Technical sales reps sell technology-based or scientific products and services. As such, they must be able to relate to people, while having a strong understanding of the technical details of the products, the scientific principles behind them, and how they work with – or compare to – similar products and services.
A technical sales rep should be able to prepare presentations with technical information about their products and services and be able to explain them to prospective clients. They should be able to conduct a needs assessment of the client's requirements and select the appropriate solution, while illustrating how that solution will reduce costs or increase the client's production.
They should also be able to work as part of a sales team, securing sales, arranging delivery, and in many cases oversee product installations.
Some technical sales reps work for manufacturers, while others are employed by independent sales organizations, including value-added resellers, or VAR's.
Often a technical sales rep will work alongside another sales rep with less extensive technical knowledge. The other sales rep will focus on marketing, finding prospects and closing sales, while the technical sales rep may focus on the technical parts of the job.
Most technical sales rep positions require a bachelor's degree, either in engineering or a similar field, related to the products or services being sold. Those with an engineer's degree may be called sales engineers, however this is not always a requirement. Anyone with technical experience in a specific field may become a technical salesperson or a sales engineer, with or without a degree.
In addition to their education, technical sales reps almost always need additional sales experience and training before they can begin working. Sales training is often offered by the employer. Those without sales experience may be partnered with another sales rep who has those skills but lacks technical expertise. Technical training may be offered by the employer or by vendors or manufacturers. Those in the computer networking industry for example, may require certifications from manufacturers like Cisco or Microsoft.
Years of Experience and Salary
As with most sales jobs, technical sales reps are usually compensated based on their performance. They may be paid a straight salary with bonuses, or salary with commissions based on sales volume. Those working for independent sales firms may be paid strictly on commission. The more experience you have, the more money you can make, provided you continue to keep your technical knowledge up to date, improve your sales techniques and build strong relationships with clients.
In 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the median income for sales engineers was $98,720, meaning that half made more than this amount and half made less. The top 10 percent of earners brought in more than $162,740, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $56,940.
A technical salesperson's income can vary by the type of products and services being sold. In 2017, technical sales reps in the telecommunications industry made the most, with a median income of $109,880. Those selling computer systems design and services earned $108,230. Those who sold products and services in the manufacturing sector earned a median income of $88,920.
Job Growth Trend
Job opportunities for sales engineers is expected to increase by seven percent from 2016 to 2026, which is about average with all other jobs in the United States. As more technical products emerge in the market, an increasing number of sales engineers will be needed to sell these products and the services to support them. The markets to keep an eye on include computer hardware and software, including computer systems design and support services. The need for sales engineers in these sectors should grow by 20 percent in the next decade. You should also expect a growing demand from independent sales agencies, and a corresponding reduction in demand from manufacturers, as manufacturers continue to outsource sales to these agencies.