Many companies still see their sales engineers as, well, sales engineers. This perspective is status quo and marginalizes sales engineers from the dynamic, and revenue-producing side of business development and sales. Sales engineers can be a salesperson with a strong technical side who is able to sell. Sales engineers can be an engineer with some strong, and not-so-soft, sales skills also responsible for project management and design processes after a lead has been identified and qualified.

There’s a lot of latitude in whom and what constitutes a sales engineer these days. However, sales engineers still are inserted into the sales equation on an applied-as-needed basis or a need-to-demo basis. In their marginalized role, sales engineers can be completely mis-aligned with the sales process.

If you decide that the career path you want to pursue is that of a sales engineer, I recommend that you prepare yourself to think on both sides of the sales-engineering continuum, no matter what role you initially play in this process. Here are four considerations for you about how to create value, and ROI, as a sales engineer. 

1. Sales engineers have a unique position at the business table

You serve as a liaison between sales and engineering. Your ability to combine your technical and non-technical perspectives can make you a relevant and valuable partner to both buyers and sellers. 

2. Sales engineers are the rule, rather than the curiosity

In today’s competitive global economy, professionals who can participate in the business and revenue development processes in this cross-functional manner are going to become the rule rather than the curiosity. 

3. Sales engineers generate revenue     

The key to generating revenue for your company, and providing value to your customers, is your comfort in choreographing the customer conversation. How can you learn to have these types of dialogues and customer discovery?

4. Successful sales engineers are involved throughout the process

How are you limited by your current corporate culture? Do you only participate in the sales process when it’s “time to demo?” That’s just Old School.

Whether your company leads with their sales or engineering side, rushing to close the sale and demo may prevent you from fully developing the breadth and depth of the problem. Learn how to have the types of sales-engineering conversations with your customers and colleagues they don’t yet know they want to have with you. 

You may find, as the sales engineer, you have a larger role to play in business development. Leave yourself open to that idea, even if your company culture isn’t quite there yet. Don’t limit yourself by being Old School, even if your employer still may be stuck in that status quo mindset. There’s more to you than that.


Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo to small and mid-sized businesses in the manufacturing and service sectors. She builds vibrant revenue-producing business strategies for technical startups. Download her newest White Paper at her Free Resources Page. Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, 2013. All rights reserved.© Contact her at