Whenever you are in a technical sales environment, like selling a SaaS product or similar, there will usually be a combination of Account Executives and Sales Engineers working on the accounts. While other roles may depend on the business structure, and age of the business, these two roles are almost guaranteed to exist in some capacity for a successful sales environment.
While Account Executives may require support from various other teams (think: customer success, finance, and ops) in a tech sales environment their most important support team is often the Sales Engineers.
Sales Engineer teams are often recruited to help Account Executives with sales that involve the various components, integrations, and customizations of whatever product or service you have available to customers.
In this article, we’ll be outlining the differences between Account Executives and Sales Engineers, so you are able to hire accordingly and plan your career accordingly.
Differences between Account Executives and Sales Engineers?
As we mentioned above, Account Executives are hired to build client relationships and manage the sales process from start to finish. This could include prospecting (although this might be handled by an outbound sales team) but likely involves a lead funnel from various sources, along with support from a number of different teams within the business unit.
Their role in the company’s ecosystem is to convert potential clients into closed deals by solving their company’s needs through what your business has to offer, technology wise. They may also provide after sales support and/or training materials.
In highly technical sales environments, Account Executives often also rely on Sales Engineers for solutions to their client’s problems and to show them how the technology solution fits within their unique businesses.
There are different types of Sales Engineers (like pre- or post-sales) or, depending on your company’s structure, just one all-encompassing role.
A Sales Engineer can be required pre-sale to answer questions, help operate demos, or when a technical close is required (a sale contingent on the technology’s capabilities). They can also be required post-sale in order to help implement the technology solution and help the client “get the most bang for their buck” when it comes to using the software or product.
As mentioned, some companies split this role into pre- and post-sales engineers, and some just have one role. Either way, the Sales Engineer is the one with technical knowledge of the product and solutions, customer service skills to help implement the solution and solidify the relationship, and organizational skills in order to manage the volume of deals being closed that require their help.
How to shift your career?
Those with technical experience (or enough product knowledge from years of working as an AE) may want to shift their career from an Account Executive to a Sales Engineer in order to enjoy less quota related stress in their lives while focusing on technical work for their day-to-day.
While some Sales Engineers do need to join presale calls in order to help AEs close their deals, much of the burden of “sales performance” (Quotas) and reporting falls on the AE in the end.
In order to make the shift from AE to SE, you should consider a few things:
- Do I have the required technical stack to implement our product/service at our customers’ businesses?
- Am I okay with taking a potentially smaller commission or changing my pay structure in order to accommodate this role?
- Will the changes to my schedule (working with an AE based on their schedule rather than working with clients based on yours) be acceptable?
- Will I be able to switch into this role at my current company or will I need to apply for a new job?
Does this all still sound good to you? You might be ready to make the jump from Account Executive to Sales Engineer.
Why consider switching from Account Executive to Sales Engineer?
While there are not many vertical options in terms of career progression for Sales Engineers, the role itself is often challenging enough for people looking to vary their day-to-day and the earnings potential is similar compared to Account Executive roles.
Those who aren’t looking for career progression or are looking to work for large companies (think Google, Amazon etc.) often make the switch due to the increased freedom the role awards as it’s more structured, 9-to-5 type than the AE role.
Those looking for a more entrepreneurial route can progress towards becoming a Global/WW VP of Sales Engineering. These roles exist in many high growth startups, as well as in some large companies.
Becoming a Sales Engineer combines the best of sales, technology, and project management skills. So if you’re an outgoing or personable engineer and are well-organized, this can be a great career for you. If there is any aspect of this job that you do not enjoy, like any job, it can become miserable fairly quickly.
It is important to realize that sales engineers do not typically carry the quota within a sales based organization. This role usually falls with the account executives, and therefore, sales engineers often earn a higher base salary with less variable pay while account executives (more performance based) typically earn less base with more variable pay as an incentive to close more deals.
In well-established organizations, sales engineers can earn upwards to $200k; however, great AEs can $300k and more, due to the nature of the positions with regards to how much revenue they generate for the company.
Do you have a technical background you’d like to leverage? But also possess customer service skills you can fall back on? Sales engineering might be for you! Uvaro is there to help you with the sales skills needed for the role, if you can bring the technical experience, it’s almost a match made in heaven! Apply now and speak to an admissions consultant to learn more!