Last year, the federal government spent more than $40 billion through the GSA Schedules program. This year it may well spend even more. A GSA Schedule contract is, quite simply, the easiest point-of-entry into government contracting – the most effective way to get your products or services in front of the world's largest buyer of products and services.
A GSA Schedules contract gives you access to more than 260 federal, state and local government buyers who have an easier time buying from you than they do your competition.
If you know that, you've already applied, or you're planning to.
After all, it seems hard to fail once you have that contract in hand. Yet a remarkable number of companies do just that.
That's not just a one-time missed opportunity. It can mean the end of future opportunities as well. The GSA requires schedule-holders to do at least $25,000 worth of business through their contract in the first two years they hold it, and another $25,000 every year thereafter. Fall short of that number, and they may terminate your contract.
Once, that was mostly an idle threat. But in recent years we're seeing more and more GSA schedule contracts terminated. After all, the GSA, like every government agency, needs to trim its budget right now – and they pay to administer every contract, whether they're getting anything out of it or not. It's no surprise they're trimming the wasted ones now.
It’s more important than ever before that you make the most of the opportunity a schedule contract gives your company. Thankfully, you can position yourself to do that right now, before you even have your contract in hand.
A few simple steps can prepare you to succeed one you have your GSA schedule contract:
· Focus Your Marketing – There are currently 260 agencies authorized to buy through the GSA schedules. Many of those have more than one authorized buyer. You want to get in front of all of them, right? Probably not. That would be about as effective as asking every girl in school to the prom. You're far more likely to succeed by focusing your attention on a few buyers. Start by doing some research on which agencies actually buy what you're selling, and which ones typically buy through the schedules, so that you can spend your limited resources marketing to the handful most willing to listen to your pitch. You can build this knowledge before the GSA has even accepted your contract proposal.
· Build Relationships – Government buyers all have one thing in common – they're risk-averse. They don't want to make the front page of the Washington Post for a bad decision made with taxpayer money. With that in mind, they buy from people they know. Once you've identified the agencies most likely to buy from you, spend your time trying to build a relationship with the buyers who work there. If they're familiar with your company before you approach them about a specific purchase, they're more likely to hear you out. Also, keep in mind that they may start small, and be willing to make a few small sales to get your foot in the door. Once they see that you can deliver, they're more likely to rely on you for larger orders.
· Market Yourself To Large Companies – This one may sound a little counter-intuitive – after all, you're applying for a schedule to attract the government's attention, not Lockheed Martin's – but it's worth reaching out to prime contractors to let them know when your schedule contract comes through. Holding a schedule makes you a more attractive partner. With the government concentrating much of its spending into large, task order-based contracts, teaming is likely to be more important over the next few years than ever before.