FYI on RFIs, Part 2: Ghosting as a Response Strategy

May 11, 2022 | Business Development, Government


This is the second in a series about Requests for Information (RFI) related to government work. We continue the conversation by defining “ghosting” in the bidding process and how it’s used strategically by contractors.

When you hear the term “ghosting,” you may think of the modern definition of suddenly opting out of a relationship after frequent contact. As it applies to contracting, however, it means quite the opposite. “Ghosting” as an RFI strategy demands being very present in terms of the relationship you hope to build with a government entity.  

Here’s how it works: a contractor will recommend that information be included in a Request for Quotation (RFQ) or Request for Proposal (RFP) that gives it a competitive advantage or that puts others at a competitive disadvantage. As Joshua P. Frank says in An Insider’s Guide to Winning Government Contracts: Real-World Strategies, Lessons, and Recommendations, “Ghosting is positioning The value of your capabilities and differentiators in order to marginalize your competition.” The reason it’s called “ghosting” is that it’s transparent: the contracting officer receiving the RFI isn’t aware that the contractor is attempting to leverage an advantage. 

In terms of what information can be ghosted, the short answer is, “just about anything.” Here are a few examples

  • Product specifications (what the government calls “salient characteristics”)
  • Experience, certifications, and clearance
  • Use, or lack of use, of contract vehicles
  • Acquisition size (larger or small business, socio-economic set-asides)

This is another case where the process of winning an RFP/RFQ begins with the RFI. Positioning yourself well is often a significant first step toward winning the bid in the long run. 

Also, the “ghosting” technique can be used in other areas besides the RFI. One example would be “ghosting” requirements during a conversation with a contracting officer or program manager. Another could be a simple email asking for information about an expiring contract and putting your “two cents” on how it should be procured. 

Next week: what it means to ghost salient characteristics, along with an example

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MYTH: Since the amount of goods and services the government buys is not affected by a economic downturn as private industry, the best time to begin selling to the government is during a recession.

FACT: Developing an effective government business development strategy usually takes years. Waiting until the economy is in recession to pull the trigger on a plan can doom it from the start as this strategy takes time and resources to develop….items that seem to be more scarce when the economy is in a downturn.

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