This is a question frequently-asked question by PTAC clients. The label “Sources Sought” may be seen on many contract opportunities posted on FedBizOpps (FBO), the place federal agencies advertise their upcoming contracts. (You can search for Sources Sought using the “Advanced Search” link on the FBO home page.)
A Sources Sought is not an actual bid or proposal solicitation; instead, it’s a solicitation of interest. Think of a Sources Sought as market research being conducted by a government agency to determine what the capabilities and interests of the marketplace are.
My advice to our clients is to always respond to a Sources Sought if it appears to be of interest to you. Contracting officials frequently complain about how few responses they often receive to Sources Sought announcements. Responding, therefore, can distinguish yourself in a positive way from your competitors, and may lead to an inside track on an eventual contract. It’s also wise to be realistic: A Sources Sought notice may – or may not — be followed-up by the agency with the issuance of an actual bid or proposal solicitation.
There are always very specific instructions in each Sources Sought for responding. Follow these instructions to the letter, and give them no more and no less than requested – in other words, give the federal agency which posted the Sources Sought notice exactly what it asks for.
We know that responding to a Sources Sought represents an investment of time, but by responding to a Sources Sought you actually may influence how a federal agency “packages” any eventual Solicitation. After formally responding to a Sources Sought, you are at liberty to contact the point-of-contact identified in the Sources Sought and offer any suggestions and/or insights you may have about performing the particular work. This relationship-building actually could create an “insider’s advantage” for you on the procurement, possibly even leading to a set-aside (limiting competition to only a few firms in your small business category) or a sole-source award (if your capabilities and expertise are unmatched by others).
The agency involved should notify those who respond to the Sources Sought of the eventual outcome, but don’t rely on that 100%. If you are using a bid match service through your PTAC, this electronic service should pick it up again when it turns into an actual Solicitation. Also, remember that FedBizOpps offers options to be notified. We recommend you put yourself on a “Watchlist” (which will automatically cause an email to be sent to you regarding any developments on a particular Solicitation) and on the list of “Interested Vendors” (which you and anyone else can view by clicking on the tab marked “Interested Vendors List”). The latter can be helpful in terms of not only seeing who your potential competitors might be but also identifying potential team members.
Finally, if a particular Sources Sought announcement spells-out no specific format for laying-out your capabilities, we recommend that you send in a government-specific Capabilities Statement. Give it your best effort and respond by the deadline: Not one second late. Contact a PTAC Counselor for more tips.
By Chuck Schadl, Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center