IT sales specialists do interesting work around the world.It is estimated that 2 billion PCs are currently in use worldwide. A whole lot of them are currently sitting on Indian desktops. India’s population recently exceeded 1.3 billion, and Indians are hungry for information technology. This demand is driven by younger people who are comfortable using technology — almost 47 percent of India’s population is younger than 25 years of age.

Like most people, Indians like their portable devices. India is the currently the third largest market for smartphones behind China and the United States — more than 71 million iPhones were sold in India in 2014, and they’re expected to surpass the U.S. in smartphone demand by the end of 2016. India has more than 100 companies (more than two-thirds of them home-grown) offering a multitude of smartphones.

In 2014, these companies together launched 1,137 phones! Couple this with a 19 percent drop in prices for smartphones and less expensive internet access and it’s obvious that demand is going to remain strong. While PC sales in India are down, relative to other devices, millions are still sold each year. Indian companies are also increasingly purchasing more powerful mainframes for the really big jobs.

So who sells all these IT solutions?

Enter the Technical Sales Specialist. These IT professionals, often referred to as sales engineers, focus on supplying enterprises with complex scientific and technical products to meet their needs. It’s a demanding job requiring lots of travel, strong interpersonal and presentation skills, teamwork, and the ability to communicate clearly, orally and in writing.

Good sales specialists also need to be problem solvers and have excellent technology skills so that they can understand client needs and offer solutions. In short, they need to be people persons with an aptitude for math and science. If you’re dealing with international clients, it’s also a plus to have fluency in more than one language and experience traveling and or working in foreign countries.

Technical sales specialists must have a thorough knowledge of their market and products. They do a lot of reading of industry journals and spec sheets, and occasionally conduct market research. Clearly this is a demanding field. Fortunately the demands are offset by very high salaries — the average starting salary in the United States is between $60,000 and $70,000 — and bonuses are common.

The daily duties of a sales specialist range from troubleshooting technical problems related to equipment and software, training a client’s staff in the product, and, of course, constantly identifying and soliciting prospects and selling IT solutions.

The road to becoming a technical sales specialist is a winding one. Although there are no college majors specific to the job, most individuals possess one or more degrees in engineering, technology or the sciences. Helpful classes include communications, business, marketing and anything computer-related. It is possible to find a position without a degree, but only if you have years of experience with technology and sales.

Most technical sales specialists are employed by companies that manufacture hardware and software. Surprisingly, 17 percent of technical sales specialists are self-employed. Oftentimes an independent sales specialist will have relationships with one or more product providers and almost exclusively sell those brands to clients.

Typically, a technical sales specialist will receive extensive product and customer service training from their employers. This includes any IT certifications specific to the company and their offerings — you work for a provider of IT solutions, then you’re going to be an expert on their products.

One of the companies that offer specific certifications for technical sales specialists is IBM. Founded in 1911 and nick-named “Big Blue,” for its size and the common color used in products, packaging and logo, IBM has more than 435,000 employees worldwide. IBM seems to offer just about every IT solution from nanotechnology to mainframe computing. Their sales specialists are highly trained and generally hold at least one of three certifications.

IBM Certified Sales Specialist – Power Systems with POWER8 V1

These sales specialists have extensive product knowledge of the Power Systems portfolio and 12-to-18 months of on-the-job experience assessing customer needs and offering solutions.

This certification requires clearing just one exam — Test C9010-250. The exam consists of 62 multiple-choice questions to be completed 90 minutes, and is available in English, Chinese Simplified, French, Japanese and Korean. A score of 66 percent is required to pass.

IBM Certified Technical Sales Specialist – Power Systems with Power8 Enterprise V1

Certified individuals have detailed product knowledge and at least 12-to-18 months of experience assessing customer needs based on workload demands, and the complexities of infrastructure. They are required to have the skills, knowledge and experience and have designed and implemented:

  • A minimum of five new enterprise power systems while acting in a technical leadership role.
  • A minimum of five upgrades or migrations from existing systems.

Candidates have to pass two tests:

  • Test C9010-251 — 63 multiple-choice questions to be completed in 90 minutes. A passing score is 60 percent.
  • Test C9010-252 — 58 multiple-choice questions to be completed in 90 minutes. A passing score is 66 percent.

IBM Certified Technical Sales Specialist – Power Systems with Power8 Scale-out V1

Successful candidates will have participated, in a technical leadership role, on a minimum of 10-12 system and solution design opportunities including:

  • At least 5-6 Power systems opportunities
  • A minimum of 5 upgrades or migrations from older power systems hardware

Candidates only have to pass Test C9010-251 to achieve this certification.

IT sales specialists do interesting work around the world.Although requirements vary between the three certifications, all IBM sales specialists are expected to clear some high-hurdles in terms of experience and knowledge. Although not required, IBM does recommend that as a prerequisite to certification candidates possess the following skills and abilities:

  • A detailed knowledge of the various IBM systems and servers.
  • The ability to articulate capabilities and benefits of the Power Systems architecture including working knowledge of storage, software, and services experts.
  • A strong understanding of AIX, Linux, and IBM i operating systems
  • Thorough knowledge of Power Systems software products (PowerVM, PowerVC, PowerHA, PowerSC, PowerVP, etc.)
  • Knowledge of IBM product and services offerings for big data, analytics, cloud, mobile, social, and security solutions on POWER8 servers.
  • The ability to position Power Systems products against competitive products and solutions, from competitors like Oracle, HP, Cisco, and others.
  • Strong customer relationship skills, the ability to assess customer requirements and draft proposals for appropriate solutions, and a thorough understanding and appreciation of the role a Technical Server Specialist fills in the sales cycle.

Other IT companies that offer certifications for technical sales specialists include Cisco, HP and Oracle, to name just a few.

This is a tough field. Lots of hard work and constant studying to stay up on new IT innovations. The plus side is the opportunity for high salaries, plus bonuses, and a great sense of satisfaction when you help a client solve a major problem. If you’re the type of person that likes dealing with people, solving challenging problems, have great communication skills, and can handle rejection, then a career as a technical sales specialist might be for you.