article, we explain what a sales engineer is, the qualifications and skills that help people succeed in this role.

What is a sales engineer?

A sales engineer is a sales professional who sells technical products and services for a business. Sales engineers usually sell to other companies. They generally aim to explain product and service features and benefits to encourage the purchase of their goods. Many industries hire sales engineers for the engineering, information technology, manufacturing and building supplies sectors.

What does a sales engineer do?

Sales engineers perform various tasks like standard salespeople. These duties involve communicating with existing and potential customers, facilitating sales and tracking sales performance. Completing their tasks to a high standard helps them meet key performance indicators and sales targets. A sales engineer's duties may vary depending on their employer and industry, but may include:

  • Using directories to create databases of potential customers

  • Preparing and delivering sales presentations to customers

  • Meeting with clients to discuss their needs and creating customised solutions for them

  • Providing quotes for customers and negotiating prices on the business's behalf

  • Issuing sales contracts and order forms

  • Managing customer orders and deliveries

  • Providing sales support for existing customers

  • Liaising with managers in other departments to understand what customers need and the best sales strategy

  • Advising developers on new products and services

  • Researching the business's current and future products and services

  • Preparing sales and business expense reports

  • Travelling within the country and overseas to meet potential and existing customers, as required

What do sales engineers earn?

The average salary for a sales engineer is $99,483 per year. A sales engineer's employer and industry can also impact their salary. Sales engineers who meet or exceed their sales targets may also earn more through company bonuses and commissions.

Related: 6 Tips for Your Next Salary Negotiation

How to become a sales engineer

Formal qualifications are optional but preferred by most businesses employing sales engineers. These qualifications may be vocational qualifications or degrees. Employers may also regard sales experience positively. These are common steps people take to become sales engineers.

1. Obtain a VET or university qualification

Vocational education and training (VET) and university qualifications can teach you about the business industry and sales practices. Early school leavers often choose the VET qualification. The Certificate III in Business-to-Business Sales and Certificate IV in Business Sales are some of the most popular VET qualifications for sales engineers. Completing these courses takes approximately one year of full-time study.

If you complete year 12 and have a qualifying ATAR, you may qualify for a relevant bachelor's degree. Many large companies prefer sales engineers with these university qualifications. A Bachelor of Business or a Bachelor of Engineering are popular options. These are three or four year full-time degree programmes.

2. Get a full driver's licence

Sales engineers often travel to other cities, states or territories to meet potential and existing customers. Holding a full driver's licence helps sales engineers travel to these meetings. Many employers only consider applicants for sales engineer jobs with their full driver's licence. Although it's optional, consider getting experience driving a manual vehicle so you can operate any company car.

Related: 40 Popular Jobs That Travel

3. Get experience with an entry-level sales job

As businesses prefer candidates with sales experience, securing an entry-level sales role can increase your job prospects. Apply for business-to-business sales roles in your preferred sector to gain transferrable industry knowledge. Highlight any previous sales experience, such as past retail or hospitality jobs, in your cover letter and resume. Focus on building your technical knowledge and customer service skills in your junior sales role.

Related: Sales Jobs and Salaries

4. Apply for sales engineering jobs

After gaining between one and three years experience at entry-level, look to apply and secure a sales engineering role. Highlight skills and experience that match the sales engineer job description in your resume and cover letter. Emphasise any key achievements, such as regularly passing your sales targets, in your application.

Top skills for sales engineers

Businesses look for applicants with a mix of hard and soft skills to fill their sales engineer roles. Developing these skills can increase your chances of securing work:

Verbal and written communication

Sales engineers communicate clearly and confidently with customers and people within the business. They know how to simplify complex concepts to explain products and services to people with less technical knowledge. Their persuasive communication skills help them promote their products and services effectively. They feel confident in one-on-one meetings and delivering sales presentations to larger groups. Active listening skills and perceptive questioning help them collaborate effectively with other employees. Effective written communication skills help them prepare sales reports.

Customer service

Customer service skills help sales engineers build rapport with customers. These skills also help them keep customers satisfied. Sales engineers apply these skills when making personalised product and service recommendations. They continue delivering customer service when answering customer queries and troubleshooting customer issues.

Related: Skills Required For Good Customer Service

Interpersonal skills

Sales engineers with strong interpersonal skills easily build connections with potential and existing customers. Their positivity and friendly nature endear them to others. Their charm also helps them collaborate easily with employees from various business departments.

Technical industry knowledge

The industry knowledge of sales engineers helps them understand the needs of businesses in the sector. Their knowledge also helps them understand their employer's products, services and the main features that make them valuable to other companies. Their understanding of relevant technical terms helps them use these words when speaking to industry experts and find simpler alternatives when appropriate.

Ability to work in a team or independently

Sales engineers spend time collaborating with others and performing tasks independently. The most successful sales engineers feel comfortable in both these scenarios. Self-motivation helps them stay productive during independent work. Strong teamwork skills and accountability inspire them to perform well with other people.

Problem-solving

Sales engineers solve problems each day in their careers. For example, they decide how to effectively sell to customers and how to troubleshoot product problems. Sales engineers analyse the information they have about the problem and ask questions to gather more details. They then develop strategies to effectively solve these problems.

Creative thinking

Creative thinking helps sales engineers drive new opportunities to the business. They may develop new selling strategies or identify new markets to explore. Trying new strategies helps the business remain competitive and grow.

Advanced computer skills

Sales engineers use 2D and 3D model software to create models for their customer presentations. Advanced computer skills help sales engineers effectively use these programmes. Sales engineers also feel confident using basic communication tools, such as email and video conferencing software, to contact customers.

Professionalism

Sales engineers represent the business, so professionalism is very important. Sales engineers understand they are the public face of their company, so dress professionally and appropriately for each stakeholder. They also speak positively about the business and its offerings at all times to enhance its reputation.

Organisation

Sales engineers manage the demands of many potential and existing customers at once. A well-organised sales engineer can expertly manage many different people and ensure they all feel valued. They prioritise tasks to make sure they meet the most urgent demands first.

Is a sales engineer a good job?

Being a sales engineer is a satisfying career choice. Sales engineers who feel positively about their roles report that they have:

  • High salaries: The average salary for sales engineers is higher than the country's average annual salary of $90,329.20. Experienced sales engineers in some locations can also earn more than the national average.

  • Good work-life balance: Sales engineers usually work standard business hours. This arrangement gives them the leisure time they need to maintain a good work-life balance.

  • Opportunities for advancement: Ambitious sales engineers have opportunities to advance their careers. They may move from junior to senior sales engineer positions before assuming management roles.

  • Job security: A sales engineer is a skilled role, so these professionals have good job security. Experience is also highly valued in this position, so sales engineers can feel confident they'll retain their roles over time.

  • Job satisfaction: Sales engineers have a challenging and varied role, which leads to high job satisfaction. Sales engineers also feel rewarded when they meet and exceed their sales targets and key performance indicators.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Explore more articles