The Sales Engineer – Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Sales engineers generally are required to possess a bachelor’s degree in engineering, and many have previous work experience in an engineering specialty. New sales engineers may need some on-the-job training in sales or may work closely with a sales mentor before they can work on their own.

Education and training. A bachelor’s degree in engineering usually is required for a person to become a sales engineer. However, workers without a degree, but with previous experience in sales and technical experience or training, sometimes hold the title of sales engineer. Also, workers who have a degree in a science, such as chemistry, or even a degree in business with little or no previous sales experience, may be called sales engineers.

University engineering programs generally require 4 years of study. They vary in content, but all contain courses in math and the physical sciences, as well as general education courses such as English and communications. In addition, most require the development of computer skills. Some programs offer a general engineering curriculum; students then specialize on the job or in graduate school. Most programs, however, require students to choose an area of specialization. The most common majors are electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering, but some programs offer additional majors, such as chemical, biomedical, and computer hardware engineering.

New graduates with engineering degrees may need sales experience and training before they can work independently as sales engineers. Training may involve teaming with a sales mentor who is familiar with the employer’s business practices, customers, procedures, and company culture. After the training period has been completed, sales engineers may continue to partner with someone who lacks technical skills, yet excels in the art of sales.

It is important for sales engineers to continue their engineering and sales education throughout their careers. Much of their value to their employers depends on their knowledge of, and ability to sell, the latest technologies. Sales engineers in high-technology fields, such as information technology and advanced electronics, may find that their technical knowledge rapidly becomes obsolete, requiring frequent retraining.

Other qualifications. Many sales engineers first work as engineers. For some, engineering experience is necessary to obtain the technical background that is needed to sell their employers’ products or services effectively.

These workers must possess excellent communication skills, because interacting with customers is one of their main job functions. They also must be strong in math and have an aptitude for science as they work with complex, technical products.

Advancement. Promotion may include a higher commission rate, a larger sales territory, or elevation to the position of supervisor or marketing manager. Alternatively, sales engineers may move into different occupations, such as consulting.

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