GSA. Getting on a Schedule here can be really tough, especially for the first time. This article gives a number of practical tips and tricks to simplify GSA Schedule application process significantly.
Each advice is only helpful at certain stage of obtaining a schedule. However, overall, these tips are a great helper towards successful GSA certification.
1. Carefully choosea SIN
When you apply for a GSA contract, you have to select SINs that your business matches. The most obvious way here is to just choose SINs that look proper for your company and call it a day. But here is a secret: sometimes a SIN you consider irrelevant for your business may turn out most profitable. Why? Because of higher demand, milder specifications, lower competition or other factors. You should do your homework and make a research before selecting the particular SIN.
2. Gather proof for PPE beforehand
The official GSA guide on how to apply for a GSA contract tells that you need from 6 to 20 references from your past customers. So, what everyone does? As soon as the company decides it wants to obtain a GSA schedule, it starts asking for past references. Wrong!
In fact, you should do this long before you submit your application to GSA. Think about it: you asking your client you worked with may be years ago to find corresponding documents and proofs. How long would it take? Is this even possible? No wonder many submissions fail at this stage.
The better way to gather proof is to instruct your managers to collect evidence of achievements of your company and testimonials from clients operationally, in the working course of your business. Then, you can simply search your database of such proofs and instantly fetch everything you need.
3. Verify references
Make sure the references from your past clients are still valid. Contact them beforehand and make sure the contacts are up to date and working. Also, make sure to provide as many references as you can. Twenty is ideal. Some of them may not be confirmed during PPE, but you still will end up with much more than the minimum of six required for obtaining a GSA contract.
4. Review your application
If you know how GSA contracts work, the application process here is formalized. However, there are narrative sections in the application forms that you can fill freely. Here is the tip: after writing such narratives, ask some of your colleagues to review them. If he or she does not understand something, chances are neither will a procurement officer.
5. Do not compare prices
When writing your price narrative in the price proposal part of your GSA Schedule application documents, make sure you don’t compare your prices with those of competitors. Direct comparison may seem a good move, but in fact one of other applicants can suggest even lower prices and your argument will be nullified. Instead, focus on real substantiation.
6. Review past invoices
When you attach supporting documents for your prices, carefully review each invoice. You want those prices to be higher or the same as your offer. Otherwise, your price proposal will not match the “Government is the Most Favored Customer” rule by GSA.
7. Select the proposing entity carefully
If your business has multiple units or divisions, you may want to consider selecting a particular entity that will make a proposal, not the entire firm. This can help optimizing your pricing strategy overall, but still getting a GSA number.
8. Exceed requirements
Offering more than a solicitation requests is one of the key ways to being awarded. For quantitative metrics exceeding requirements is rather clear. But some solicitations are based more on qualitative measures, so there is no clear definition of what means “better than” in each case. Your goal is to figure out these qualitative measures yourself and to make the appropriate proposal to the government.
9. Price is not everything
Being a high-quality vendor with the lowest price is not always enough. You should also persuade GSA contracting officer that the Government can safely cooperate with your company. “Safely” in this case means that you are expected to follow guidelines and rules of the Gov’t even though they often may seem illogical or ancient. Your adherence to these rules tells GSA that you won’t cause embarrassments or problems. Make sure to underscore in your proposal that every business process you have – from management to QA – is refined to work smoothly and will liberate GSA from any hassles with you.
10. Update you contacts
This tip may seem stupid, but surprisingly many contractors fail to get on a Schedule due to inaccurate contact information. When you assigned a new specialist to manage GSA contracts, or reorganized your CRM system, or made changes to the email address format – make sure you updated your contacts in your GSA SAM profile. You see, with the GSA eBuy system, a contracting officer does not work with contractors directly. It clicks a button, and an invitation bid is sent automatically to the specified email. If the email does not exist anymore, nobody will care to resend. That’s how GSA contracts work.
11. Train your staff
Every member of your sales team must know how to deal with federal agencies. Put effort into educating your personnel and select the best ones to communicate with the government. Make sure they have all the resources they need to close the sale.
12. Know your GSA contracting officer
While GSA does provide a lot of instructions and documentation to almost every step of getting on a GSA Schedule, there is still a lot of details not covered. Do not guess if you don’t understand something. Contact your CO and ask. Knowing your assigned procurement officer also helps establishing good relationships with him or her, which also proves to be beneficial for you.
This article simply offers a number of practical tips. This is no way a thorough guide on GSA contracting. If you want to find out how to get on a GSA Schedule, please read this article.