Not all federal business is through GSA Schedules
By: Eileen Kent, Federal Sales Sherpa
GSA schedule - the one contract vehicle almost every eligible company can apply for anytime - and with enough tenacity, know-how, budget and help from a legitimate consultant - you might just become the next GSA schedule contract holder.
WHAT DOES HAVING A GSA SCHEDULE REALLY MEAN?
But does that really mean you win business? No. It means you have an opportunity to capture deals with the federal government with a nearly sole source contract bridge--allowing the bidding process to be shorter and the delivery much quicker.
And when you win, GSA wins too because they collect a quarterly funding fee from you. The Industrial Funding Fee (IFF)is 0.75% for goods and services and 0.50% for medical supplies and services. That means out of an average of $39B a year in services and products being purchased through GSA - they are collecting $270M from vendors - funding their efforts.
Also, with this contracting vehicle, you are responsible for managing any records about every deal, every proposal AND every contract in the commercial business in which you based your government pricing because they want to make sure they're getting better prices than the company who buys from you at the same terms and conditions as GSA.
So, when you have been awarded this contract vehicle, you need to invest in a great resource, tool, training or employee to manage the GSA business and the contract itself. There are great resources for this type of assistance, but make sure you have someone at your company keeping track as well because you are ultimately responsible for all your reports, potential GSA audits and the payment of the IFF.
Managing your schedule on the government side costs GSA $3,000 a year for the resources. Therefore, they require you to sell at least $25k through your schedule within the first two years, and every year thereafter - or they will kick you off the schedule. Many companies are frustrated by this requirement, but HALF of the approximately 19k vendors on schedule report $0 sales, so th3ey are constantly adding - and dropping contract holders.
GSA ITSELF SELLS TO THE AGENCIES - THEIR SERVICES ON GSA ADVANTAGE, EBUY, AS WELL AS MANAGING PROJECTS. COMING SOON TO FAS ARE “CATEGORY MANAGERS”
GSA is a marketing giant. They have employees nationwide - reaching out to agencies and enticing them to use the GSA schedule to purchase goods and services - quickly and easily. In fact, FAR RULE 8.4 describes the process by which contracting officers can follow-utilizing GSA schedules when they need to buy a service or a product quickly.
The GSA marketing team, called Customer Service Directors go from agency-to-agency educating the agency on how to use GSAAdvantage.gov and GSA's eBuy Bidding tool - to keep the purchase within the GSA engine - so that the customer can justify a "full and open competition" requirement, while, again, buying the products and services quickly - and quietly.
Besides Customer Service Directors, they offer agencies online training on how to buy using schedules - and they also offer their own teams to help agencies buy products and services. They don't do this for free - they also charge the agencies a percentage for the contracts to go through GSA Advantage, EBUY and the GSA PM teams ..... they charge about 5%+ to the agencies for their services.
A new program announced on a GSA Blog Post, called “Category Management,” according to the Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner, Thomas Sharp, “Will involve assigning a FAS manager in charge of each of several acquisition categories, such as IT, professional services and travel. Those managers will help develop a Common Acquisition Platform with information about contract vehicles, historical prices and other data related to specific procurements.
DON'T WAIT FOR THE ORDERS TO COME TO YOU
Despite all the technological advances coming to GSA, remember, buyers are slow to change and GSA is just one BRIDGE to drive business tasks across. Unless you’re simply a commodity, deals don’t come to you through GSA Advantage or EBUY unless they customer knows - asks for - and recognizes your team and/or your brand. Yes, it's easier to sell products through these sites - but there are hundreds - if not thousands of others competing for the business too. You need to take charge of your “BRIDGE” and tell the world you have one! You need to drive traffic across your bridge.
GSA is not the only BRIDGE out there. Agencies also use their own BPAs, IDIQs, Contract Processes without GSA, so you may be disappointed to hear your customer doesn't want to use GSA (or pay GSA that 5%+ fee) - and they manage their own contracts.
So, before you go through the trouble of getting a schedule, consider finding out how the feds really buy what you sell.
For assistance in finding expertise in this matter, call 312-636-5381 anytime or listen to the Federal Sales Sherpa Show and hear what the experts say about how the winners play the game.
You might as well get used to these terms….. “Category Management,” “The Common Acquisition Platform” as well as the name of these new tools that are coming to GSA:
- Procurement Optimizer: A comprehensive contract-comparison search engine that enhances competition for government acquisition
- Market Intelligence Center: Category-centric market research materials that guide purchase decisions based on category manager’s government-wide expertise
- Clear View: Real-time data on pricing and purchasing, as well as assessment tools that help provide a big-picture view of government and individual agency spending behavior
- Collaborative Contracting Library: Provides a resource to jump-start procurements with a central repository of exemplary contract work for complex buys compiled by community experts.
- eMarketplace: An eCommerce transaction platform for simple purchases
Federal Sales Sherpa’s thoughts about these changes: Even though there are other ways to sell to the government than GSA schedule, GSA is doing its best to entice agencies to use their tools. Besides implementing the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative across commodity schedules such as Office Supplies, Furniture and Hardware, they are introducing some new ways to “simplify contracting.” Whether agencies will embrace the new processes and tools are yet to be seen. This will take many years to introduce, implement, train and execute. Advice: Stay in Front of these changes and processes and you’ll evolve with the industry. For now, keep selling.