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Interview Questions to Ask Sales Engineer Candidates

Finding the best sales engineers requires a few important interview questions. Here are some of the best you can ask them.

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Interview Questions to Ask Sales Engineer Candidates

One of the biggest problems in pro AV is hiring, so we’ve decided to do what we can to help audio visual firms find their next great employees by identifying the best audio video interview questions to ask candidates. In this edition, we’re focusing on what interview questions to ask potential sales engineers.

The definition of what exactly a “Sales Engineer” is at many integration firms can sway pretty steadily between companies. Are they more sales, or more engineer? 

President & Co-owner of Lifeline Audio Video Scott Wright says his sales engineers — who have been with his company for over 12 years — typically have a heavy hand in design work. But that may not be case at some firms.

“The traits of a sales person is typically not the same traits as what you are looking for in an engineer. The questions I would be asking is a combination of questions for sales and then project management/technicians,” he says.

“One issue that many of us can fall into is promoting the wrong person for the job. Great sales people are many times not great sales managers. I think it’s very important to define the job description and try not to cross over to many skills making it a ‘no win’ job due to expected skills that are not reasonable.”

“The SE role is one of the most difficult to hire for because it requires a number of skills that are rarely paired in one person,” Lionel Felix of Felix Media Solutions, who has also worked at the technology decision-making level before his time in pro AV.

So bear in mind: you may NOT find the “perfect” candidate, but you should keep your eye on intelligent, personable ones who can learn fast.

Related: Interview Questions for AV Technician Candidates

With that context behind us, let’s examine some interview questions you should ask to find the best AV sales engineers.

Sales Engineer Interview Questions

Tell me about something extremely technical you know inside and out and how you explained it and sold it to someone completely non-technical?

“A SE needs to be personable and present well in meetings. There’s nothing like a condescending tech guy using alllll the acronyms to bring down a meeting,” says Felix.

“They need to know the tech intimately AND be able to talk about it in a language buyers not only understand, but see as better, different, must have.”

If they can’t do that with this first question, you may already have a decision made.

Follow-up the first question above with these:

When even some of the features were too difficult, what’s your go-to to help someone understand something beyond them?

How would you handle being pressed during a meeting for specifications you don’t know or don’t understand?

Tell me about your working relationship with sales team members — what does that look like for you?

A good time to role play?

Give them an on-the-spot opportunity to demo something.

“Role playing is going to show you exactly what you need to know, when there is pressure to perform and there is an audience will they fold or flourish,” Felix says.

So, whats the last thing you dug into and know well?…Excellent, let’s do some role playing, I’ll be the customer, the sales person is in the hall on a call, ask me questions and tell me how this is the thing I need.

“It’s a lot of pressure, but better here than at a huge client where they could kill a deal. A great SE will be like a sales person that is not driven to sell, they’re driven to help people pick good solutions and they love being the guide” Felix says. “A bad SE is a bench-racer that talks specs and line items rather than the experience and desired result.”