Staying close to customers is essential for success in B2B markets. Especially in times of crisis, companies go many extra miles for their customers, but often with little to no impact. And once the challenge is over, all falls back to the “new normal” without really understanding how close (or far) the firm is to its customers. A better way is to first understand all value drivers from the inside and the outside perspective, before wasting time and money with panic efforts. Here are ten questions to measure how close you are to your customers and how to create lasting Level-5 relationships.

Theory characterizes high-value B2B relationships by a so-called “strategic fit” of the involved parties. In practice, however, the strategic fit is instead a myth than reality. Our observations of thousands of B2B relationships show that most organizations are still struggling to develop and exploit mutually beneficial opportunities. One of the main reasons is that strong and resilient relationships are considered a core asset for any company. But at the same time, they are tough to achieve, and too often, companies find themselves caught in price wars, legal disputes, or else. Dysfunctional relationships, however, create millions of dollars of damage every year. So what B2B companies urgently need are more relationship breakthroughs (Level 5) instead of breakdowns (Level 1).

During our field research in the past 25 years, we have identified three complementary “fit” categories, which help to create the desired relationship breakthroughs. We call them the “planning fit”, the “execution fit”, and the “resources fit”. Each of these fits consists of three building blocks, and all of them are equally important. Together, they form the Triple Fit Canvas, a hands-on and proven tool that helps organizations to take a 360-degree perspective of all value drivers at a glance. The Triple Fit Canvas also allows B2B suppliers to develop a one-page business roadmap, instead of writing lengthy and exhausting account plans with little to no impact.

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Based on the Triple Fit framework, we have developed ten questions that serve as a quick diagnostic tool for evaluating B2B relationships. To assess how close you are to your most critical B2B customers, first replace [ABC] with your company name. Then, estimate your “performance” as a supplier from your customer’s point of view (1 = lowest rating, 5 = highest rating). If appropriate, ask your customers to do the same. Finally, share the results and discuss mutually beneficial improvement actions during business reviews or other forms of communication. If a customer validation is not possible at the moment, do still start fixing critical issues right away. Your customer will notice the difference sooner or later for sure. Tip: Focus on low ratings first, but finally cover all nine building blocks.

To learn more about how to use the Triple Fit Canvas as a one-page strategy roadmap, and how leading companies have successfully built Level-5 relationships, visit our website. If you have specific questions or experiences to share – drop us a note at senn@valuecreator!