male torso with finger pointing at tablet on left of image; data-oriented icons on rightIf you’re immersed in the world of federal contracting, you’ve probably seen something called a Sources Sought Notice (SSN). If you’ve never submitted one of these, you may be wondering what they’re for and why it would be worthwhile to respond to them, given that there’s no contract attached to them. Let’s take a closer look.

A sources sought notice (SSN) is a way for a government agency to learn about what capabilities exist in the market for a particular project before the government formulates its acquisition strategy (AS). It is a form of an early-stage market research survey that allows them to see who may be viable candidates that can meet their needs, particularly if there are qualified small businesses to deliver the product or service required.

SSNs are not solicitations or requests for proposals, and as such, they don’t require prices to be included. They do not bind the government to award a contract. That said, an SSN is often a precursor to a solicitation. Following the SSN there may be a pre-solicitation notice, and then the actual solicitation. The SSN is also the stage where the government decides whether this procurement will be a sole source, or small business set-aside opportunity.

In an SSN the government agency is essentially asking for input. They’re typically looking for things like:

One tip: remember that these responses may be limited in size – often only 10 to 15 pages maximum – but that part will vary. Submit a compliant response.

SSN Importance for Contractors

From the federal contracting side, responding to an SSN could increase your chances of being shortlisted for the future opportunity that comes from it. In fact, in some instances, only the responders to the SSN are notified of the solicitation. This is one of the biggest reasons to respond to SSNs when you see them.

Here are some other reasons why SSNs are important and why it’s advantageous for small businesses to respond when applicable:

SSN Importance for Federal Agencies

SSNs can help those requesting them to learn more about what the final job will entail. This is typically the primary purpose behind their issuance. This can help to determine what types of capabilities exist for this type of project and whether those capabilities exist in small businesses or not.

SSNs also let the agency determine if they need to change anything before actually submitting the solicitation, which can lead to a better listing of requirements when the time comes.

A nationally recognized expert in federal contracting, small business entrepreneurship, vendor, and project/program management. A graduate of the prestigious Stanford and Cornell Universities, Dr. Rafael Marrero is a former Fortune 500 procurement executive, two-time Inc. 500 honoree, network news commentator, and Amazon best-selling author.

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