What is a Sales Engineer?


This is what you should expect in a Sales Engineer role. Building on my last post about Outside Sales Reps, this blog series: Comparing Common Tech Sales Job Titles, defines specific jobs and roles that are common in today’s tech companies.

Sales job titles are confusing — I know — especially in high growth industries where selling is very specialized. Today I am going to take a look at Sales Engineers and their role in technology sales. You won’t find sales engineers in all companies, but they are extremely important where there is a complicated product. Sales engineers are being used in many of the fastest growing tech companies, including Salesforce.com, Oracle, and NetSuite.

Sales Engineer Defined

Short Definition

Think of sales engineers as a hybrid sales role. Just as the title suggests, Sales Engineers are a mix between a salesperson and an engineer. Sales engineers almost always have some sort of technical background and help a salesperson with web demos and discussing technical aspects of a product. Think of a sales engineer as a technical assistant for a salesperson. Compensation is typically base + bonus.

Long Definition

Think of the sales engineers as the step between a salesperson and an engineer. They are brought into deals where the conversation is too technical for the salesperson alone to handle. Sales engineers in many cases also conduct web demos of the product alongside a salesperson. I always thought of the sales engineer as like a sidekick for a salesperson.

The typical career path for most sales engineers actually begins with a more technical background — perhaps a software engineer — and transitions into a sales role. A sales engineer position can definitely lead to a more traditional commission based sales role.

Sales engineers don’t manage their own leads or prospects. They are somewhat transient and are brought into deals based on the requirements of the salesperson. It’s common for there to be one sales engineer for many salespeople.

The entry point into sales engineer position is typically a second job after working in a purely technical role or right out of school.

Sales Engineer Salary

Compensation is typically a base + commission.

Source: www.glassdoor.com

Glassdoor reports US Sales Engineer salaries to average around $90k. Since sales engineers don’t close business, they typically don’t get commission. They usually have a higher base salary (see a comparison of common sales salaries here) and end of year bonus based on the performance of the company.

Hiring Sales Engineers From An Employer’s Standpoint

Sales engineers are an expensive resource to have and can sometimes create hurdles in the sales cycle. Hurdles include scheduling their time with the sales rep and just not being 100% familiar with the prospect. Sales engineers are required when the sale is highly technical and complicated. If you are selling security software for example, there might be a lot of extremely technical questions that a salesperson can’t answer alone. If the complexity and dollar value of the deal are high enough, you’ll need a sales engineer.

This is what you can expect in a Sales Engineer Role, something I wish I knew more about when I was first starting out. I hope it helps you in your job hunt! Anything I didn’t touch on? Let me know in the comments or send me a tweet @somenmondal

Was this post helpful for you? Please share!

Are you looking for a sales job? Use Ideal Candidate and let the employers come to you. Find your match and make more money. Sign up now!

Share on LinkedInShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

Somen Mondal

CEO at Ideal
Somen is the Co-Founder & CEO of Ideal. Prior to Ideal, Somen served as Co-Founder & CEO of Field ID until it was successfully acquired by Master Lock LLC (a subsidiary of NYSE:FBHS) in December 2012. Somen’s leadership has helped earn Field ID a spot on the Profit Hot 50 and Deloitte Fast 50 Companies-to-Watch lists. In 2012, Somen was named winner of the Ontario Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in the “Emerging Entrepreneur” category.


  • Nat

    Hi Somen, are sales engineers and technical account managers the same thing? Are they closely related in the same field?

    • Somen Mondal

      Hey Nat – To be honest, there is no real standard definition for these roles. I would say, yes, they are related in the fact they are both technical. The key difference is that sales engineers are utilized to get new customers while technical account managers are used to farm and maintain current customers. I hope that helps!