Solution-Based Selling: How to sell solutions, not products

The Dock Team
August 29, 2023
June 26, 2024

You've likely heard the adage that prospects don't want to be sold to. They don't want to feel like just another target or win.

Instead, they're searching for a partner who understands their pain points, business objectives, and the unique challenges they face every day—a trusted advisor. 

This is where a solution-selling process comes into play. Solution-based selling focuses on delivering your product or solution in a way that aligns with what your prospect wants and needs. 

But how can teams implement a value-based selling practice in a way that boosts the bottom line? 

And what are some tangible ways to connect with your prospects, align your solutions with their specific challenges, and personalize your offerings—transforming your sales process into a winning, customer-centric powerhouse?

What is solution selling?

With a solution-based sales approach, sales reps become trusted advisors, and selling becomes more like helping—it’s a sales methodology rather than a step-by-step process. 

Solution-based selling is customer-centric, and it involves developing a deep understanding of each prospect's pain points and unique needs and then recommending the best solution (your product or service) to address those specific needs. It’s founded primarily on the principle of your product solving their problem. 

Solution-based selling is also relationship-based rather than pushing quickly to close deals. It focuses on tailoring the buying experience to each potential customer. 

  • What are your prospect's business objectives? 
  • Where do their processes need improvement? 
  • What competitive edge are they looking for? 

Benefits of solution selling

The benefits of solution selling are clear for the customer, but what’s in it for the sales team?

1. Cultivates longer-lasting customer relationships

A solution-based sales approach relies on developing and communicating a deep understanding of a prospect’s problem.

Because of this, your prospects are more likely to feel their pain points are seen and understood—building trust and cultivating longer-lasting relationships.  

Sales reps that establish trust by providing solutions that align with specific buyer’s needs on the front end help ensure the success of other teams (like Customer Success) and your customer on the back end. 

It's a strategic win-win situation: better relationships lead to more customer renewals and expansions.

2. Ensures better product-customer fit

Aligning your product or services to a prospect's needs and preferences rather than prioritizing your team's wins or closed deals meets them where they are—solidifying that your solution is the right solution.

When your offering doesn't meet customers' specific requirements, they experience frustration—ultimately leading to a loss of trust and overall dissatisfaction. Unsatisfied customers are more likely to churn.

Satisfied customers using solutions that fit their needs are more likely to become loyal advocates who remain engaged with your brand, driving revenue year after year and reducing the cost of acquiring new customers.

3. Shortens the sales cycle

Selling your solution based on pain points also shortens the sales cycle.

Because your solution is framed to address specific pain points, prospective customers recognize the benefits quickly, potentially moving them through the sales funnel faster and with fewer roadblocks. 

Drawbacks of solution selling

While the principles of solution sales are good because they’re founded on understanding what your prospect needs first, like any approach, it has some drawbacks.

1. Continued demand for ROI

In more difficult selling markets, where budgets are tighter, and spending is driven by more than pain points, stakeholders require tangible proof rooted in value-selling principles instead of solution sales. 

The need for concrete outcomes can overshadow theoretical or intangible benefits, like pain alleviation or need satisfaction.

Decision makers need more detail about a product's ROI and its direct impact on money saved, money earned, time saved, and time gained—which means this burden of proof still falls on your team throughout the buying process.

All of that to say, regardless of how well a product might address a particular pain if its ROI doesn't directly translate to evident gains or savings metrics, it can easily become a harder sell.

2. Balancing buyer independence 

The idea that solution sellers need to provide comprehensive insights, deep education, and in-depth tutorials as they pertain to a prospect's pain negates that in today's digital world, buyers have easy access to the information before they even meet with you. 

Gartner highlights that in B2B sales, only 17% of a buyer’s time is spent meeting with prospective suppliers. The other 83% of that time is spent on independent research, meeting with the buying group, and more. 

This reduces the impact of a sales professional's comprehensive insights (and highlights the importance of delivering substantial and unique value beyond readily available details).

Solution-based sales tips

A solution-selling methodology is not product selling. It relies on establishing trust, building better, longer-lasting relationships, and tailoring your unique selling proposition to customer pain points, objectives, and desired outcomes as a custom solution. 

So what sales techniques can your Sales team leverage to master this strategy?

1. Work with Product Marketing to form a clear ICP

By leveraging your Product Marketing team to clearly define an ICP, your organization can create a buyer-centric, consistent, scalable process that increases your team’s closing power.

In solution sales, Product Marketing can help your team ensure their messaging, content, and strategy align with the values, needs, and pain points of a very specific ICP. 

And it’s this alignment that helps create a strong value prop, enabling effective communication about how your product or service solves pain points—improving your chances of winning the deal.

Dock’s Content Management makes it easy for Product Marketing and Sales to share (and track!) the customer-facing content that aligns with the needs and pain points of that ICP.

Rather than struggling to understand whether your content resonates with your buyer, Dock offers data on what's being viewed and shared within your prospect's organization, what content gets downloaded, time on the page, and more. 

💡 Pro Tip: Dock's Content Management platform makes it easier for product marketing and sales to manage, share, and track customer-facing content.

2. Focus on strong discovery and qualification

A strong discovery and qualification process allows your team to fully understand their prospects' needs, challenges, and goals and whether or not they're the right fit for your product or service. 

In a solution-based sales strategy using a methodology like Sandler Selling or MEDDIC Sales, your team can:

  • Identify decision-makers: By focusing on key stakeholders, your Sales team can target their approach to the right people who understand the value prop of your product or service.
  • Define the decision criteria: During those initial sales calls, ask your prospect questions like, “What are your technical criteria for making a decision?” “How will you justify this investment?” and “How soon are you hoping to see ROI from this project?” will help identify if the decision criteria are technical, economic, or relationship based. This information helps your team to present their solution in a way that aligns with that criteria.
  • Manage and mitigate risk: By managing any identified risks at the beginning of the sales process, your Sales team can work to preserve the value proposition of their offering, making sure that the prospect's perception of value remains high.

3. Prioritize open-ended questions

Taking a more consultative approach and asking the right questions requiring more than a simple yes or no, offers deeper insight into your potential customer’s needs.

So what are some post-qualification questions that'll uncover deeper insight into your prospect's unique drivers and desired outcomes? 

  • “Can you provide more insight into your current process and what you're already using to address [a specific pain point they've already expressed]?” Allows sales reps to understand gaps, limitations, and tools, helping identify more areas your solution can benefit.
  • “How have you attempted to solve [customer’s problem]? What were the results?” Past experiences and results provide valuable insight into expectations and allow you to position your solution's unique value proposition based on previous efforts.
  • “What short-term outcomes or benefits do you anticipate from using [your solution]?” Uncovering short-term expectations can shed light on immediate priorities for further tailoring an onboarding and implementation plan to the specific tangible benefits.
  • "What long-term outcomes or benefits do you anticipate from using [your solution]?" Exploring lasting expectations helps uncover broader business objectives—enabling your Sales team to position your offering as a long-term investment that delivers sustainable value.
  • "What potential challenges or obstacles do you anticipate in adopting [your product or service] within your organization?" Proactively addressing unique perceived risks, complexities, and resistance can help your team remove any deal blockers central to a particular business or team.
  • "How would you define product implementation success?" Aligning your solution's value prop with specific expectations and outcomes using tailored messaging and emphasis on key metrics uncovered by this question reinforces understanding of your prospect's unique definition of success. 

4. Educate the buyer

In a solution-selling framework, the way you empower your prospects through buyer enablement is with education.

In Human-Centered Communication: A Business Case Against Digital Pollution by Ethan Beute and Stephen Pacinelli, Hubspot Executive Dan Tyre highlights that people don’t want to or need to be closed on. 

Rather, Dan points out, people want to be helped. They want you to understand their problem and how you can actually solve it, tailor your selling process to their needs, connect with them, and educate them. To Dan, “Always be closing” is dead. Modern selling is helping and educating.

So how can salespeople enable prospective buyers with education rather than focusing on the sales pitch or the close?

  • Thought leadership and educational content: Provide blogs, webinars, and whitepapers that address the pain points of specific buyer personas—offering valuable insights and knowledge.
  • Consultative selling: Take a consultative approach to conversations by actively listening to buyers, understanding their needs, and providing personalized insights and information. 
  • Collaborative problem-solving: Work together to understand unique challenges and co-create solutions. Guide prospects through the decision-making process with education.
  • Training and workshops: Offer training sessions and workshops that provide knowledge and skills to make informed decisions. These sessions should focus on industry trends, best practices, and strategies.

5. Use digital sales rooms

Digital sales rooms (DSRs) like Dock are fundamental to a solution-based selling approach. 

Instead of using messy email chains, multiple attachments, and disorganized Google documents that get lost in the shuffle, sales reps can use DSRs to curate personalized information for buyers and simplify the purchase process all in one place—offering features that enhance the buyer experience with a more customized, streamlined approach to selling.  

Think of using a DSR as offering white glove service. If sales leaders or team members say to prospects, "I created this workspace for us to collaborate in," it communicates they've taken extra care and attention to create an inviting and tailored space—unique to them.

Dock's digital sales rooms let you curate everything for the buyer in one convenient spot.

Curate content in one location 

With DSRs like Dock, your Sales team can curate content for buyers, providing only the most relevant information that showcases how your solution aligns with your prospect's pain points of the product —not just the product or solution itself. 

By tailoring and personalizing the information in one easy-to-access space, potential customers can easily see the significance and impact of the product—for them. 

Minimize friction

Another vital feature of DSRs is their role in reducing tool and communication overload. 

In a digital selling environment, sellers often leverage various tools and channels to engage with buyers. Most teams use Zoom, Slack, Gmail, LinkedIn, and Docusign at the bare minimum.

However, important information can easily get lost with so many tools, adding friction to the buying experience. 

Dock provides a central place for the majority of your sales initiatives. With Dock, your team can host sales enablement assets, including demos, proposals, back-and-forth communication, case studies, white papers, and technical documentation about product features, and more. 

By embedding multimedia and consolidating all sales assets in one place, DSRs like Dock remove friction, aligning with the solution-based selling approach.

6. Collaborate with your buyer champion

Working with a buyer champion—the biggest advocate within your prospect's company—can significantly boost your chances of closing a deal. 

This partnership between your sales organization and your champion is a two-way street: the champion helps you sell your product internally, and you help them make a convincing case for it. But remember, collaboration with your buyer champion doesn't just happen—it needs to be cultivated, and it needs to be based on education.

Stephen Ruff, Co-Founder of Champify, uses Dock to support an "educate, don't sell" philosophy. 

He says, "You build a champion by connecting with them, helping them benefit personally, and tying your product to a problem they care about, but also by providing them the information they need to go internally and get buy-in and get their team excited."

So how can you build a successful partnership with your buyer champion to enhance your solution-based selling approach:

  1. Understand their needs: Understand your champion's position within the company, the challenges they face, and how your solution can help them overcome these challenges. Ask thoughtful questions and actively listen to their responses.
  2. Enable them: Your buyer champion may not remember every feature, function, and fact. Support them with easily digestible and shareable sales assets, and teach them how to address common objections. 
  3. Strengthen internal influence: Your buyer champion has to advocate for your product within their company. Help them succeed in this role by co-developing a strategic plan (like a mutual action plan) for presenting your product to decision-makers.

7. Personalize the process

Personalization is an essential element of a successful solution-based sales process. And it involves making each interaction unique and specific to your potential customer. 

So what are some ways to inject that invaluable personal touch into your sales process?


This is about knowing your customer inside and out. Understanding their industry, position in the market, challenges, and growth goals. 

Use LinkedIn, study industry news, deep dive into company websites, and explore social media to gather these insights. In the context of personalization, this research will help you adapt communication, product presentation, and, ultimately, your solution to fit their unique situation.


Personalized communication goes beyond using a customer's name in an email. Your sales conversations and messaging should align with their business objectives and challenges, too. 

This means using the right industry terminology, referencing competitors, and talking about market trends. Your conversation should also consider an individual's role, the type of outcome they’re looking for, and their specific responsibilities within the organization. 

For example, the CFO might be interested in the impact on their bottom line, while the CMO might focus on the brand enhancement potential of your solution.

Product presentation

Personalization comes to life when you can demonstrate your product or service within the context of your potential customer's environment. The idea is to shift the narrative from a generic product to a story about their business and how your solution fits. 

For instance, if you're selling a project management tool to a software company, you might discuss how it could improve Agile processes, making it easier for developers to collaborate and track progress.


The follow-up is your opportunity to recap your understanding of specific needs and the benefits of your proposed solution. Tailor all of your follow-up communication to reflect the key points of your discussion. This might mean summarizing costs saved, efficiencies gained, or growth achieved based on real case studies or accurate estimations. 

💡 Pro Tip: Use Dock workspaces to follow up. Tools like the enterprise sales template offer a clear and organized structure to recap information around products or services, outline value propositions, and present relevant information and resources—seamlessly in one location.

Get Dock’s free Enterprise Sales Template

8. Share pricing quotes with context

One of the most critical (and challenging!) steps in the sales process is sharing pricing quotes with buyers. 

A well-crafted sales price quote that offers context can strongly influence whether a prospective buyer finalizes a purchase.

When a potential buyer requests a quote, it shows strong purchasing interest. 

But for every minute that passes by between the customer asking for a quote and your Sales team delivering that quote, the likelihood of the deal closing shrinks. 

Here are a few tips for getting more client signatures on pricing quotes:

  • Only share pricing once you have buy-in from the prospect
  • Ditch messy document templates or PDFs that sales reps tend to struggle with
  • Use Dock’s Order Forms to create sign-able quotes and sales orders from a pre-built product inventory
  • Embed the pricing quote in a personalized workspace to provide full context around pricing

With Dock’s Price Quotes & Order Forms, you can position your quote in a context-rich workspace with the necessary details—like action plans, case studies, demos, and more. 

Your quotes won’t just be a big dollar figure in an email that your champion forwards to their CFO. 

Instead, the quote is reinforced by all the value you’ve established in the sales process (that the CFO might not be privy to). 

9. Prove your solution is the key through proof-of-concept projects

By incorporating a sales proof of concept (POC) into a solution-based selling strategy, your Sales team can demonstrate the real-world value of your solution—increasing the likelihood of a successful close. 

A POC is a paid or free trial where your team provides hands-on implementation and tech support to a prospect testing your solution. 

For example, at Dock, when clients need to test the viability of their tool within their Sales or Customer Success team, we may run a 30-day POC where our team helps them implement our product within their organization.

With careful planning, organization, and clear, open communication, a POC can help prospective customers determine what they need to become a customer. 

So what are some ways to incorporate a POC?

  1. Identify the right timing: A POC shouldn't just be introduced anywhere in the buying journey. A POC should only be introduced after your team deeply understands a prospect's needs, pain points, and how your solution can help. 
  2. Define success criteria: Collaborate with your prospect to set specific, measurable success criteria based on their objectives, align everyone, and make evaluating the POC's success easier.
  3. Communicate regularly: Keep the lines of communication open throughout the POC process. Regular check-ins ensure that the prospect gets the maximum value from the trial and provides an opportunity to address any challenges or questions.
  4. Deliver extra value: Look for opportunities to exceed the prospect's expectations during the POC. For instance, demo additional features, provide extra support, or offer a peek at future product updates.

Run your solution-based sales strategy with Dock

Your prospects want a trustworthy partner who empathizes with their daily challenges and is focused on meeting their unique needs. 

With a solution-based sales approach, your Sales team becomes a group of trusted advisors who strategically align solutions with unique pain points—fostering strong, lasting business partnerships.

Use Dock to implement a solution-based selling approach and:

  • Remove multi-tool friction from the buying experience 
  • Store curated sales assets in one central location
  • Offer context-rich pricing quotes to move deals forward quickly
  • Personalize follow-ups with relevant case studies, white papers, and more seamlessly

Try Dock’s digital sales room template now, or sign up for Dock for free.

The Dock Team