The sales engineer plays a vital role on a sales team. Not only do they help interpret a customer’s technical requirements and communicate product features, but they are also given a level of trust that is often not offered to salespeople and consequently, the sales engineer is in a unique position to promote a vendor’s key benefits and value proposition.
While there is no mistaking that the sales engineer contributes to a company’s sales mission, the role is to support and technical competence is paramount. Typically, sales engineers must possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree in engineering or a similar scientific area of study and work in fields such as software or manufacturing. Top performing sales engineers also have the communication and relationship skills to be able to work closely with team members and prospects to explain complex solutions and systems in easy-to-understand terms; the ability to alter their presentation style to meet the needs of their audience; and most importantly, build trust with prospects.
This expertise is rare, and it’s no easy task to recruit sales engineers that can connect with prospects while still being able to articulate their solution’s technical capabilities. Given the reality that the job description, or career opportunity as we call it, represents an important aspect in the recruiting process, world-class employers understand that a job description needs to succulently articulate the challenges that high achieving sales engineers crave, along with the right set of benefits that are attached to the opportunity. Sales engineers will be on the lookout for companies that foster the right culture, so incorporating an excellent description of your team, your corporate environment, and clear definitions for the sales engineer role will elevate your job description.
The best employers seize passive sales engineers’ attention with a brief but powerful overview of their company. They tailor the description of their company’s recent achievements, current growth structure, and corporate culture to a sales engineer’s interest in product excellence, highlighting technical achievement and recent innovations. Since high achieving sales engineers understand the potential they have in the marketplace, SE’s want to be assured of growth opportunities in a prospective company. Providing incentive and compensation information, including base salary and on-target expectations in the overview section provides prospective candidates with the ability to immediately recognize the opportunity’s value (note that a variable component to the compensation plan is common, but represents a much smaller portion of overall compensation than the typical compensation plan associated with a sales representative or executive role).
In order to give candidates an honest and accurate picture of what the expectations are for the role, hiring managers should provide a specific set of goals for the sales engineer position. Since SE’s are results-driven people, including plenty of information about how your company measures performance and the kind of challenges the candidate will face will help generate excitement in the opportunity while acting as an informal candidate filtering mechanism.
Leading employers state very specific numbers, percentages, and provide examples of the positions’ expectations in order to present the opportunity as honestly as possible.
- Responsible for new business development of $___ per year.
- Works with xx – xx number of clients each month to deliver sales presentations and close deals.
- Responsible for increasing sales by ___% during the first year.
Responsibilities are the elements that managers use to determine if a candidate can and will be successful in the role. Successful opportunity descriptions carefully outline the sales engineer’s responsibilities and take into consideration their everyday tasks as well as the relationship would have with the rest of the sales team.
- Work with product and sales teams to interpret customer requirements and deliver solutions with the end-goal of sales in mind.
- Demonstrate an understanding of what the customer will need in terms of on-going service, and manage expectations on the customer and sales side.
- Develop and deliver product demonstrations and sales presentations that explain key technical aspects of solutions that will benefit customers and prospects.
- Provide answers to client questions about our product, servicing, and other technical aspects of the product.
- Successfully tailor demonstrations for customers, trade shows, and special events.
- Work closely with the customer to set up and maintain a successful demo period, being available to answer questions and trouble-shoot as needed.
- Be able to think critically and suggest improvements that might lead to cost savings or other client benefits.
- Work with the client to problem-solve through every hurdle during the sales process.
- Arrange and, in some cases, lead training for customers.
- Work with compliance to ensure all legal requirements are met.
- Research the industry on an on-going basis to know what changes may be on the horizon that will impact current and future sales.
- Provide feedback to the team as well as R&D for process or product improvements as required.
- Condense information into reports for a wide variety of uses from marketing and sales to engineering and R&D.
- Provide clear and accurate responses for RFPs and/or contribute technical solutions directly to proposals.
- Work in tandem with the sales team on presentations to ensure accuracy.
- Willingness to travel and devote long hours to challenging sales projects.
Experience gives hiring managers a sense of a candidate’s ability to execute the activities required to drive sales. Companies seeking high achieving sales engineers focus on experience that is aligned with the desired selling tasks stated in the responsibility section of the job description.
- Demonstrate a successful track record in the _______________ industry, (product/service or related product/service) to ______________ (group of buyers).
- Background in supporting $___-figure deals.
- Successful experience in working with sales and engineering staff to deliver high-quality presentations and information to clients.
- Successful experience in developing and delivering persuasive presentations to audiences ranging from small groups of clients to large trade show audiences.
- Fantastic written communication skills.
- Successful experience in driving innovation as a way to increase sales.
Sales engineers possess a unique set of skills that require left- and right-brain expertise. Their ability to skilfully manage both will set them apart from the rest of the pack. Including details in the job description that articulate exactly what is required to be successful not only acts as a candidate filtration mechanism, but sets the foundation for hiring managers to assess if a candidate can fulfil these expectations during the interview process.
- Strong ability to quickly comprehend and explain complex engineering concepts in simple, effective terms.
- Ability to work in concert with team members to build the most effective presentations that blend technical facts with tangible benefits.
- Proven sales skills with an eye for results.
- Superlative communication skills with the ability to navigate a wide range of internal and external environments.
- Coaching skills to help co-workers quickly understand and explain new and emerging technical concepts.
- Strong networker who can reach out to customers and clients to offer support and assistance.
- Industry insider who understands current trends and anticipates change.
- Impeccable time management skills.
- Ability to work in a wide range of software programs that support our business (Excel, SalesForce, PowerPoint/CAD, CSS, etc.)
There is a core group of traits that any salesperson has that will predict their success on the job. Incorporating these qualities into your job description enables experienced interviewers to determine if a candidate possesses these qualities:
- Drive, energy, and ambition – the triumvirate personality traits that any successful sales professional should have.
- A competitive nature.
- Sense of urgency.
- A sense of optimism, resilience, and perseverance.
- Team player.
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Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.
He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.
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