Expert Advice

The Importance of Sources Sought Notices

As Procurement Specialists, we often have conversations with clients who are eager to do business with the Federal Government. They desire to make connections and build relationships with government agency buyers but do not know where to start.  I love this question because it gives me the opportunity to explain various marketing strategies including email, in-person presentations, conferences, tradeshows, and other outreach events sponsored by federal agencies.  But one of the most common and valuable marketing opportunities is seeking out Sources Sought Notices and responding to them professionally. 

What is a Sources Sought Notice

A Sources Sought Notice is a federal notice that is posted on that describes a federal agency’s desire to make contact with select small businesses so that they can learn who can provide goods and/or services for a specific need.  Here is a quick example:

“This is a Sources Sought notice only. This is not a request for quotes and no contract will be awarded from this announcement.  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Network Contracting Office 1 (NCO 1) is seeking to identify any vendor capable of providing Laboratory Vacuum System Repairs at the West Haven, CT VAMC”

You can easily tell when you are reading a Sources Sought Notice and not a normal solicitation because as in this example, they clearly state this is “not a request for quotes”.  Many times you will also read the Notice stating, “This is for Marketing Purposes Only” meaning this federal agency is seeking select small businesses to reply to the notice describing how they can supply the requested goods or services.

Another very important aspect of all or most Sources Sought Notices, is their use to identify select small business classifications.  Usually, the Notice will clearly state which SB classification they are seeking.  Here is an overview of all SB classifications as described in

  • Total Small Business (self-certification)
  • 8a
  • HUBZone
  • SDVOSB (service-disabled veteran-owned small business)
  • VOSB (veteran-owned small business)
  • WOSB (woman-owned small business)
  • EDWOSB (economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business)
  • Indian Economic Enterprise

Say a Contract Specialist working for a federal agency wants to create a set-aside solicitation for goods or services and they want to make a specific solicitation only available for WOSB.  By posting a Sources Sought Notice on, they are hoping to receive multiple responses from WOSB firms that are capable of providing the required goods or services.  If they are successful, they will then create a set-aside RFP (an RFP solicitation available only for WOSB firms).  However, if they do not receive responses from WOSB firms, they can post another Notice and change the SB classification or disregard creating a set-aside altogether.

Why You Should Respond:

The most important reason why you should respond is because the Contract Specialist is actively seeking out qualified small businesses within your classification and it’s at this point when you can gain their greatest attention. 


The other reason for responding to Sources Sought Notices is because the rules are different.  For example, a normal RFP has a firm due date for your bid submission.  This does not apply to Sources Sought Notices.  Because the Contract Specialist is hoping to receive as many responses as possible, they allow for late submissions.  They also allow for direct email and phone communication when a business is creating their reply to the Notice. 

In Summary, if you are serious about doing business with the federal government and are seeking to establish stronger relationships with federal buyers, then look for Sources Sought Notices that relate to the goods or services you provide.  Not only should you respond professionally, but also take the time to call them directly and introduce yourself.

If you need assistance with looking for Sources Sought notices or responding professionally and establishing stronger relations with these agencies, please contact your Norcal APEX Accelerator counselor for assistance or apply for services today!

If you have more questions, please contact us at or 707.267.7561

Authored by: Thomas Burns, Norcal APEX Accelerator Procurement Specialist