Selling to the government – What is a ‘Sources Sought?’

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The KPBJ  |  MAY 13, 2014 @ 11:52AM | MARY JO JUAREZ ~ PTAC Business Consultant

Government agencies frequently advertise for “Sources sought” – what does that mean? Should you bother responding to a sources sought when it doesn’t result in a contract? Isn’t this just a waste of government time and money? What is the government doing?

“Sources sought” is the government’s market research tool to determine if there are any small businesses that can perform the statement of work. If the government receives two or more responses that meet the criteria outlined, the project can be set aside for small businesses or categories of small businesses including Woman Owned Small Business, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, 8(a) Small Business, and Hubzone Small Business. This means your competition will be limited to firms in the same small business categories.

If the government agency does not receive any responses of interest to the sources sought, the project will most likely be open to both large and small businesses. This greatly increases the pool of competition. For example, if your company is a Woman Owned Small Business and you respond to a sources sought, this might allow the contracting officer to set the project aside for Woman Owned Small Business companies. Your pool of competition could change from 20 firms of all categories and sizes to five Woman Owned Small Business firms within a specified size standard.

Since the first of the year I’ve attended numerous industry and agency outreach events and heard the same plea over and over again from the agencies. Whether the agency representative is speaking on a panel or the main speaker, they are all asking – begging – small business firms to take the time to respond to “Sources sought.” The agencies have all expressed concern about the number of government projects which are going to “full and open” status meaning that both small and large firms can propose on them.

Agencies also talk about small business firms that are frustrated because they cannot find contracts that they can respond to without competing against large firms. While the time and effort required writing a response does not immediately result in a contract, it is well worth your while, as this is the one time that you, as a small business firm, can make a difference in determining and limiting your competition and sway who is eligible to respond to the request for proposal.

Federal regulations tie the hands of the agencies based on the documented results of their market research. In talking with a Small Business Specialist last week, I asked, “If a small business has the opportunity to meet with you or respond to a sources sought, which is most important to the future of that firm?” The answer was, “Respond to the Sources Sought! They can always reschedule with me, but the call Kathy Cocus at the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance PTAC (Procurement Technical Assistance Center) if you have any questions or need assistance in preparing your response to a future sources sought.

Your Kitsap PTAC offers free high-quality training opportunities and confidential business assistance and support to regional businesses in marketing and selling to federal, state and local government agencies and prime contractors. Be sure to take advantage of these great training opportunities:

May 28, 9-11 a.m. — Accounting for Subcontractors (this is part 1 of a three-part series);

June 24, 4-6 p.m. — Prime Outreach: Being a Subcontractor (this is part 1 of a three-part series);

June 25, 9-11 a.m – Social Media for Government Contracting: Expanding Your Marketing.

Click here for more Selling to the Government columns.
Mary Jo Juarez is a PTAC counselor with the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance.

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