The war room. The bullpen. The place where the magic happens.
Each of these terms has been used to describe the sales office at Southern Valley over the years, and I’m certain many more which aren’t suitable to repeat in print. Within the offices at Southern Valley, the sales office is in a league of its own. While everyone else more or less has their own space, they have what you might call an open floor plan (Read: everybody all up in everybody else’s business) with two rows of 4 desks facing each other. I spent my first year at Southern Valley sitting in that sales office and can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it. There were multiple times as I sat there I felt certain it wasn’t possible for the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to be as intense, as noisy, or as in flux as the sales office at Southern Valley.
Picture it with me for a moment, if you will: Salesmen pacing up and down the office, spilling over into the hallway as they talk (ok, yell) on their headset and oftentimes their cell phone at the same time. Meanwhile, over the loudspeaker in the sales office comes non-stop pages for one of the seven individuals attempting to work within. If the loudspeaker happens not to be blaring, the phones are no doubt ringing off the hook. While a salesman is on another line (which is always), other members of the sales staff are constantly manning the phones in their absence – making sure no customer is neglected. And if by chance the office phone and cell phones aren’t all ringing at once and the loudspeaker isn’t going non-stop – if there is a hush in the room for just a moment – you will hear the constant ding-dinging of emails being received all throughout the room.
When the temperatures outside start heating up, you can rest assured that the temperature – and tempers – in the sales office are heating up as well. During spring and fall, when we are picking product and selling it with a day or less notice, there is non-stop action and a non-stop fluctuation in numbers. Numbers showing product picked versus product sold versus product already shipped out. Numbers, numbers, numbers. All. Day. Long.
While the sales office described above is what it looks like today, things didn’t always look this way. In the beginning, it was simply Mrs. Wanda Hamilton manning sales, in addition to her other duties. Slowly, along and along, new members of the sales team were added to build the team we currently have. With them came much new growth in the company as they pushed for Southern Valley to become a year-round supplier. Those transition years involved countless hours of dreaming, hard work, and building relationships with customers. We can look back now and see that their hard work paid off, but it certainly didn’t happen by accident.
While on the surface it appears that the sales team’s job is pretty nondescript – to sell produce – the sales team also spends a significant portion of time dabbling into other areas such as the planting schedule, packing, shipping, and accounting. The job itself is a lifestyle and a commitment. It certainly doesn’t end at 5:00 and on nights when the shipping office is working into the early hours of the morning, there’s a pretty good chance somewhere within 20 miles of Southern Valley there’s a salesman half asleep, trying not to awaken their spouse and kids, while they plug away making decisions or revisions to the loads going out. That’s if they weren’t already sitting at their desk in the sales office pecking away on their computers late into the night.
And when Sales isn’t busy selling produce, they are often busy playing golf, watching golf on TV, talking about golf, or wishing they could be on a golf course. We’ve got a whole sales office full of trophies won on the golf course to prove it, too!
As far as we know, we are the only farm in the Southeast that not only grows and packs its own product but also has an in-house sales team that moves the product as well. That’s part of the beauty of being a family-owned and operated company. We aren’t contracted out to the nearest broker, but oversee product as we like to say, from “seed to shelf”. What is grown here is picked here, packed here, sold here, and shipped from here to the wholesaler, retailer, or foodservice.