We have a long-standing reputation in the industry and didn’t think that there would be any real problem recruiting quality staff. However, while we did receive a number of applicants in a recent recruitment drive we didn’t get the flood of applications that you might expect given the economic climate.
That is despite the job being challenging and the salary attractive. This made us ask whether the industry truly appreciates what the sales engineer role involves, especially since we saw a letter to the editor in CRN recently that indicated others have also been having difficulties finding the right staff.
So, we gave our current sales engineers a questionnaire, asking about their perception of their role, both before and after they started work. We also asked about their background, and about the job responsibilities.
We asked their reasons for moving into sales. Many said that the role had offered them a change of direction, and also provided challenging, varied work with a clear future career path.
Money was cited as important by only two respondents, which challenged our initial notion that the attractive salary with performance-based commission was important, if not the main consideration.
Questions were also asked about their initial perception of the role, and if their beliefs had changed after actually doing the job. Our sales engineers all said that their initial perception was that they would need in-depth technical knowledge.
Most also thought the role would entail travel, good customer-facing skills, and require the person to have a persuasive manner. They said that these initial views proved accurate once they started in the role.
Their backgrounds were wide and varied, and apart from one individual, it was their first sales engineering role. Previous work history was split between sales, technical support, and R&D. Their education was varied, with some having electronics and IT vocational qualifications, others having physics or chemistry degrees and over half having an engineering degree.
Sales engineers also work with the marketing department to identify and target the best sales prospects. This requires technical, sales, marketing and case study writing skills.
They need much more than technical ability. Project or account management skills and a talent for forming close business relationships were every bit as important. Technical qualifications and experience were in fact not as important as an ability and desire to continue learning and perform regular self-assessments.
The range of skills required and the constant learning, both technical and personal, make the role challenging but fulfilling.
Sales engineering offers a varied environment and goes well beyond the standard sales job. It is a role where no two days are the same and, with the right ambition, it offers the opportunity for career enhancement with plenty of scope to earn an attractive salary with performance-based commission.
Gina Citroni is commercial director at Amplicon
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