Software Developer's Dilemma: Is Being A Sales Engineer a Cop-Out?: Page 2

Posted November 17, 2008

Eric Spiegel

Eric Spiegel

(Page 2 of 2)

Even with all these incentives, finding good sales engineers is extremely challenging. As I alluded to above, this isn’t a fit for everyone and one of the reasons some don’t consider this career path is because some of the most talented developers have not considered moving to the dark side. And yes, the perception of sales being the “dark side” is half the battle for recruiters trying to convince techies to make the leap.

This perception may have you asking why should you consider the potential ridicule of your fellow developers and pursue such a position?

First, you will have more freedom to set your own schedule, so you can arrange time off when you need it. Many sales engineers have the opportunity to work from home because they travel so much.

Second, you will likely have access to a lot of training. You will have to be an expert on the software’s features and benefits, plus an expert on the competition. You will also have to maintain a strong grasp on general technology trends in your industry. All of this requires lots of reading and ongoing education.

Third, it will greatly improve your public speaking. I know, this isn’t at the top of a lot of developer’s “I must achieve greatness in” categories. However, consider that you’ll be speaking about topics that you are passionate about.

I once had a developer tell me to never ever put him in front of a customer. Well, I had two sales engineers out sick and an important prospective customer on the phone with a question. So I called in this reluctant developer (much to his chagrin) and put him on the phone. He absolutely helped us close the deal because he was so knowledgeable in an unpretentious way that really sold the customer – who was a serious techie as well.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a great people person. When it comes down to it, you would mainly be dealing with other techies – speaking the same language. And that common bond helps sell software much more than some semi-technical person talking out of their behind.

It’s true that there isn’t much coding going on in this position, which some developer’s simply cannot deal with. You will likely write some integration code here and there or maybe have a side project you can work on, but when it comes down to brass tacks your job is to make the software look like nirvana.

Now considering these difficult economic circumstances, perhaps this isn’t a good time to switch jobs. But if you find yourself out of a job, you may consider this move more seriously because you don’t have much else to lose. And it’s not likely that sales engineering will be offshored or outsourced in anyway, so in some ways a move like this may offer more job security in the future.

If it doesn’t work out, just think how you’ll impress your friends with those newly refined public speaking skills!

Eric Spiegel is CEO and co-founder of XTS, which provides software for planning, managing and auditing Citrix and other virtualization platforms.

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Tags: developer, software, IT, jobs, executive

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