Patten CAT is a 4th generation Caterpillar sales and service organization that began back in 1933. Their relationship with Cambridge Engineering heating products started in 2005 when they purchased their first Cambridge S-Series unit to retrofit a less efficient heating system at their Oglesby, IL location. Fast forward 12 years later and Patten has over 25 Cambridge units heating 6 of their locations throughout the Chicagoland area.

  • Oglesby, IL –  5 Cambridge s-series units
  • Wauconda -  2 Cambridge S-Series units
  • Rockford – 5 Cambridge S-Series units
  • Hammond – 4 Cambridge S-Series units
  • Joliet – 1 Cambridge S-Series unit
  • Elmhurst – 7 Cambridge S-Series units and 1 Cambridge M-Series unit
In the beginning the units were purchased to retrofit older less efficient heating units which were not as effective in heating their facilities. Today they have used the Cambridge units to not only retrofit their existing locations, with the latest retrofit qualify for NiCor gas energy efficiency rebate, but to heat their location in Wauconda, IL which was a new construction project. For Terry Flick, Patten’s facility manager, Cambridge is his go-to heating products for Patten facilities. According to Flick, “Cambridge units are long lasting and are economical enough for people to purchase. Whenever I have to update something I keep going back to Cambridge.” There are other benefits that Patten realizes from using Cambridge equipment. Since the units are a 100% outside air heating technology the units help provide a little positive pressurization for their buildings. This helps keep the cold air out and improves the indoor air quality for their employees during the winter heating months. As Flick points out, “even on a zero-degree day the units still provide a 160-degree Fahrenheit discharge temperature which keeps our facilities nice and warm.” The other competitor’s units struggled to achieve a 60-degree discharge air temperatures when the outside temperature drops down to zero. And with their many Chicagoland locations they see quite a few zero degree days during the Chicago winters. Cambridge is honored to be the heating solution of choice for Patten CAT and we hope to continue our relationship with Patten for many years to come.

Have you ever found yourself in this situation? You go to a meeting ready to engage in a discussion and you wind up listening to a presentation that includes a massive data dump. I’ve heard it called “death by PowerPoint.” Entering into a customer meeting with your presentation deck provides the presenter with a comforting safety net but often times misses the mark in allowing one to build real momentum in understanding the customer’s core challenges and their primary need for the solutions that you and your firm can provide. In an effort to provide the attendees with as much information as possible, we often times miss the opportunity to truly engage with our customers on the topics that are most important to them. selling photo Presentations are great when you are engaged in an educational session and your audience is seeking educational content especially as it relates to new concepts, new product categories and ongoing educational agendas with your listeners. Educational sessions lend themselves well in these types of situations. Presentations are dramatically different than selling situations. Selling situations require an entirely different approach by sales professionals. Our customers are served better when we “Lose the PowerPoint.” Drop the presentation. Don’t even bring it with you. Instead, enter the meeting with a note pad and a pen with a desire to help your customer identify their challenges and a determination to understand whether or not you are able to assist them. Enter your customer meetings with an honest desire to capture your customer’s input. Enter the meeting, prepared to ask the right questions necessary to gain understanding of your customer’s struggles. Where there is struggle or complexity, there may be a need for you and your company’s solutions. ESTABLISH RAPPORT QUICKLY Getting a meeting started with positive energy requires your confidence and comfort level. Honestly believing deeply that what you have to offer can help your customer achieve a better life for themselves and their organization provides you with a calm, clear head. You are not seeking to sell anything. You are seeking information. Your success in the meeting is based upon your desire to help. You are here in this meeting today to determine if you can assist the customer. You are in the meeting to diagnose complexity, complication and struggle. Where there is a struggle, there is an opportunity. UPFRONT CONTRACT – ASK UPFRONT FOR A DECISION AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE MEETING At the conclusion of the meeting, I’d like for our customers to decide if we should continue working together on potential solutions, be they products, services or both. The key to the upfront contract is that it is okay for the customer to say no. No is an acceptable answer. It prevents the unnecessary customer chase we can often find ourselves in with customers that are not ready to engage you and your company. The customer is in control. 30 SECONDS of AUTHORITY - We help mechanical contractors improve their operating margins on space heating and ventilation applications in warehouse & industrial manufacturing facilities. With over 35,000 installations and over 2 billion square feet served, CEI has a wealth of application specific installations to assist mechanical contractors in delivering solutions for their customer. For 53 years, we have supported our mechanical contractor partners with heat and air load analysis basis building conditions and have recommend inherently safe, highly, energy-efficient and lowest total installed cost equipment for their building’s HVAC designs to help contractors win projects. ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS 1.) Understand the Past - What have they tried in the past? How has it worked for them? What do they like about it? What do they not like about it? What, if any, challenges have they had with their past approach? Based on their experiences what could be improved upon? 2.) Understand Their Present Situation - What are they doing now? Are they currently reviewing other solutions? What are you looking at and why? Are they open to additional alternative solutions? What additional challenges or obstacles are there now that we need awareness of? 3.) Envision the Future & A Successful Outcome - What would the customer like to change/fix? What does success look like for the customer? What is the financial impact of a successful outcome? Can the customer quantify the value of the solution? Who benefits from a successful outcome? The best sales people ask the right questions. They resist the urge to sell products and services prior to learning about the customer’s specific challenges. The above list is by no means the best questions to ask in every situation. Each person must work on these with their own teams for alignment. Rather than going in armed for bear with information decks, formal presentations and the latest marketing brochure, consider going in completely bare with your own desire to help. Lose the presentation and build confidence through a probing conversation. Try not to prescribe the medicine until you’ve done the thorough diagnosis of the conditions, the challenges, the problems that customer is facing. I would welcome your feedback and your list of key questions that you feel promote great conversations with your customer base. We can all benefit from improving our own line of questioning to unpack the value that the customer is seeking. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the topic with our subscribers.

We are all consumers. We love the opportunity to get a great deal on a product that we value. Whether driven by a specific need or just a desire to improve our lives in some fashion, we want to make sure that we get the lowest price we possibly can balanced against the key value points we are trying to obtain. Without a clear definition of what is valued the most in a product purchase, cheap pricing carries little weight in evaluating our alternatives. I happen to be a sales manager and a business developer for a U.S. based HVAC manufacturing firm that serves the North American new construction and energy retrofit markets. As you might imagine, there are a wide variety of options to choose from when selecting an HVAC system. The companies that I compete with have long-standing manufacturing histories, well developed relationships and varied product lines that meet very specific customer needs. With such a wide variety of options available, it becomes important to clearly define the bases for an HVAC equipment purchase decision:
  1. Base Line Minimum Requirements
  2. Value Added Requirements that can enhance a building’s performance and your relationship with the customer
  3. Value Added transformational elements that make life better
I would suggest to our end user, engineering and contractor customers that making the right decision on a commercial or industrial HVAC system starts with a thorough detailed list of what is most important prior to comparing price. Your list will allow for an apples to apples comparison of choices. In our industry, we often hear that equipment pricing drives the decision-making process for contractors seeking a building project win. We know that equipment costs are typically one-third of the cost of a particular heating/ventilation system installation. Two-thirds of the total cost of install are typically wrapped up in installation, margin and risk assessment for a system installation. Comparing total system costs is not as easy when there are so many contributing factors. Here is a list of key questions that may be helpful in fully understanding needs:
  1. How many distinct HVAC systems must be installed to meet a customer's needs?
    1. Heating
    2. Cooling
    3. Ventilation
    4. Destratification
  2. How many different pieces of equipment will need to be installed?
  3. How many gas lines must be run to serve each unit? How far?
  4. How many electrical runs are there to serve each unit? How far?
  5. How long does it take to install/startup each system? each unit? # of labor hours assigned?
  6. How many people are required for installation/startup?
  7. How reliable/durable is the equipment based on experience?
  8. How easy it is to obtain service support in the field?
  9. What is the length of the equipment warranty, the parts warranty?
  10. How important is on-time delivery for project management?
  11. How fast do you need the equipment on site?
  12. What are the lead times to meet deadlines and key hurdle dates in conjunction with other envelope installations, e.g. new roofing?
I would propose that total system value as opposed to first cost of equipment is more important in both the short and the long run. Avoiding the unseen costs that lurk below the surface (The Priceburg) of cheapest first cost often delivers a superior result to the customer/end user as well as the contractor. Contractors that desire to compete on their total value proposition with highly engaged manufacturing partners are more likely to build long-term successful relationships with clients. The reason the statement “you get what you pay for” exists in our vernacular is because many have experienced the reality that cheapest can be the most expensive. I would love to hear from you regarding your experiences with the lure of a manufacturer's “cheapest” claim and any resulting challenges.