How to Become an SE

‘How do I become a sales engineer with no experience’ is one of the questions that I get on a regular basis.  I have hired many hundreds of people all over the world and I know what it takes to make it into the SE community. In this post I will tell you what skills you need, what career path options there are and how YOU get your first SE role.  So if you want to know how to become an SE then keep reading.

Getting Started

The answer to “How do I get into an SE role without any experience?” can be quite complex (as for many career changes), but I will break it down into some useful areas to consider.  Unlike many other careers and professions there is no Bachelor’s degree in Presales that you can take (but the online courses on thepresalescoach.com will help).  Many people get here by accident, by coincidence or just because they know someone in technology sales.  But there are more structured ways to get an SE role.

But what exactly is a sales engineer? An SE is the bridge between a company’s sales and technical teams and their prospective and existing clients. They help customers understand how a product or service works and why it’s the perfect solution for them.  Not all presales roles are called Sales Engineer.  Some could be Solutions Consultant, Solutions Architect or a number of other job titles. So, how do you become one without any experience?

Develop Technical Skills

You don’t need a degree to get started as an SE, but you do need some technical skills.  Many of the SEs that I have hired don’t have a degree but they have spent time working in various IT roles, learning about technology and how it is best applied.

You should familiarise yourself with the products or services you’re interested in selling, for example cloud services or cybersecurity solutions. Learn the basics of the industry and the terminology used. Take some of the certifications that are available like AWS or Azure Solutions Architect or Google Cloud Engineer.  For Cyber security look at Certified Ethical Hacker or CISSP.

Online courses, tutorials, and even hands-on projects – they’re all your best friends on this journey. Every company will have demo videos or webinars that you can attend or view recordings.  These will show you how they talk about the subject as well as show you how to be an SE.  Dive into the technicalities, and soon you’ll be speaking the language fluently.  It might sound daunting, but trust me, it’s the first step to success.

Networking

Now, let’s discuss networking. It’s not just about who you know but who knows you. Attend industry events, connect on LinkedIn, and don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals for advice.  When you connect with someone, especially on LinkedIn, don’t just use the default message of “I would like to connect”.  Make it personal and tell the individual why you want to connect so that it can build your career.  It will significantly improve your connection rate.

Go to User Groups and meet-ups.  Face to face sessions are usually the best way to build your network, but also to learn.  They can also be an amazing source for job referrals.  Get into online communities for the technologies that you are interested in (but watch out for the trolls that believe that their opinion is the only one that matters…) Building relationships can open doors you never knew existed.

One final point here : Unless you are an extrovert, putting yourself out there can be a really difficult thing to do.  One way to overcome this is to imagine yourself as the person that you want to be just before you start the networking event. Be confident, but not overconfident.  Start a conversation, but don’t dominate it.  Tell people “Hey – I am here to learn and to make connections”.  That level of honesty will help break down any barriers.

Showcase Your Skills

OK – you’ve got the skills, and you’re expanding your network. Now it’s time to showcase what you’ve got. Create a killer resume or CV that highlights your technical know-how and your ability to communicate complex ideas in a simple way.  Make sure that you give concise examples of what you have done.  There are many resume tools out there that can help.

And why not start a blog or create content showcasing your insights? It’s not only a great portfolio but also a way to demonstrate your passion for the industry.

Gain Sales Experience

Now we need to address the issue of a lack of experience.  Everyone has to start somewhere and there are various options to look at.  In general companies will look at three areas of experience – sales, technical skills and real-world experience.  You have already started to address the technical skills, but we need to look at which of the other two you could build on.

Many of SEs that I know spent the early years of their careers working for different types of companies helping to run IT solutions.  It helped them understand not just what IT solutions are but why they are important to a company and the value that they bring.  Being able to relate that as an SE is vitally important.

Other SEs came via Sales Development or Business Development programs, so they were training to work in sales.  For whatever reason they then decided to switch track and become SEs.  These are often some of the best SEs as they have both the commercial awareness as well as the technical skills for the role.

There are many other options, for example from IT Support, Professional Services and Customer Success roles, but you need to consider what skills and experience are you building and how that applies to the SE role.

Leverage Internships

One other potential option is to look at internships. Look for internships that combine both technical and sales elements of the role. It’s a chance to get hands-on experience and make meaningful connections in the industry.  And remember, treat your internship like an extended job interview. Show them what you’re made of ! And always be learning.

Applying for roles

One of the key elements of applying for a role is to make your application stand out.  The HR and recruitment teams see hundreds of applications every week, so you need to grab their attention.

We already discussed the killer resume or CV, but you should also have a killer cover page.  You should research the company as well as key people inside the company – especially the hiring manager.  Call out what you bring to the company and why you would like to join them.  Don’t just use a standard cover letter.

However, the real step up is to get someone that you know at the company, or someone that knows someone at the company, to make a recommendation on your behalf.  This doesn’t guarantee an interview but it helps massively as we all want to work with people that others recommend.  This is where the networking discussed earlier will really pay off.

Ace the Interview

OK, you’ve made it to the interview stage. Congratulations! Now, it’s time to shine. Showcase your technical knowledge, highlight your sales experience, and most importantly, demonstrate your passion for the role and how you can contribute.

Continue to research the company and the people.  Make sure you know who will be interviewing you at each stage and check them out on LinkedIn (it will show that you looked at their profile).  If I was interviewing someone and they didn’t check me out then that would be a specific question that I would ask them in the interview.

Also, look at blog posts or YouTube videos that they have posted.  Refer back to them in the interview if possible.  And always checkout the latest company news just before the interview and discuss any important announcements.  This demonstrates that you are engaged in the process.

Finally – be ready with examples of what you have done in the past that can showcase how you can help them in the future.

Confidence is key, but not overconfidence.  Use the trick of visualising yourself as the person that you want to be.

Conclusion

And there you have it – how to become a sales engineer without any experience. It’s all about dedication, continuous learning, and making meaningful connections.

Video Links:

Video for this Blog : https://youtu.be/qX9N4yq-L5Y

Develop Yourself and Your Career : https://youtu.be/8D3tvfINRXo

Should You Change Your Job : http://YouTube Episode : https://youtu.be/76VijjILOYo

Blog Links:

Should You Change Your Job : https://thepresalescoach.com/blog/should-you-change-your-job/

 

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