20+ Best Sales Engineer Interview Questions & Answers

We've compiled the absolute best sales engineer interview questions and answers to help you prepare for your future job interview. Sales engineers are starting to gain demand in the market, primarily as SAAS companies continue to grow wider in the market. Sales engineers are part of the sales process and engineering process to provide the best possible information for a future customer to make a buying decision.

What does a sales engineer do?

Sales engineers help prospecting sales turn into prospect customers. This could mean running and gathering specific data that can be insightful to the prospect. Or it could mean developing special SQL queries or potentially even new features which help turn the prospet into a full on customer. Ideally, these customers are fairly substantial in their partnership relationship with the company. Meaning, they aren't going to be paying a fee below $1,000. They are usually long term partnerships which can cost much more.

Sales Engineer Interview Questions & Answers

1. How do you deal with conflict resolution?

With my team, I try to take action from various angles instead of forcing a solution. Forcing a solution may put a bandaid on the issue for a moment, but taking time to consider options and perspectives can be the difference between a hard-working sales team and a sales team that is distracted by discomfort.

2. Sell me this pen for a higher price than what our competitors will charge.

This is the most common sales engineer questions around, but it’s vital to ask. You’re looking for an answer that encapsulates modern and effective sales techniques, as well as a deeper understanding of the mechanics of the product being sold. In this situation, a pen. A great answer could involve giving the pen away for free, then describing how excellent the pen is compared to others. Because of the excellent design and inner mechanics of the pen, it’s likely that the client will return to buy another pen for a substantial price.

3. What is your approach to a typical sales call with a new or returning client?

I try to focus on finding out the needs and wants of a client right off the bat, using leading questions to help them flesh out the idea in their mind. This applies to both regular sales calls and sales calls about unexpected problems or tech support.

4. Describe what you believe a sales engineer is.

You will definitely receive unique and varied answers, but try to look for the basic definition. A sales engineer will not sell themselves short on their skills in an interview, so anything less substantial than the following is a weak answer: A sales engineer is a person who sells complex products in the realm of science and tech, as well as services. A sales engineer has extensive knowledge of everything that goes into the product: parts, functions, and the processes that make these products work.

5. How would you deal with a sales engineer having a very different opinion from you?

I believe this is just another form of conflict resolution, but more personal. I don’t let my ego get in the way of creating an excellent product and getting and keeping sales. If another sales engineer has an idea that’s different from mine and it sounds good, I’m open to implementing that idea for the sake of the company’s success. If I find that the conflicting idea is not very lucrative, I will disagree in a way that’s professional. I’ll use a lot of “I” language, rather than “you” language. I will also use presentations and diagrams to affirm my position, which makes understanding a new idea substantially easier for other engineers. We’re visual learners.

6. Describe the typical day of a sales engineer based on your experience.

You will receive varied answers, but be keen on what they say. Is their description short? Are they missing typical basics of what a sales engineer does? Did they not include presentations, demos, order and delivery work, technical support, or conferring with their team and clients in their description of an average day for a sales engineer? If so, they may be less experienced than you may have anticipated. 

7. You have a request for proposal (RFP) and a lab evaluation report that are due tomorrow, and you can’t complete them both. How would you handle this situation?

I would contact my manager and ask for another engineer to take on one of the tasks. Note: This is an important question and answer, as sales engineering involve a substantial amount of teamwork.

8. What do you believe the characteristics of a stellar sales engineer are?

Dedication, extensive product knowledge, able to implement both sales techniques and engineering skills, willing to put in long hours, and excellent team-building skills.

9. Briefly describe the sales process cycle.

Prospecting, pre-approach, approach, need assessment, presentation, meeting objections, gaining commitment, and follow-up.

10. What are your biggest motivators?

This question is more for the hiring managers than the prospective sales engineer. Knowing how to motivate a team of sales engineers is vital, so listen carefully to their answer. If they respond well to encouragement, positivity, and teamwork, use those methods to connect once the hiring process is over.

11. What was the team culture like at your previous company?

Take note of the answer and how it relates back to the company you are hiring the sales engineer for. Is the culture vastly different? If so, your company may not be an ideal fit as culture is important in company environments. Still, take note of how they describe your company’s culture through previous research. This resonates well as a potential employee if they are already taking the time to research every aspect of your company.

12. How do you believe the management at your previous company could have improved?

The answers will vary substantially for this question, but look for mention of performance reviews. If the interviewee felt they were not receiving enough feedback on their work from the management team in the form of formal reviews that details their strengths and weaknesses, that says that they genuinely care about improving and growing as a sales engineer.

13. In what way would you be effective in sales with our particular company?

I can make an immediate and quick impact on your company’s sales targets in a very positive way. I have a strong portfolio of engineering and sales work, and I will work extensively to bring in new clients.

14. Tell us what you know about our most recently launched product.

The answer the interviewee gives should reflect both a sales and marketing knowledge of the product, as well as significant insight into the mechanics of the product. This shows that they have done their research and are going into the company with some context, rather than completely in the dark.

15. What is the ultimate example of excellent customer service?

In surveys or future interactions, the client's recollection of the interaction is overwhelmingly positive. The client ended the service interaction feeling heard, happy, and with the issue completely resolved.

16. Do you prefer doing sales engineering work alone or with a team?

Look for a preference for teamwork. Sales work is very team-based, and a sales engineer who isn’t comfortable with collaboration and conflict resolution may not work out in the long run.

17. Do you meet sales quotas consistently?

Yes. I have a steady track record of meeting sales quotas and reaching sales goals.

18. Describe in detail how your engineering experience impacted your previous sales engineering job in a positive way.

Look for answers that include substantial technical know-how. Sales engineering is mostly sales-focused, but it's vital that a prospective sales engineer is technologically and scientifically well-rounded, especially in whatever niche your company is a part of. Also, look for answers that involve experience in demoing and presentations.

19. What skills do you believe a sales engineer must have in order to succeed at this company?

A great sales engineer needs to have substantial communication skills. So much of sales engineering involves using logic and reasoning to persuade clients to invest in a product. Outside of being naturally convincing, a sales engineer needs to know how to use tools to establish a connection with clients. These tools include demo work, presentations, graph-building, and other visual aspects that can turn a simple technical run-down of a product into something that is easy to understand. A sales engineer also need to have stellar product knowledge from the inside out.

20. What is your experience with technical support and customer service?

It’s vital for prospective sales engineers to have experience in this realm. Most sales engineers have experience in product presentation and actual sales, but not all of them may have experience in client conflict-solving. An ability to condense tech talk into easy-to-digest words to effectively provide technical support for a product is an important ability to have.

21. What are your short or mid-term career goals?

I’m interested in securing a job in sales engineering in order to further improve my customer service and sales experience. I’m also interested in staying with a company long-term to become immersed in their product knowledge and culture, and eventually would like to become a senior sales engineer or involved in sales management.

22. How have you generated, developed, and closed sales opportunities in the past? What’s your go-to method?

Listen for detailed, well-thought-out answers. A sales engineer that knows exactly what their successful technique is off the top of their head has a dedication to planning and innovation. Both of these things are important for successful sales in the long-term.

23. Have you ever had to terminate a relationship with a client or prospective client? How did you approach the situation?

This is a great opportunity to understand to the interviewee’s level and method of strategic sales thinking. Terminating a client relationship is definitely one of the top-tier difficult things one will have to do in sales, but it’s also necessary. Listen to how the interviewee describes their reasoning for the termination and whether it includes an understanding of deals, customer service, and protecting company resources.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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