Written By: Chet Hayes

Many of the companies we work with, who have not done business with government agencies, sometimes have questions regarding the differences between an RFI, Sources Sought Notice, RFP, and RFQ. This article is intended to provide an overview of each instrument and what it means for a company wanting to do business with the government.

Request for Information (RFI)

As the name implies, the government is looking for information to help shape and inform their decision regarding a potential contracting opportunity. One key item to remember is that even though an agency releases an RFI, there may not actually be a requirement or budget available to issue a contract. However, in many cases, the government will issue an RFI to get insight and feedback from industry partners regarding a particular subject. For example, a government agency may be considering the use of machine learning to help identify when a part on a vehicle might fail. The agency could release an RFI to better understand what is available in the market for predictive maintenance solutions.

Companies should consider responding to any relevant RFI that is released. This is the chance for a company to make the case that their solution is what the government needs. An RFI response combined with a meeting with the interested parties at the government agency can help influence the government requirements in a way that is favorable to the company and help increase the chance for a future contract award.

Sources Sought Notice

Sources Sought Notices are like RFIs. The key difference is that the government is trying to understand what the competitive market is, or what ‘types’ of companies can deliver on a potential contract. Sources Sought Notices will focus on the products and services offered by companies as well as how those companies are classified might bid on a potential contract.  Companies that are considered a small business or other key designations such as veteran or women-owned could be eligible for specific contract set-asides.

Much like RFIs, companies should consider responding to Sources Sought Notices. If there are enough small businesses or other companies in a socioeconomic classification the government could very well decide to offer a specific set-aside and help limit the number of companies that can compete for a specific contract.

Request for Proposal (RFP)

The Federal Acquisition Regulation states that a Request for Proposal (RFP) is ‘used in negotiated acquisitions to communicate government requirements to prospective contractors and to solicit proposals.’ At a minimum, the RFP will describe the government’s requirement(s), anticipated terms and conditions that will apply to the contract, information required to be in the offeror’s proposal, and factors that are used to evaluate the proposal along with their relative importance. For federal government RFPs, this and other relevant information is broken down into thirteen different sections described by the FAR as the Uniform Contract Format.

  • Section A: Solicitation / contract form
  • Section B: Supplies or services and price/costs
  • Section C: Description/specifications/statement of work
  • Section D: Packaging and marking
  • Section E: Inspection and acceptance
  • Section F: Deliveries or performance
  • Section G: Contract administration data
  • Section H: Special contract requirements
  • Section I: Contract clauses
  • Section J: List of attachments
  • Section K: Representations, certifications, and other statements of offerors or respondents
  • Section L: Instructions, conditions, and notices to offerors or respondents
  • Section M: Evaluation factors for award

Unlike RFIs and Sources Sought Notices, the government has specific requirements and most likely will execute a contract based on a company’s response to an RFP.

Request for Quote (RFQ)

The government will use an RFQ when they know exactly what product they want and only need to know the price. For example, the government currently uses a widget from a specific company.  They need to buy 5 more widgets. The government will issue an RFQ asking for the pricing for the 5 specific widgets. The biggest difference between an RFP and RFQ is that an RFP implies a very detailed description of what is to be delivered and has a narrative that aligns with the information previously mentioned. In the case of an RFQ, this can be as simple as a single page that contains pricing information.

Wrapping it up

Responding to these different items requires a different set of skills that most software companies do not have. Vertosoft provides our supplier partners with expertise and guidance on how to best navigate the RFI, Sources Sought Notices, RFP, and RFQ gauntlets allowing our suppliers to focus on what they do best. If you need assistance in growing your government business, give us a call, and let’s see how the Vertosoft difference can help grow your government revenue.