This article details the most common reasons that Engineers are scared to try the role of Sales Engineer and how to overcome them; by SalesEngineerTraining.com.
1) I’ll lose my technical edge, my Engineering skills will get rusty.
This is usually NOT a big issue, here’s why: As a Sales Engineer, you probably won’t get into as much technical detail as when you did engineering work, but you also won’t have to do the boring parts of the project like documentation and sustaining engineering. Sales Engineering will expose you to many different environments, technologies, and challenges while working with customers. This diversity can be a great way to round out your technical knowledge. As a Sales Engineer, you already have a solid background in the technology that you sell and support. If you try Sales Engineering for a year or two, you should have no problem moving back to a purely technical role; with the benefit of a broader technical perspective.
2) Salespeople are sleazy, I don’t want to be considered sleazy.
You’re not likely to have to deal with sleazy salespeople. That said, you do need to enter into the world of sales with your eyes wide open. Consider the following, are they examples of lying?. In customer demos, your competition consistently glosses over the parts of their product that are hard to learn or use. You know that your product is better, but you feel compelled to explain every negative detail because you want to be honest. The result–they win, you lose, and the customer gets an inferior product.
3) Sales is easy, I won’t learn anything of value.
The conventional wisdom is that sales are the “lowest paid” easy work; so don’t be fooled. Yes, you can get by on your technical knowledge, but to be effective, you need to do your part in closing the technical sale. As for things of value, how about these for starters: presentation skills, demo skills, and lots of contacts in the engineering community. These things are invaluable if you ever want to enter engineering management, start a company, or find a new job.
4) I’m used to a salary, this “commission thing” scares the heck out of me.
This is a big issue for many engineers looking to make the move to technical sales–here’s some food for thought. You don’t have to be on the commission to be a sales engineer. You may want to try a salary-only job before you make the jump to a salary + commission plan. If you are interested in making more money, typically the risk/reward world of salary + commission is the way to go.
5) If I do sales, I’ll have to lie.
No, you don’t have to lie and you never should.
6) I will have to give “speeches”.
All Sales Engineer positions require you to present your products. You may also be asked to do talks for trade shows, user groups, and other similar activities. Presentations are nothing to fear, just be sure to take the time to understand your prospects’ needs as well as your product. Done well, a presentation or demo is a service to your prospect that will help them to make an informed decision.
7) I’m not sure if there is a worthwhile career path in sales.
There are great career paths in sales, the key question is: are they great career paths for you. If you enjoy the challenge of lots of balls in the air, learning new things, and working with people, sales engineering may be for you. Many Sales Engineers have gone on to sales and sales management and even started their own successful companies.