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Can I talk to a Contracting Officer?

Dec. 7, 2018 | 403 Words | 2-minute read

Am I allowed to pitch my product to government? Isn’t it illegal to propose ideas to a contracting officer? I thought there are procurement rules that prohibit my communicating directly with a contracting officer?

If you’ve thought that you are somehow restricted from providing information to the government, even pitching the government, I’ve got great news for you: unless you’ve already submitted a formal proposal, you can talk to whomever you want!

Really? Yes, here’s the rule in the Federal Acquisition Regulations:

Exchanges of information among all interested parties, from the earliest identification of a requirement through receipt of proposals, are encouraged.

And if you are wondering whether this is some sort of a gotcha rule, here’s the Office of Federal Procurement Policy’s (OFPP) statement on the matter:

Prior to issuance of the solicitation, government officials – including the program manager, users, or contracting officer – may meet with potential offerors to exchange general information and conduct market research related to an acquisition… There is no requirement that the meetings include all possible offerors, nor is there a prohibition on one-on-one meetings.

It’s even on fancy letterhead in a formal memorandum. That’s how you know it’s real!

But seriously, debunking this myth, along with a number of other “myths” about government-industry interactions, has been the subject of numerous OFPP memoranda. In general, straight-up marketing to the government is fair game. Seriously.

So, why do these myths persist? A couple of reasons: (1) after you’ve formally submitted a proposal to the government, different rules apply to communications with regard to that proposal; and (2) contracting officers are only one part of the puzzle, and so “can’t talk to you” often really means “I don’t want to talk to you because I can’t really help you.”

With regard to that last reason, most contracting officers – like other government officials – are busy and can’t possibly entertain every company’s mass-mailing email or meeting request. Getting in can be hard, and when people get stoned, they assume there’s a rule against talking. And most people do it wrong.

To that end, when you do pitch to government, it’s important to understand what the folks on the receiving end really need to hear from you. And to do that well requires good strategy.

Have you heard that you can’t talk to government? What has worked well in communicating with government? Let me know in the comments below!

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