A technical sales specialist, sometimes known as a sales engineer, typically relies on his knowledge and background in science, engineering, or technology as he combines both sales and customer service responsibilities. Specific job duties vary according to employer needs, as does the degree of contact that the specialist will have with customers. Some sales engineers handle initial contacts with prospects and assist them in determining their needs and placing orders. In other cases, employers will either partner a technical sales specialist with a dedicated salesperson who focuses on business building or the the specialist may be a part of an even larger sales team, offering technical expertise to several different salespeople on an as-needed basis. A technical sales specialist may also serve in an ongoing capacity as an account manager, working with clients on any problems or challenges that they have with their products and also continuing to make sales to that client for new products, upgrades, or accessories.
Some businesses sell highly technical products designed to meet complex needs. The nature of these products and services may be such that, in order to effectively sell them, a salesperson must either have extensive knowledge of the product and the science or technology behind it or must have the support of someone who does. As advanced scientific or technological knowledge does not always go hand in hand with sales skills and vice versa, many companies hire technical sales specialists to fulfill a unique role within the company's sales department. The company may require a technical sales specialist to do an extensive amount of travel, including joining the sales team at trade shows so that technical inquiries can be answered on the spot, as well as attending sales calls or even consulting directly with clients who are having difficulties with their products. A technical sales specialist may also be called upon to provide customization of products according to customer needs.
The requirements to become a sales engineer vary by the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively sell appropriate products to a company’s customers. Companies that specialize in selling various types of raw materials may need to hire technical sales specialists who have an educational or work background in chemistry, while businesses that sell office equipment will want to hire someone who understands both computers as well as the maintenance and repair of copiers and fax machines. Some technology manufacturers actually sponsor their own certification programs for technical sales specialists so that both consumers and businesses can be assured that the person selling the manufacturer’s products actually has in-depth knowledge of their features and utility.