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Manuals on how to sell technical products and services find new clients or hire an effective technical salesperson. If you like technology, people, and travel and want to earn good money, have you thought about a sales engineer job?
Sales engineers are always in demand and they are paid more than technicians with comparable experience and qualifications. The work can be very interesting because over time a technical representative acquires a large body of knowledge of his specialization. When a client has a requirement the sales engineer discusses the application and suggests technical products and methods to achieve a solution.
The technology sector is fast-moving; new materials and processes are invented and introduced continually. Markets change too and people in engineering sales have the opportunity to travel and live in all parts of the globe.
As a technical sales rep, you meet a lot of people and will have many interesting conversations. If your job covers a large territory, as time goes by you will develop friendly contacts throughout the area you cover.
Starting salaries are around £25,000 GBP or $50,000US and sales commission can double those amounts. There is good opportunity to progress your career by taking on larger and more important territories and later to move into sales management, and potentially senior management.
To succeed as a technical sales professional requires, potentially conflicting, personal qualities. One is the ability to understand and knowledgeably discuss the technology that you are involved with. Familiarity with the industry that you sell into is important too. The other is to have good people and sales skills. This is where there may be a challenge; the type of personality which makes for a good engineer is very different from that which you find in good sales people.
It’s this which explains, in part, why there is always demand for the right person in technical sales jobs. Many companies will recruit graduates with a science degree and what appear to be suitable personal characteristics. The selection process will have several stages of interviews and may include a psychometric test. Once recruited the new person may receive sales-training which can help, but it is essential that the appropriate underlying traits be present to a substantial degree
So far, so good, but now the drawbacks; it is common that sales reps experience levels of stress, coming from many sources. At work, if you fail to achieve the sales results that your company wants, they will urge you to try harder. And it's inevitable that some dealings with customers are frustrating. It can be difficult to make appointments and when you do, sometimes they are canceled at short notice. In overseas locations it isn't unusual for the client to simply not show up. In all sales work, you have to anticipate that some potential orders will fail to materialize. This can be very disappointing when the client postpones the job or gives the order to your competitor. This can happen after you have invested a great deal of effort in progressing the sale through all the stages which are involved.
Your domestic life may be difficult too. In most sales engineer positions, you will spend many nights away from home. If you have a partner this may not suit them well. It’s even worse if you have children, you’ll most likely be forced to miss school events and be unable to help them with homework.
The novelty of air travel and staying in hotels wears off quickly. You’ll find yourself rushing to airports, often only to learn that the flight is delayed, then on arrival, lining up to get a taxi or a hire car. And from time to time, an airline will probably lose your baggage.
Hotels get things wrong too and may not have held a room for you, or they can only give you a smoking room even if you told them in advance you don’t want that. Getting an internet connection can be hard sometimes. Staying in hotels, your evenings are likely to be spent with a combination of eating and drinking, television and internet, and writing up business reports. After a while this isn't much fun. When you get home after a trip, the first hours are likely to spent recovering from the strain. Weekends go fast like this and sometimes you will need to depart on Sunday afternoon in order to be in the right location for a Monday morning meeting.
That’s quite a long list of disadvantages and explains why people typically follow the sales engineer career for a limited number of years before settling into a work niche involving less travel. But if you are unattached, want to see the world, make a lot of friends and earn good money doing a technically interesting job, take a serious look at becoming a sales engineer. This article on Selling by Robert Seviour
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