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Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH)
Sales Engineers

Many products and services, especially those purchased by large companies and institutions, are highly complex. Sales engineers—also called technical sales support workers—determine how products and services could be designed or modified to suit customers' needs. They also may advise customers on how best to use the products or servicesprovided.

Sales engineers specialize in technologically and scientifically advanced products. They possess extensive knowledge of these products, including knowledge about their components, functions, and the scientific processes that make them work. They use their technical skills to explain the benefits of their products to potential customers and to demonstrate how their products are betterthan the products of their competitors. Often, they modify and adjust products to meet customers’ specific needs. Some sales engineers work for the companies that design and build technical products, while others work for independent sales firms.

Many of the duties of sales engineers are similar to those of other salespersons. They must interest the client in purchasing their products, negotiate aprice, and complete the sale. Some sales engineers, however, are teamed with other salespersons who concentrate on marketing and selling the product, enabling the sales engineer to concentrate on the technical aspects of the job. By working on a sales team, each member is able to focus on his or her strengths and expertise. (Information on other sales occupations, including sales representatives,wholesale and manufacturing, appears elsewhere in the Handbook.)

Sales engineers tend to employ selling techniques that are different from those used by most other sales workers. They generally use a “consultative” style; that is, they focus on the client's problem and show how it can be solved or mitigated with their product or service. This selling style differs from the “benefits andfeatures” method, whereby the salesperson describes the product and leaves the customer to decide how it would be useful.

In addition to retaining current clients and attracting new ones, sales engineers help clients solve any problems that arise when the product is installed. Afterward, they may continue to serve as a liaison between the client and their company. Increasingly, sales engineers areasked to undertake additional tasks related to sales, such as market research, because of their familiarity with clients' purchasing needs. Drawing on this same familiarity, sales engineers may help identify and develop new products.

Work environment. Workers in this occupation can encounter pressure and stress because their income and job security often depend directly on their success in salesand customer service. Many work more than 40 hours per week to meet sales goals and client needs. Although the hours may be long and often irregular, many sales engineers have the freedom to determine their own schedules. Consequently, they often can arrange their appointments so that they can have time off when they want it.
Some sales engineers have large territories and travel extensively.Because sales regions may cover several States, sales engineers may be away from home for several days or even weeks at a time, often traveling by airplane. Others cover a smaller region and travel mostly by car, spending few nights away from home. International travel to secure contracts with foreign clients is becoming more common.

Training, other qualifications, and advancement

Salesengineers 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...
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