What do Sales Engineers Do

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 services provided.

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 better than 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 a price, 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.

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 and features” 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 are asked 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

Sales engineers held about 63,800 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of sales engineers were as follows:

  • Merchant wholesalers, durable goods - 28%
  • Manufacturing - 21%
  • Computer systems design and related services - 17%
  • Wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers - 5%
  • Telecommunications - 5%

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. Other sales engineers cover a smaller region and spend only a few nights away from home.

Sales engineers may encounter stress because their income and job security often depend directly on their success in sales and customer service.

Work Schedules

Most sales engineers work full time. Some may work additional and irregular hours to meet sales goals and client needs.

Education & Training Required

A bachelor's degree in engineering usually is required for a person to become a sales engineer. However, workers without a degree, but with previous experience in sales and technical experience or training, sometimes hold the title of sales engineer. Also, workers who have a degree in a science, such as chemistry, or even a degree in business with little or no previous sales experience, may be called sales engineers.

University engineering programs generally require 4 years of study. They vary in content, but all contain courses in math and the physical sciences, as well as general education courses such as English and communications. In addition, most require the development of computer skills. Some programs offer a general engineering curriculum; students then specialize on the job or in graduate school. Most programs, however, require students to choose an area of specialization. The most common majors are electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering, but some programs offer additional majors, such as chemical, biomedical, and computer hardware engineering.

New graduates with engineering degrees may need sales experience and training before they can work independently as sales engineers. Training may involve teaming with a sales mentor who is familiar with the employer's business practices, customers, procedures, and company culture. After the training period has been completed, sales engineers may continue to partner with someone who lacks technical skills, yet excels in the art of sales.

It is important for sales engineers to continue their engineering and sales education throughout their careers. Much of their value to their employers depends on their knowledge of, and ability to sell, the latest technologies. Sales engineers in high-technology fields, such as information technology and advanced electronics, may find that their technical knowledge rapidly becomes obsolete, requiring frequent retraining.

Other Skills Required

Many sales engineers first work as engineers. For some, engineering experience is necessary to obtain the technical background that is needed to sell their employers' products or services effectively.

These workers must possess excellent communication skills, because interacting with customers is one of their main job functions. They also must be strong in math and have an aptitude for science as they work with complex, technical products.

How to Advance

Promotion may include a higher commission rate, a larger sales territory, or elevation to the position of supervisor or marketing manager. Alternatively, sales engineers may move into different occupations, such as consulting.

Job Outlook

Employment of sales engineers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 7,300 openings for sales engineers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


As technologically sophisticated products continue to reach the market, sales engineers will be in demand to help sell products or services related to these products.

Employment growth is likely to be strong for sales engineers selling computer software and hardware. Strong industry growth is expected in computer systems design and related services, contributing to employment growth in the occupation.

Sales engineers also are expected to see employment growth in independent sales agencies (companies that sell on behalf of manufacturers without taking title to the goods being sold). As manufacturing companies outsource their sales staff in an effort to control costs, employment in these independent agencies should increase.


The median annual wage for sales engineers was $103,710 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $62,300, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $182,850.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for sales engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

  • Computer systems design and related services - $127,180
  • Telecommunications - $116,480
  • Wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers - $103,840
  • Merchant wholesalers, durable goods - $102,130
  • Manufacturing - $101,590

How much a sales engineer earns varies considerably by the type of firm and the product sold. Most employers offer a combination of salary and commission payments or salary plus a bonus. Some sales engineers who work for independent sales companies earn only commissions.

Commissions are usually based on the value of sales. Bonuses may depend on individual performance, on the performance of all workers in the group or district, or on the company's performance. Earnings from commissions and bonuses may vary from year to year depending on sales ability, the demand for the company's products or services, and the overall economy.

In addition to their earnings, sales engineers who work for manufacturers are usually reimbursed for expenses such as transportation, meals, hotels, and customer entertainment.

Most sales engineers work full time. Some may work additional and irregular hours to meet sales goals and client needs.