Considering a job in Sales Engineering?

I've made it a goal for the next 6 months to promote more content around the sales engineering role since so many tech companies need this position and its a dramatically under publicized/trained for/aspired for role.

I received an email from a young guy looking to move into sales engineering.  I thought it might be helpful to share his request and my response. 

Hi Chris,

I reached out to you on Reddit a couple days ago. I’m currently the sole systems administrator for a medium sized hospital in SoCal. I’ve learned a ton and enjoy the work, but I don’t see myself becoming a super hardcore system admin, which needs to happen if I want to make over six figures.

This is why I am now considering to go back to sales. Sales is all I did through high school and college. While my technical skills are good, my soft skills are a lot better...I would say one of my best qualities. That’s why I’m finding the sales engineer role pretty interesting.

With that said, how did you find your way into your current position? Most of the sales engineering positions I’ve seen posted are asking for some hefty certifications and experience. I only have two years of enterprise IT experience.

What are the best and worst aspects of the career?

Would I even have a chance at one of these positions with my experience? How should I better prepare myself to make the jump later down the line?

I really appreciate you taking the time to read and respond to me.

Best,
[Name removed]
— Redditor

My response with some minor corrections:

 

Thanks for the message.

Best things about the SE role

  • Variety of customer interactions and lots of learning
  • Teamwork
  • Being on the cutting edge
  • Not dealing with the typical followup sales stuff around data entry and nagging prospects
  • Learning from lots of sales people
  • Can tie your activity to lots of deals

Some downsides

  • Can get monotonous doing lots of demos and answering a lot of the same questions
  • Limited career growth at times unless you move into management or sales

I started in a success role (technical customer support) which then fed into a sales role if I wanted to (and I did).  I think this is the simplest way to get in from the IT side. Yes you'd absolutely have a chance- just go out there and start talking to people.  Success/support is the smooth way in because it proves you can solve direct customer problems then you can make a play to sales.  You can also filter for success roles that would entertain a horizontal move to sales.

To prepare:

  • Start working on technical projects
  • Develop a hunger for understanding technical systems from bottom to top
  • Start explaining complex ideas in laymen's terms
  • Read sales books so you can relate with sales guys and talk the lingo

I'll invite you to the chat room and let me know if you have other questions!

Best,
Chris

 

For anyone reading this let me know if you have comments or other questions!