When Are Government Buying Meetings OK?


About the same time we were releasing our “Seven Myths of Selling to Government” book for vendors, the White House was releasing its own set of myths for government buyers.  In our earlier post, we outlined the ten myths the White House Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy seeks to debunk and promised to deal with them individually, relating them to sellers.  Let’s start with the first one…

In myth one, Daniel Gordon said it’s a misconception that federal procurement people can’t meet one-on-one with a potential offeror.  Instead, said Gordon, “Government officials can generally meet one-on-one with potential offerors as long as no vendor receives preferential treatment”.  Bottom line is that, prior to a solicitation, the government can meet with whomever it wants…as long as it gives no one preferential treatment.

“Whomever it wants” is important.  Don’t go busting down doors telling a government buyer that they must meet with you because they met with your competitor, and because the White House said they must meet with you.  Just because a meeting occurs doesn’t mean that preferential treatment is being given.  Instead, politely state your reasons for requesting a meeting.  If you state clearly how the meeting will benefit the buyer, you’ll probably get it…as long as the solicitation hasn’t been issued.  And, if the buyer says they’re not meeting with any vendors, there’s really not much you can do about it.  Even though this would be contrary to White House advice, buyers aren’t required to meet with vendors.

On the other hand, don’t think that meeting with a potential government buyer will disqualify you from participating in the solicitation.  As the White House memo says, this should not be the case.  However, if the government asks you to help write the specifications for a solicitation, you should not be allowed to participate in the solicitation.  That doesn’t mean you can’t provide your product or service specifications in the pre-solicitation phase.  You should.  That’s different from being asked to write the requirements.  (In our consulting practice, we are regularly asked to write requirements documents and always agree that we will not respond to the solicitation.)

Of course, the rules regarding meetings change dramatically once the solicitation is issued…another reason to get ahead of the RFP. A good bit of our book is dedicated to this.

So, good luck with your meetings.  When you get them, make sure you focus on making them meaningful for the buyer, not yourself.

All the best,

Rick

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