If you want to sell to the government, you need to obtain a contracting vehicle. With the vast number of restrictions and regulations that surround government purchasing, however, this can be difficult to do, not to mention time consuming. Fortunately, there are ways to do this that can potentially shorten the process and alleviate some of the hard work. The most common and effective way to do this runs through the GSA.
GSA stands for the U.S. General Services Administration, a federal government agency that works in government procurement and ensures that tax dollars are spent wisely. When the government has a need for a consumer product, it turns to the public sector of industry and manufacturing. Its mission, according to its website, is to “Deliver value and savings in real estate, acquisition, technology, and other mission-support services across Government.” In other words, it is a vehicle by which private businesses can get their goods, services and solutions to government buyers.
The GSA was established in 1949 by President Harry Truman to streamline the federal government’s administrative work. It gathered the National Archives Establishment, the Federal Works Agency and its Public Buildings Administration, the Bureau of Federal Supply, the Office of Contract Settlement, and the War Assets Administration under one umbrella, government procurement and provision storage. Its purpose was to supply the military, stockpile supplies in case of emergencies, manage records, get rid of surplus and more.
However, the GSA has grown much since then. It is now a primary hub of government real estate and infrastructure management, but it has also expanded beyond that. The GSA has embraced new technologies and evolved to become a major supplier and go-between for solutions that the government requires to run its operations from day to day. This is why if a business wants to sell to the federal government, the GSA is the agency to contact and work with.
The GSA works to supply the government with its needs while doing its best to save taxpayer money. It assists with building professional relationships and approving contracts between government buyers and businesses. This occurs primarily through bidding on contracts, in which case it’s usually the lowest bidder that wins.
What Is A GSA Contract?
A GSA Contract is the pre-negotiated trade agreement between a government entity and a private business in which the government purchases from the business under specified rules and regulations and at a fair price. A GSA Contract is also known as a GSA Schedule, a GSA Number or List, a Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) and a Multiple Award Schedule (MAS). The GSA website defines this type of contract as “long-term governmentwide contracts with commercial companies that provide access to millions of commercial products and services at fair and reasonable prices to the government.” It’s designed to allow companies to sell directly to the federal government, but it also helps these same companies sell to local and state governments, too.
Contract Categories and Traits
There are many categories of items that can be marketed to the government, along with subcategories and special item numbers (SINs), and the variety of solutions that the government buys is truly diverse. This web of product identifiers is designed to streamline the process of buying and selling and help businesses know when the government is in need of a certain product or service. That way, companies can keep their eyes on the market for supply needs and bid for contracts and projects as soon as they come available.
The GSA website also calls Schedule contracts “indefinite delivery” and “indefinite quantity” (ID/IQ), which means that even though they last five years, they can be renewed up to twenty years, and are left open-ended. This enables companies to diversify what they can offer to the government, along with what government agencies they can sell to. Additionally, many companies can have the same contract, and once a contract is given, it’s much easier to bid on projects and sell to other parts of the government, too.
GSA Schedule 70 Contract
One common kind of Schedule is the IT Schedule 70 contract, a contract that allows businesses to sell information technology solutions to the government. With technology in an ever-evolving state of development and competition in this fast-paced digital era, the government desperately needs secure IT solutions.
GSA Schedule 84 Contract
Under the GSA Schedule 84 Contract, businesses can provide the government with safety, law enforcement and search and rescue supplies and services. Whether this be marine vehicles or safety apparel, alarm systems or drug testing equipment, this wide-ranging Schedule is a valuable one to be on if you wish to provide the government with supplies to meet urgent needs such as these.
VA Schedule 65 IIA
Under the VA Schedule 65 IIA, commercial businesses can sell all kinds of essential and disposable medical equipment to the government. From hospital protective apparel to needles, trays and gauze to handheld instruments, pacemakers and monitors, this Schedule allows businesses to market their healthcare solutions to major organizations like the VA Hospital. Unlike Schedule 70 and 84, Schedule 65IIA is managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs rather than the General Services Administration (GSA) however all three are part of the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) program.
To bid on government contracts like these, you must prepare and submit an offer. The GSA will review it, and if you meet their requirements and are a better option than your competitors, you will be awarded the contract—although from there, you must also work to keep it. Competing for these contracts often involves finding the right price to offer. GSA pricing is an in-depth topic that has historically been about finding the cheapest price tag; however, it has been evolving recently into a “best value” situation in many scenarios, since cheaper does not always mean better.
Getting A GSA Contract
Attempting to sell to the government is a long process that can last months to over a year, depending on your approach. Obtaining a GSA Schedule is often worth the effort to a business, particularly a small business, but first you must decide if this option is right for you and how you want to go about getting one.
Is a GSA Schedule right for you?
If your company has earned experience and legitimacy in working on government contracts and is growing well, getting on a GSA Schedule may be a good next step to consider. If you’re a small business or startup, the Small Business Administration (SBA) does its best to provide resources for such companies to contract with the government. In fact, it works to make sure that at least 23 percent of government contract dollars are given to small businesses. For some, however, a GSA contract is not the right option due to limitations in production and workforce or the age and growth rate of your business.
Still, it’s important to be able to decide if pursuing a GSA Contract is the right option for your company or if you need to obtain more experience, go after contracts on the open market or do subcontracting work. Big government agencies usually look far more favorably upon businesses with at least two years’ experience with other forms of government contracting. This experience leads to legitimacy and reliability, which are key to winning a government contract. If your business can win a contract and actually manage to sell to a government agency, it will have gotten its foot in the door of a billion-dollar market that produces a large chunk of the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Can I do this myself?
It is possible to obtain a GSA Schedule without any outside help. However, this process takes extensive knowledge of the market and a willingness to do the extensive work of marketing your product to the government. Tools are available to help with this, and any business looking to get government contracts must:
- Do research: A thorough grasp of the state of the marketplace in question is required. Your business must know its product, who needs it, how much is needed, what pricing rates are, who its competitors are, which current contracts are going to expire soon and more. Then you must keep an eye on the market to jump on bidding opportunities when they come up.
- Have experience: Your company will not be able to successfully get into a GSA Schedule unless you can show a decent amount of experience with doing prior government work.
- Have a plan: Without an established selling plan that communicates knowledge of the product and a secure foundation for producing and distributing it in the needed quantities, the government will easily turn down the bid. There are always other companies that can do the work, and the government entity looking for a solution to its need will choose the most prepared and reputable business with the best price.
- Submit a proposal/Make an offer: You must prepare and submit a well-written, highly detailed proposal of what you can offer to the government, along with price points and proof of your business’s viability. Without adequate information, the government entity you’re trying to sell to will ignore your business without a second thought, particularly if other businesses already have established contracts (which, again, means knowing your competition).
- Follow through: A Schedule contract is a legally binding agreement, and you must be prepared to do everything it requires, especially when it comes to sales generation and reporting. Fail to do so, and you risk not only losing the contract, but also having the government entity turn to an alternate solution as soon as it realizes you can’t hold up your end. If this occurs, your reputation will decrease and you will risk not being able to get another government contract.
What are the finer details?
The process of obtaining a GSA Schedule takes a while, and requires hard work, accuracy and efficiency. And of course, there will be lots of government red tape to navigate through. If your business is not ready to do this work, a Schedule may not be the best selling option—at least, not if you’re trying to do all the work yourself. This is especially true because even once the whole process is done, your business is not guaranteed to win a contract with the government, and you may end up having to eat a year’s worth of work. Furthermore, having a contract does not mean the government is obligated to buy from you—you’ve simply become a viable option—so your business must continue marketing itself even after obtaining the Schedule.
If you’re interested in researching the GSA Schedule marketplace, it will be beneficial for you to go to the GSA Advantage® online shopping and ordering site. This site will give you an idea of the types of products the government wants, who’s selling them and at what prices.
Should I hire someone to help me?
Many businesses find that doing all of this work by themselves is not worth the time and effort they would be required to put in. However, they still want to sell to the government, and obtaining a GSA Schedule is the best way to do that, as it opens so many other doors. One alternative solution, then, is to hire a government contracts consultant to do the legwork for you. Such companies specialize in the legality and details of government regulations and can guide you step-by-step through the process of obtaining a contract. They will already have experience in the field, and the government will have confidence in them even if they don’t necessarily have confidence in your business. So when a GSA consultant takes the reins and markets your business to the government, you’re much more likely to begin winning contracts and actually sell to the government.
This GSA consultant will act as a sort of middleman between your business and the government, and once you’ve won a contract, they can guide you through the next steps of keeping that contract, following through on it and winning more contracts. Your business will own the contracts, but the consultant will help you manage them. Together, you will gain a reputation that will potentially earn you even more government contract work.
Contract Through GMP
At GMP, we can help you sell your products and services to the government through GSA Schedule contracts. We are a trusted and nationally recognized, veteran-owned and -run government contract management firm. We are a prime contractor on several GSA Schedules like the three listed above (84, 70 and 65 IIA), and our 20 years of experience speaks for itself in the government’s eyes. With us, you don’t have to get your own contract to sell to the government, because we do all of that work for you, making the selling process easier and faster. We will hold the contract ourselves and endorse it rigorously to the government, doing all of the marketing, planning and supplying for and alongside you. We understand the ins and outs of government contracting and the legal matters that surround it, and we’re prepared to bring your business’s products to the proper government entity for sale.
Our ability to facilitate your contracts will give you the push you need to get ahead of your competitors in selling to the government. For more information on government procurement and contracting, contact us today!