Many products and services, especially those purchased by large companies and institutions, are highly complex. Sales engineers, using their engineering skills, help customers determine which products or services provided by the sales engineer's employer best suit their needs. Sales engineers - who also may be called manufacturers' agents, sales representatives, or technical sales support workers - often work with both the customer and the production, engineering, or research and development departments of their company or of independent firms to determine how products and services could be designed or modified to best suit the customer's needs.
Selling, of course, is an important part of the job. Sales engineers use their technical skills to demonstrate to potential customers how and why the products or services they are selling would suit the customer better than competitors' products. Often, there may not be a directly competitive product. In these cases, the job of the sales engineer is to demonstrate to the customer the usefulness of the product or service - for example, how much new production machinery would save the customer.
Most sales engineers have a bachelor's degree in engineering and some have previous work experience in an engineering specialty before becoming a sales engineer. Engineers apply the theories and principles of science and mathematics to technical problems. Their work is the link between scientific discoveries and commercial applications. Many sales engineers specialize in an area related to an engineering specialty.
Many of the job duties of sales engineers are similar to those of other salespersons. They must interest the client in purchasing their products, many of which are durable manufactured products such as turbines. Sales engineers are often teamed with other salespersons who concentrate on the marketing and sales, enabling the sales engineer to concentrate on the technical aspects of the job. By working as a sales team, each member is able to utilize his or her strengths and knowledge.