You’ve been waiting for an RFP and it finally comes out. But the agency is holding a vendor conference to go with the procurement—what do you do?
G3 commonly hears this question from clients. They want to know if they need to go to the conference and what to expect if they do. Procurements can be stringent and it’s important to ask as many questions as possible to make sure your hard work isn’t negated by a single mistake, but you also don’t want to waste your time attending something that isn’t necessary. Here’s what you need to know.
Vendor conferences are important. The primary objective at any vendor conference is to obtain as much information as possible about the procurement. Again, you don’t want to miss any small detail that could make the difference between a win and loss. As a contractor, you should attempt to take note of the public officials who are present and identify stakeholders, competitors and procurement managers. Here are some additional tips:
- Show up early. A vendor conference is an opportunity to mingle with agency officials in an informal manner and hear about the procurement. Most contractors use this time to gather as much information as possible, network with potential partners and make sure public officials know of their interest in the bid.
- Listen carefully and take notes. The procurement presentation is vital to understanding what exactly the agency wants. Make sure you pay attention and don’t make assumptions. Keep listening and taking notes when other vendors ask questions. You can pick up valuable information without having to ask a single question, so it is usually more advisable to listen than to speak.
- Ask for a list of the attendees. Governmental entities usually make a list of all vendor conference attendees available on its Web site or to a requestor. Get a copy—the list will have names of potential bidders, subcontractors and all interested parties.
- Look for partners. Vendor conferences provide excellent opportunities to seek out other vendors who might be good teaming partners for this or a future project.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The agency will give attendees the opportunity to ask questions. Pay close attention to who asks what question. This is a good time to strategize and size up your competition. You will also have the opportunity to submit written questions later, so don’t stress out about getting every detail answered right away. And it’s not uncommon for bidders to have a third party submit questions for them; this will help maintain your anonymity.
- Hang around after the meeting. When the conference concludes, don’t be in a hurry to leave. You can often glean even more valuable information by mingling with other interested contractors.
The Vendor Conference is an important part of any procurement process. It covers the basics – the dos and don’ts, as well as the expectations of those who will later serve on evaluation teams. Don’t underestimate the information and connections you may be able to obtain at a vendor conference; they can be invaluable for not only this RFP, but future RFPs as well. Unless you absolutely cannot attend a bidder conference, it is recommended that you GO.