Paul Graham once wrote that “a startup is a company designed to grow fast.” For a startup to grow fast, especially a B2B startup selling SaaS products to other companies, it needs sales engineers.

Sales engineers are the technical experts who work closely with sales teams. They exist because selling enterprise software requires deep technical knowledge that salespeople typical don’t have. The salesperson establishes rapport with the prospect and understands their business needs. But when it comes time to demo the product and answer nitty gritty technical questions, that’s where the sales engineer comes in.

Sales engineers have strong technical backgrounds, often in software engineering. They understand the startup’s product inside and out. When needed, they can even dive into the architecture and codebase to explain how the product works on a technical level. During presales, the sales engineer gives demos and proofs of concept to prospects. They help prospects configure the product for their use case. They answer all the prospects’ technical questions with authority.

Sales engineers serve as a bridge between the sales, product, and engineering teams. They take feedback from prospects and customers and relay it back to product managers and engineers so the product can be improved. They let the product team know about upcoming deals and partnerships so the product roadmap can align with customer needs.

For enterprise startups, hiring technical sales engineers is key for growth. Trying to sell complex B2B software without sales engineers is like trying to build a house without nails. Sales and product don’t fully come together without the sales engineer’s glue. The startup will end up losing deals because they can’t answer prospects’ technical questions.

Sales engineers warrant the higher salaries they command because they grease the wheels for big deals to close. They also boost customer satisfaction and retention by providing stellar technical support during onboarding and beyond. For any hardcore tech startup, recruiting top notch sales engineers should be a priority. They may not write a lot of code, but they help translate it into revenue.

*Based primarily on my experience at Splunk and and reading a lot of discussions about sales engineering on Hacker News and Reddit.