Find a Job
169 available

Brightwater Blog

Get expert advice, up-to-date market knowledge and lots more!

Sales & Marketing Jobs Market Insights

18 Nov 2020

Mark Byrne, Commercial Director of Brightwater who oversees the Sales & Marketing division is in conversation with Gordon D’Arcy, Commercial Director of the Group


Thank you very much for having a chat with me today, Mark

Mark Byrne joined Brightwater since 2003 and has worked in recruitment for over 20 years across various disciplines. He now oversees a number of divisions including Sales, Marketing & HR. He himself specialises in recruitment of the senior level sales professionals and over the years has seen it all, good times and bad.

Let’s get an overview of Sales & Marketing; how do you see the market now that we’re in our 2nd lockdown?


This is very different to first lockdown. People are aware that there’s an end date so they’re coping a bit better. This is not their first time working from home. That uncertainty of how we’re doing and managing has changed, it is different and a little more positivite. Although we’re coming into the winter months, from a working perspective, their companies have the support structure already in place and in essence they’ve rewritten their own strategy. So I think we will fare better this time round.

That’s good to hear. You’ve made a very salient point in that people are better prepared to work from home this time around. That level of productivity and the ability to protect that productivity is going to be very important for companies.

So to get an overview of the sector of Sales & Marketing, let’s start at the beginning of the year in Q1. How was the market then?

If we look at from the end of 2019 to early 2020, our Sales & Marketing division was really busy across all sectors; financial services, banking, hi-tech, fintech, SaaS based roles, engineering, construction, FMCG, and B2B were all busy. About 60% of the roles we were working on at the time were New Business Developer roles; hunter type roles, selling new products or new services to new clients. The remaining 40% were on “farmer” roles – account management, renewal sales or uplift (selling up to existing clients).

Back in early 2020, the main issue for us as recruiters in Brightwater was working with candidates who were coming to the market already being counter-offered by existing employers before they even came to an offer. Ultimately  organisations were afraid to lose their best employees. We’re in a very different market now but that was the market back then. A lot of the roles were at Head of Function, either Sales or Marketing,  to Business executive level. There was also a good even split of 50/50 between field sales and inside sales but that’s changed since.

From a salary perspective, there was about a 20% basic salary increases with uncapped commission. At the time, we were looking at a bumper commission if you overachieved on targets, sales professionals would be talking about the kinds of car they wanted or negotiating on either car / car allowance. Obviously the situation is very different now.  

That almost seems like a lifetime ago – was that reflected in marketing as well? We tend to think that sales and marketing work hand in hand. What was the impact on marketing?

In the right space, the marketing function leads the sales function. It was about lead generation, about speaking to the customers prior to making that sale. It’s through digital marketing, eg we’re sitting at home considering purchases and we’re inundated on social media / WhatsApp about these products / services. Marketing is focusing on that, tracking what we’re doing before we make any purchases and the same also applies on the corporate side.

Come March and April, the situation changed. I’m involved in a SME myself and like others we cut marketing budgets. What was the immediate response at the start of the pandemic?

From a marketing perspective, the focus was mainly on existing customers and getting the message out to them. Businesses were focused on how they could still communicate to their customers that they’re still viable, they can still supply their customers with their service /product. Companies were thinking outside the box regarding to what else they could do with that customer to retain that customer base. From a sales perspective, equally so, the focus is on existing customers. Sales divisions are focusing on how they can sell up to these customers, how can they retain their loyalty, how can they ensure they still have budget. They also need to consider adjustments if they’ve written that customer into their budget for 10-15% of overall earnings, eg. how are they looking overall to see if they can track against that. Do they rely on what they did in 20291 to the same income in 2020? These are all questions sales professionals are asking themselves.

From a recruitment hiring perspective, the 1st three months of 2020 predicted perfect growth and was essentially painting the perfect picture of the economy. What was the impact of Covid-19 on both divisions?

In sales, it definitely lengthened the sales recruitment process. Prior to the pandemic, we would usually be looking at a 2 or a 3 stage process. The first stage was meeting face to face, the second stage was generally a presentation on what you’re going to bring into the new business while the third stage was usually meeting for coffee /lunch to discuss your salary / commission plan and the planned date of when you’re going to join them. Where that has changed post Covid-19, you’re not necessarily getting to see your future company in person. A lot of the process is through Zoom or Teams call. Because companies are bullish about their growth plans, there are more decision makers brought into the process. That has lengthened the recruitment process from a 3 stage to a 4 or 5 stage process.

From a marketing perspective, it’s all about how creative that individual is and how that creativity will turn into commercial acumen but from a sales leads’ perspective. Employers are looking at how that new idea can bring in new business into that organisation. That’s essentially where the marketers are focusing their efforts.

As a recruitment consultant, part of your value is the consultancy piece and therefore helping candidates sell themselves in the recruitment process. Employers are more selective about the quality of candidates so the ability to find good quality sales professionals is key. Is that much more in focus?

Our clients, (employers) are asking us to map out their prospective recruits. They’re looking to trade out for a better scenario and move out of this recession. They want to pick the best person from the market. From a sales perspective, particularly at the mid-tier level to head of function, they’re actively investing in their organisations by bringing in people from competitors. There is still a lot of competition for roles. Sales professionals must bring value to interview and show how they can bring in new business. The more creative companies are thinking outside the box for their hires and how those hires can impact future growth.

From marketing, equally so, employers are looking for real creativity. Unlike sales, marketing professionals can easily transfer from one industry to another as they have transferable skills. What a marketing professional did in financial services can easily translate move to insurance, SAAS and fintech.

How important is interview preparation given that we’re doing everything by Zoom calls and other applications?

It’s about knowing how to cope with the technology – understanding how you look and come across on camera. Treat the Zoom call as if you’re attending face to face. You should still have the ability to have that warm ice-breaking conversation. As recruiters, it’s up to us to advise the candidate about how they can convey the reasons why they are appropriate for that position. What we would advise they may well have got the interview but they now need to prove the interviewers have made the right decision by bringing them in for interview in the first place.

In an interview situation, you have about a 3-4 minute window to actually make an impact, to justify why you’re taking up an hour of the interviewer’s time. It’s important to be able to discuss fully from your experience the network you have, the value that you brought in, how you’ve scaled up, how you’ve coped in a challenging and competitive environment. It is very different if you’re coming from a field sales role, you need to convey how your contacts will come across, how you can still make the impact on sales / marketing without meeting the individual in person. It has changed but it is very much a case of adapting.

If Covid wasn’t enough, Brexit is coming. That narrative has been around for a long time but there is an end in sight. Has that had or is it having an impact on the sales / marketing jobs market?

Prior to Covid, most companies we’re talking to were somewhat ready. Looking at our own analysis, 40% of our sales business in 2019 was because of businesses preparing for Brexit.  A lot of UK based companies were coming to Ireland for various reasons; we’re native English speakers, we’re in the Euro zone and they’re using our location as a method for them to look at different markets.

Obviously the pandemic hugely interrupted that preparation but it has given companies time to rethink how they’re doing business. They may well have been doing the selling / marketing in This may have been done selling / marketing in a particular manner and it’s really cut across what’s important to us. We’re no out of lockdown. Companies  thinking of doing business in a different way.

From an industry perspective, what we were busy in prior to lock down and what we’re busy in now are the same sectors;  logistics, freight forwarding, SaaS based companies, cyber security, hi-tech and how that crosses sectors. Within supply chain, they’re looking at their systems (how deliveries are made to our doors), tracking those deliveries and improving on times.  Companies are thinking completely differently. Covid, in essence, has helped bolster and push what’s happening with Brexit. Not everyone is ready quite yet but a lot of preparation was done prior to Covid and the pandemic helped some of those strategies be pushed through.

What companies are reacting quicker than others?  What kind of trends do you expect to see over the next 6-9-12 months and where do you see the  growth in short and medium term?

They’re looking at new investment in staff. Employers are looking at individuals coming in who have a network that will bolster their business, bolster plans of selling in better ways to existing customers or bringing in new business and helping them grow market share. From sales / marketing perspective, employers are also looking at their existing staff – are they working smartly, creatively and if they are doing business much more commercially. That’s to do with organisational change and if companies are properly adapting.

Are companies who are waiting to see when it’s prudent to return to a safe working environment, waiting to hire until the market is more conducive to it?

Yes and no, the very proactive companies are hiring now. They see this as an opportunity to get the best people in the market. They’re looking to grab market share from their competitors. When I look at all the areas in which we recruit, they’re the companies I’m assuming will do better than others by taking small steps now, the small educated steps. There is still uncertainty out there but it’s now a case of being very proactive and commercial in this space.

What kinds of skills are needed? What skills or experience is seen in people that stand out?

Good sales people tend to be born as opposed to being bred. They’re really good influencers. The ability to communicate well is key. Ultimately the best sales professionals look at their own networks, and make commission out of it.  They’ve motivated by what commission they can earn. In sales, it is all about your little black book – who’s in there, who are the best contacts, how can you leverage them. If in the current client, you’re not going to events or knocking on doors, what can you actually do about being proactive, keeping contacts warm and in essence, selling up in that space. So networking and commercial acumen are all important skills.

Education is quite key. A lot of multinationals and SMEs will require a degree or the equivalent. Within some tech sectors, pharmaceutical and med devices for example would have a preference for a nursing qualification. For SaaS based roles, any qualification in computer science, economics, business studies is important. Across the construction, engineering and technical space, a technical qualification would suffice. If you don’t have that degree or formal qualification , there are aspects from other training courses such as the likes of Sandler who do courses in all types of sales training. These types of sales courses would give you plenty of skills in inside sales / project sales as sales cycles are taking longer.

Is there any difference to what employers are looking for?

It’s all about a proven track record of sales with existing companies. Depending on industry or market that you’re projected to grow on projects If you’re focused on Saas based roles for example, if you’re a Dutch speaker then employers want you to have mid-market level experience and you’re expected to own that. Even in an account management position, employers are still looking for hunting  skills eg. do you ask for that business, do you ask for the close, are you handling the client or are you simply waiting for that person to ring back? It’s very much about individuals who own it as well as having a track record of recent sales in that organisation / market. We’re seeing fewer and fewer position moving across markets, it’s all about concentrating on the industry you’re in as that’s where the wins will be.

From a marketing perspective, we are seeing a lot of transition. Businesses are looking to learn from other sectors.  Some industries are looking reengineer and it can be helpful and insightful to get learnings from a different industry sector. It doesn’t always have to be from the same industry so marketing professionals can definitely transition across different sectors.

Sales can be an under-appreciated skillset. Besides being resilient and having a plucky attitude, a qualification is showing that you have the competency to do something. It’s not just about a degree or diploma, you can upskill at all times.

How have salaries and benefits changed since Covid?

Basic salaries have remained either stagnant or depending on the industry, there has been an uplift of 2-5 % on basic salaries.  The situation has changed slightly in commission / bonuses side, while we’re still looking at uncapped commission, there may be a change in the structure and differences in how different levels of sales are treated. Renewal sales may have a different commission structure to new business. As recruitment consultants, we do help with asking those questions eg. if you’re moving role, how are you going to earn that bonus / that commission?

It’s the same from an employer perspective -how are they going to win by taking on this particular person.

What are the typical benefits on offer?

Benefits haven’t really changed, they typically include pension, healthcare cover etc. Cars in this era of working from home don’t seem to be as important. What is key however is home office facilities and the proper software to do the role. From a package perspective, they’ve pretty much remained stagnant and haven’t changed.

In the current environment, it’s encouraging to hear that companies are gearing up to get their sales back on track, knowing that the economy can’t stop and that their productivity can’t stop. As Barbara McGrath, our MD would say, this is where the good get going. Thank you very much for the informative chat on the state of the sales & marketing jobs market and it’s great to see that industries are resilient and waiting for the market conditions to recover.

If businesses are looking to scale up or expect to get busier over the coming months, Brightwater’s Sales and Marketing divisions can help with any temporary / contract or permanent recruitment requirement. Contact Mark Byrne on [email protected] or call 01 662 1000