Skip to Main Content

Home Explore Careers

Sales Engineers

History

Sales engineers perform functions similar to those of salespeople, with the difference being that they sell complex scientific and technical products and services. As the title indicates, the job combines sales and engineers; thus most sales engineers have backgrounds in engineering, science, and/or technology. The sales profession is an old one, but the selling of technical and scientific products grew in the 19th century, when the Industrial Revolution introduced numerous machines and inventions that increased workers' productivity and improved life for many. Salespeople who understood these products and their complex machinery were needed to explain how they worked and their benefits to manufacturers and business owners. For example, salesman who sold equipment to farmers had miniature versions of the machinery, usually in a portable case. They traveled to different farms and demonstrated to farmers how the equipment worked.

The sales profession in general grew and expanded further during the late 1800s and early 1900s as new and faster methods of transportation were introduced. Railroads, automobiles, and later airplanes made it possible for salespeople to travel to more areas and sell their products and services to more people. Factories also grew during this time, manufacturing more parts and tools for equipment and machinery. Manufacturers sold merchandise directly to retail outlets and also to wholesalers, with sales representatives selling the manufactured products to specific territories.

Computers were introduced to the general public in the late 1970s and since the 1980s have become intrinsic to most business and manufacturing operations. Sales engineers may specialize in computer systems as well as telecommunications. Strong knowledge of these fields is required to discuss the benefits with customers and to help improve existing computer systems designs and telecommunications setups in companies.