GSA Schedules were created to provide a simplified way for federal agencies to purchase the products and services they need without having to jump through hoops to find the right vendor.
Applying for a GSA Contract is one of the best ways to sell to federal agencies because it’s the best way to find open bids, as well as the best way for buyers to find the right vendors. All government contract holders are screened and heavily vetted in order to make the list on GSA Advantage!, the e-commerce network for government contracting, so when federal agencies look for a company to buy from they already know it’s a business they can trust.
GSA Schedules eliminate the need to negotiate pricing, because managing your government contract includes submitting your prices to GSA Advantage before you can start selling. This helps streamline the process for both buyers and vendors, and erases the hassle that both parties have to go through without these processes in place.
The other benefit to holding a GSA Schedule is that it’s a long term agreement to sell to the government. Typically, a GSA Schedule lasts for five years, and can come with options to extend the contract for up to three additional five year periods. During these five years, businesses can establish themselves as a stakeholder for federal agencies looking for their specific product or service, and can earn a good chunk of revenue by reaching that point.
Nearly $45 billion runs through GSA Contracts each year. There are plenty of opportunities for businesses to take advantage of it by providing their products or services to the government, yet it’s not something you can just dive right into.
While government contracting can be a great way to expand your business, many business owners don’t realize that there are actually pre-qualifying factors that you have to meet before you can apply for a GSA Schedule. Once you get rolling, managing your GSA Schedule can be a quick process, but getting to that point can take longer than you expect and there’s a chance it doesn’t even pan out if it turns out you don’t qualify for GSA Schedules.
How to Know if You Qualify for GSA Schedules
Businesses of all sizes often run into a problem when they try to add a GSA Schedule to their company, but suddenly hit a wall when they realize they aren’t qualified. The success that others have seen through government contracting is enough to get anyone chomping at the bit, yet there are quite a few steps to make sure you qualify for GSA Schedules.
The most important thing you can do to start yourself out on the right foot is research. While hearing things through word of mouth about government contracting is good, make sure you’re fully aware of the process, requirements, and workflow before you attempt to apply.
There are several common reasons why businesses find out they don’t qualify for GSA Schedules, and it can be more than just a pre-qualifying factor. Besides the way your business is structured, how the government contracting process works can often lead businesses to change their minds.
One main thing to consider is time. How much time are you willing to dedicate to a GSA Schedule? Do you have team members who have the flexibility to work on this kind of project? GSA Schedule applications aren’t a simple contact information form — an average application contains 30 pages of requested information about your business. On average it can take businesses 70 hours to complete an application without expert help. It’s a tedious process, and mistakes can lead to swift rejection from the GSA. You’ll also have to make time to answer any questions the GSA has after your application has been reviewed, and then negotiate terms before you can list your products or services on GSA Advantage!. The work doesn’t end there either, managing your contract after you win your award is a continuous process.
The next thing you’ll want to account for is money. Are you able to offer competitive prices on your products and services? Knowing how to price what you’re selling is half the battle. Only 40% of GSA Contract holders actually make money, but making sure your prices are competing with others will be able to help you stand out and win bids.
If you’re able to make time and are prepared for the costs, you can look at the business-specific steps to qualify for GSA Schedules. Your business will want to be:
- Stable financially
- At least two years old
- Providing commercially available products
- Compliant with the Trade Agreement Act
If some of these factors aren’t aligning with your business, a GSA Schedule might not be for you. The tedious and lengthy application process isn’t worth it if your business isn’t going to find success with a GSA Schedule. On the other hand, if your business is checking off all the boxes, a GSA Schedule could be the break you need to start expanding and earning an advantage over your competitors.
Knowing your business well is key before starting down the path of government contracting. Doing your research ahead of time and making sure both you and your team are fully prepared for the task ahead will greatly increase your chances for success.