By Frank Bennett, Procurement Consultant, Kentucky APEX Accelerator
This article was originally published in our monthly KY APEX Accelerator Newsletter. If you have any questions about this topic, your KY APEX Accelerator consultant is here to help! Not a client? Sign up here.
General Services Administration (GSA) schedules, sometimes referred to as Federal Supply Schedules, are a Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) vehicle used by some government agencies to make purchasing of frequently used products and services more efficient. GSA Schedules are five-year agreements with the potential to be renewed up to three times. Approximately $40 billion a year are awarded through GSA Schedules. This $40 billion accounts for approximately 12% of the total dollars awarded to private sector companies from government agencies annually. According to the GSA, millions of unique products or services are available through their contract schedules at any given time. Agencies using GSA Schedules make buying decisions based on what company is offering the best value at the best prices. Some common considerations include price, quantity or volume of supply, delivery terms, return or restock policy, warranty and wage determination. For small businesses, GSA schedules offer two big advantages. First, they reduce the pool of companies competing for solicitations. Second, some GSA schedule solicitations are set aside for small businesses and/or specific socio-economic certifications. Is a GSA Contract Right for My Company? It is important to understand that being awarded a GSA schedule does not in any way mean you will ultimately make sales. While many companies do very well with GSA schedules, earning millions of dollars annually, approximately 40% of firms on GSA schedules never make a sale (Albert Garza, A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become a GSA Schedule Contractor). As a GSA schedule contractor, you must generate a minimum of $25,000 in sales during the first 24 months on Schedule and $25,000 in sales every year thereafter. GSA contracts are a lucrative tool for thousands of companies both big and small, but before jumping into the GSA pool, you need to do some research and introspection to ascertain if GSA Schedules are right for your organization. This article provides an overview of a few elementary things to consider before pursuing a GSA contract. Before moving forward, connect with your KY APEX Accelerator regional procurement consultant. They will be able to help you take a deeper dive into the topic. Question 1: What Agencies Buy What I Sell? At the most fundamental level, pursuing government procurement opportunities of any kind comes down to understanding what agencies buy what you sell. The great thing about government purchasing is that every dollar spent by government agencies is tracked, so you are able to identify exactly which agencies have purchased what you are selling. There are a number of great tools for analyzing government past purchases, including FPDS.gov, USASpending.govand SAM.gov. Additionally, there are a number of tools and resources that will help you forecast future agency purchases. One tool that I recommend is the Acquisition.gov Forecasting Opportunity Tool. It includes agency forecasting information, information about small business resources, information on business opportunities and much more. Work with your regional procurement consultant to learn the most efficient and effective ways to use all of the above-mentioned tools. Question 2: Are Agencies Using GSA Contracts to Buy What I Sell? Once you know who buys what you sell, you need to know how they buy it. Government agencies use many different procurement vehicles for different types of purchases. In order to effectively market to an agency, you must first understand what procurement vehicles they are using to buy the types of products you sell. There are several tools you can use to ascertain how agencies make their purchases. I recommend starting with FPDS.gov and the GSA FAS Schedule Sales Query Plus (SSQ+). Question 3: Can I Compete with Competitors’ Pricing? In the GSA system, you can easily find the price sheets for other companies selling items similar to yours. This is valuable information, because it will tell you if you are in the ballpark of competitive pricing for your industry. While pricing is not the only important consideration (see above), if you cannot be reasonably competitive on price, a GSA Schedule may not be for you. You can follow the specific process below to access competitive pricing information within the GSA website:
Go to GSA.gov
Scroll to the bottom of the page and you will see a “tools” section. Click on “elibrary.”
On the right side of the next screen, you will see a section called “Schedule Contracts.” In that section, click the first option, which will read, “View Schedule Contracts.”
At the top of the next screen, click “MAS- Multiple Award Schedules.”
In the middle of the screen, you will see a drop-down that says “MAS category list.” Use this drop-down to find your category and subcategory. You can also search by keyword using the search function in the top right corner if you prefer.
Once you find your category and subcategory, hit the button that says “GO."
You will see the names of companies on GSA schedules and a wealth of information about them, including their GSA contract number and price sheet.
As you click through the information on this page, you will find SIN numbers. The SIN number is the Special Item Number assigned to each individual product or service. They are helpful in making apples-to-apples comparisons with competitors’ offerings.
Question 4: Do I have the Resources to Compete?
Lastly, as mentioned earlier in the article, being awarded a GSA contract is only the first step. It does not guarantee that you will win awards. The companies that achieve the best results from their GSA contracts are the ones that develop an effective marketing plan and work the plan consistently.
As with all areas of government contracting, success with GSA schedules comes down to persistence. You have to commit to investing a few hours a week toward opportunity research, competitive research and promotional efforts. Before pursuing a GSA contract, make sure you have the time to invest.
GSA Schedules are a complex topic, and the steps provided in this article are just a starting point. Your KY APEX Accelerator regional procurement consultant will be able to help you research this topic more in depth and develop a strategy for maximizing your results. If you are not sure how to connect with your consultant, you can request assistance by contacting us at email@example.com or by registering on our website.
You can also check out our training events calendar to find future webinars on GSA topics and a variety of other topics related to government contracting.