Sales Engineer

Entering the workforce, changing jobs, or are simply curious, Profiles series is the place to learn more about the career opportunities in the pump industry and the skills needed to be successful.

Hi, I’m a Sales Engineer. What do I do?

About me: As my title indicates, I’m in the sales business. But don’t think of me as a traditional salesperson or you would be underestimating my function and my educational background. While in the end my goal is to sell the products and services that my company offers, I spend most of my time troubleshooting, instructing, and advising. My specialty is in technical leadership associated with engineered products—and in my case, pumps. It’s very important to my job that I have the engineering background that I hold. My formal education and training enable me to fully explain the benefits of my company’s products, and how they work. This education also helps me explain how auxiliary products work and how they can aid pump operation and performance. I’m also versed in how my company can service the pumps I sell. It’s important for me to give our customers and potential customers a full understanding of the benefits and advantages my company has over the competition. In the end, I do have sales objectives and revenue goals. I’m also responsible for identifying potential customers, for creating marketing strategies to reach new customers, and to organize training on how to use our products for users who purchase our pumps and equipment. To succeed in this job, I must have a technical background; I need to be skilled in sales; and I need to be an excellent communicator.

What I’m good at: I’m a good communicator, and because of my engineering training, I’m good at fully understanding the needs and technical expectations of my customers. It’s a good thing I’m good with people, because as a sales engineer I interact with different types of people and cultures. Because I’m a people person, I know how to deal successfully with different personality types. I know how to adapt to each customer, as each one is different than the other. I’m also a good presenter, which aids in connecting customers to the products my company has to offer.

What I like: I’m a bit of a showman type, so I like to be front and center (the star of the show) and present on the products and services my company offers. I do that a lot. Sometimes these presentations are one-on-one, but other times I have to present the benefits of my products to large groups. It’s not only presenting how my products work, but also how they will work in a particular application. The main thing I have learned to do is be honest with people. This is one of the reasons my customers trust me and come back to me over and over again. I like to negotiate, so that’s part of the job too. I understand that my customers want me to give them the best price on the pumps and products I offer, and I try to do that. But I have to look out for my company as well, obviously, and make sure that the price is fair. Following up on presentations and reestablishing the communication is something I like to do as well, not only for the small talk, but to show my customer my commitment to them and their business.    

What I’m looking for: I love being a sales engineer because the job gives me great exposure to every opportunity that my company has to offer, and enables me to move into different departments, should I want to do that. As a sales engineer, I’m in the sales and marketing division of my company, and I could grow into becoming a sales manager or eventually a vice president of either sales or marketing. However, if desired my current position allows me to move into a more technical position like a design and development engineer or get more involved in applications. A friend of mine who was a sales engineer for many years became his company’s global public relations director. So, you see, there are great options for someone like me. This position brings together a lot of different things that I like, and it opens up a lot of career opportunities.

My education: Because I work with pumps, I have an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering. However, equivalent studies in a similar engineering field would be fine for someone who wants to be a sales engineer. The operative word here, however, is engineer. Without the theoretical knowledge gained from an undergraduate or graduate engineering curriculum, this job would be very challenging, and you might be bypassed in the hiring process in favor of someone who has this type of degree or title.

Besides the formal education, here are other elements of what pump sales engineers need to know: You need to have a full understanding of pumps, their components, motors, drives, and accessories like bearings, couplings, and mechanical seals. The position will also require you to troubleshoot field problems associated with the pump or pumping system. A complete knowledge of pump types and their intended applications, hydraulic performance, and operating theory. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, the more you know the better you will be at your job. I also know about engineering standards and guidelines related to pumps, including the Hydraulic Institute (HI), API, ASME, and ISO. I also read everything I can get my hands on related to the products my company manufactures, and the ones that our competitors produce.

Some of the things I need to know to do my job well include:

  • Pump applications. Selecting and preparing submittals for pumps and required system components in order to meet the demands of a specification.
  • Pump hydraulics. This is of the upmost importance when selecting a pump for a particular application. Without the capacity (flow rate), pressure (or head), and horsepower requirements you can’t define your pump or select it.
  • Electrical requirements. Knowing the capabilities of the location for which a pump will be installed, like the available voltage, is extremely important to selecting an appropriate driver.
  • Pump types and arrangements. Knowledge of the different pump types and their intended applications is a major part of my job responsibility. Certain pump types are mechanically and hydraulicly designed for particular applications and, at times, these pumps can be arranged either vertically or horizontally. However, the static and hydraulic loads change based on orientation and extensive knowledge is required to understand, or calculate, when a vertical pump can be installed in the horizontal position or vice versa. You’ll also need to know if the customer needs only a bare pump, a pump coupled to a motor and mounted to a baseplate, or whether the customer needs a complete packaged system with all necessary piping, valves, accessories, controls, and enclosure.

You will also need to learn and understand how many pumps are active and how many pumps are standby in a certain application, and also what method the pump will be operated (such as constant speed or variable speed).

There’s more, of course, but you’ll receive this type of training once you’re hired as a sales engineer.

Where I work: Like me, some sales engineers work for companies that design and build pumps. Others work for independent sales firms like manufacturers’ representatives. Just like other pump related jobs, I have geographical options on the location for which I work. You can find pump sales engineer jobs wherever there are pump manufacturers. Some, of course, are concentrated in certain regions, but you can find these great sales engineer jobs throughout the country.

How much I make: There is a huge salary range for sales engineers in the pumping industry. In fact, the range is from about $40,000 to about $150,000. This variation has a lot to do with experience, how good you are, and the location for which you are employed. Right now, I’m at the national average of $70,000. My boss, a national sales manager, is making about $117,000 as a base salary—but he’s got about 10 years of experience in the pumping industry. Remember that a lot of times these jobs offer commission or bonuses on sales, so you could do very well if you’re good, even if your base salary is on the low end. In fact, you may well end up making more money as a sales engineer than any other pump-related engineer.

Check out the other Pump PROfiles!