How to Choose a GSA Service Provider/GSA Vendor

GSA consultants can simplify the process of GSA certification of your business significantly, help you prepare an offer and obtain a GSA contract. But among the trustworthy GSA service providers, there are also those firms that aren’t safe to work with. You’ll simply lose time and money if you cooperate with such agents. In this article, we explain how to choose a GSA service provider, what features on part of the provider you should pay attention to, and what differentiates a good GSA consultant from the so called “predators”.

Check if you Qualify to be a GSA Contractor

Who are GSA service providers?

GSA service providers also known as GSA Schedule consultants, or GSA agents are third-party companies that help small businesses become GSA-certified. A GSA-certified business can offer its products and services to governmental agencies.

Hiring a third-party company to become a GSA vendor is not necessary; a business can perform all the required steps completely in-house. Basically, you need to get a D.U.N.S. number, register at SAM.gov, fill a number of forms, and submit an application document package. However, applying for a GSA contract can be tricky, especially if you know little about how things work on the federal market. And it’s a whole different story compared to the commercial market! This is where professional GSA consultants can lend a hand.

How can GSA service providers help you?

As we said above, the process of getting onto a GSA Schedule is complex. The General Services Administration has strict requirements for every GSA vendor and puts new GSA vendors under increased scrutiny. The process is called GSA certification, and its main aim is to guarantee the best quality and the lowest prices of services and products sold to the government. GSA officials want to filter out unreliable, low quality and financially weak vendors that could jeopardize fulfilling the terms of a GSA contract.

The GSA certification procedure is obligatory for all new GSA vendors. There are literally hundreds of nuances in this process, and according to official statistics over 50% of GSA submissions are declined right off the bat. Why? Either because of errors in filled forms and submitted documents, or because some of the required documents are missing. Other common reasons are a bad past performance record and poor financial health of prospective GSA vendors.

Seasoned GSA service providers can greatly simplify your life and significantly increase the chance of being awarded. In particular, a decent GSA Schedule consultant will offer the following services:

  • Document preparation
  • Price negotiation
  • Communication with the GSA
  • Maintenance of the GSA contract
  • Keeping your products and services compliant with GSA regulations
  • Sales reporting
  • Order processing and integration, including EDI
  • Conflict resolution and legal support

Choosing a GSA service provider

If you decide to delegate all the hassles of getting onto the GSA Schedule to a third-party firm, it is crucial to choose a GSA service provider that is ready to deliver and can be relied upon. There are dozens of GSA consulting agencies on the market, and some of them are risky to deal with. So, how does one find a trustworthy GSA agency? Here is what you should be paying attention to.

1. Prefer a GSA service provider with experience

While newer firms typically can offer very attractive prices, you really should think twice before hiring a newbie GSA consultant. You see, when it comes to the government market and the GSA, experience is everything. Seasoned GSA consultants know the ins-and-outs of the GSA contracting system, fluently speak the government language, and are well-prepared for a wide variety of possible issues. They can guide you through hidden pitfalls of FAR clauses, communicate with a procurement officer on your behalf to negotiate better prices, and eventually offer a high success rate of securing a GSA contract. Speaking of which…

2. Success rate is important

A truly experienced GSA agency can deliver an almost 100% success rate. This means that the majority of GSA applications submitted through such an agent are approved by the GSA and so the corresponding vendor gets certified. The success rate is vital but is extremely hard to verify. A vendor could easily proclaim nearly 100% success rate, but how can you tell if this is true?

One way to check the plausibility of the published success rate of a GSA service provider is to contact its clients directly. Ask them, did they really worked with this firm, were they satisfied, and if they were able to successfully obtain a GSA Schedule contract.

3. Look for long-term cooperation

The GSA Schedule award is like a license to hunt. Like a license is not yet a guarantee of a big game, the GSA Schedule contract is not a guarantee of sales. That is why it is important to select GSA service providers that help you out even after you have been awarded. Assisting in GSA Advantage submission, resolving post-award issues, helping you to communicate with the procurement officer, and providing various marketing tools for you – this is an incomplete list of  long-term services that a decent GSA consultant should offer.

4. Individual approach is a must

Imagine this: you call a GSA service provider and ask a sales manager if they are willing to help you with a GSA contract. Immediately, you hear an enthusiastic “Sure! We can guarantee you an award, and start thinking a GSA contract is as good as yours already. A big mistake.

In fact, a trustworthy GSA agent will not guarantee anything, and will not even start to do anything without assessing your company’s credentials, commercial practices, your products and services. One may think such scrutiny is nothing more than pickiness, but in fact it’s in your best interest. You really want to learn your weak spots from your agent in just a week or so, rather than from the GSA after almost a year of preparations.

5. Hold out for fair pricing

Avoid unrealistically low prices, like hell. When it comes to GSA contracting, there is certain work to be done, and there is fair payment for it. If they offer a cheaper service, ask them – why? If you then hear something about a “streamlined workflow”, “optimized solutions” or “vast experience” – you’ll know this GSA service provider is probably not the best one. Either they do not provide full-range services and will vanish immediately after submitting your documents to the GSA, or they simply aren’t qualified enough for this kind of work, and therefore engage in predatory pricing.

On the other hand, higher-than-average prices also need evaluation. What kind of services will you receive for the price? Are there some extended guarantees? Does the GSA services provider offer additional support? Sometimes, unusually high prices may indicate a scam: as when a provider simply delegates its work to someone cheaper and keeps the difference. But this is not a rule of thumb, of course, as there are many trustworthy firms on the market with pricing that is above average..

Conclusion

Painstakingly choosing a GSA service provider is a pledge to your future successful cooperation with this firm, for years. And that in turn means lower barriers of entry onto the federal market, less hassles overall, simpler and more efficient communication with GSA procurement officers, and higher chances of high volume sales. All, provided you are also ready to do your homework.

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