Getting Started With GSA Schedules
First, you must carefully consider whether or not you have the resources to pursue a Schedules contract, and the time to both market and compete for business once you have a contract. Submitting an offer involves many steps, and the process may take months to complete. However, submissions are accepted continuously, allowing you to decide when to pursue the solicitation process.
GSA has developed the Vendor Toolbox, which is a collection of resources that will ultimately help you decide if getting a GSA Schedule contract is in your best interests. It contains educational information that includes online training, links to vital acquisition websites, and tips for success in the federal market. You can access the Vendor Toolbox through our Vendor Support Center.
The GSA Schedules program offers great opportunities for both large and small businesses. It is often the first step new businesses take when entering the federal marketplace. Being on Schedule makes it easier for agencies to do business with your company. However, becoming a Schedules contractor may involve significant investments of time and resources – which is why the first step for all interested businesses is to think it through.
The Vendor Toolbox outlines important questions before preparing a solicitation response:
- Fit: Do the products and/or services we offer fit with a Schedules solicitation? The GSA Schedules Solicitations page contains a complete listing of GSA Schedules. Clicking on the Schedule number will take you to GSA eLibrary, which facilitates searches for Special Item Numbers (SINs). SINs are groupings of similar products, services, and solutions. Note that certain products and services such as construction and building supplies are not covered by Schedules.
- Price: Can you compete with current contractors on GSA Schedules? Review pricelists in GSA Advantage! to complete a price comparison for similar products and/or services.
- Time: Do you have the time and resources to dedicate towards responding to a Schedules solicitation, administrating the contract and marketing the contract to ordering activities? Getting on Schedule is just the beginning – you must also have the staff and capability to manage and market your business though a Schedule contract.
Write Up a Business Plan
Being on a GSA Schedule is no guarantee of government sales. Vendors should understand that once a contract has been awarded, they are responsible for marketing both their company and their GSA contract. Also, vendors should be prepared to compete with other contractors on Schedule for request-for-quotes issued by government agency customers.
Before committing to the Schedule contract process, experts recommend that firms create a business plan that includes items such as:
- An estimate of the expected Return on Investment
- A marketing plan
- A determination of whether or not you have dedicated personnel for this new venture
Prospective contractors (vendors) should conduct market research to determine what comparable products and/or services are provided to the government market. Sites such as FedBizOpps, Federal Procurement Data System, and Schedules Sales Query, allow you to determine:
- Which federal agencies have purchased my product or service?
- Where are those agencies located?
- What was the price of those sales?
- What are the buying trends and forecasted sales for my product or service?
Managing a Schedules Contract provides further information regarding market research resources.
First Steps: Find the Right Solicitation
After your company has decided to pursue a Schedules contract, you must first find the correct Schedules solicitation for your offerings. Review the information at the GSA Schedules Solicitations page. This provides a brief description of the acquisition centers and the specific GSA Schedules, including links to GSA eLibrary and to FedBizOpps. GSA eLibary is the online source for GSA and VA Federal Supply Schedule award information, and includes descriptions of each Schedules’ Special Item Numbers (SINs). At FedBizOpps you can search all active Federal opportunities and download the solicitation files and instructions related to a particular contract.
First Steps: Get Registered and Certified
After carefully considering whether or not you have the resources to pursue a Schedules contract, and the time to both market and compete for business once you have a contract, you must complete a number of registrations and certifications before responding to a solicitation. Complete these administrative steps now, so you will be prepared to complete the solicitation process later.
With the exception of the Past Performance Evaluation, the following registrations are free. A DUNS number is a prerequisite for any other registrations.
- DUNS – The nine-digit Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS), managed by Dun & Bradstreet, is a widely accepted, unique identifier for companies around the world.
- SAM – All records from the Central Contractor Registration (CCR)/FedReg and Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA) and exclusion records from EPLS, active or expired, were moved to the System for Award Management (SAM). CCR collects, validates, stores, and disseminates data in support of agency acquisition missions. Vendors should remember to update their registration annually. ORCA offers a consolidated certification process to be applied to all Schedules solicitations and federal contracts. Vendors must update information annually to make sure it is complete and accurate, especially regarding size status.
- Past Performance Evaluation – Open Ratings, a Dun & Bradstreet company, surveys past customers in order to assess a company’s work performance. Your company must register and provide the names and email addresses of six to 20 of your customers. This service has a fee.
In addition, your company may be qualified to pursue special government programs designed to benefit socioeconomic businesses. Learn more at Small Business Goals and from GSA’s Office of Small Business Utilization. Some programs require an additional certification from the Small Business Administration from the Veterans’ Administration for Veteran-owned small businesses and service-disabled Veteran-owned small businesses.
As a general note it is important for companies to recognize the FAR was amended (through Interim Rule 2012-013) to prohibit the award of contracts using Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 appropriated funds to any Inverted Domestic Corporation (IDC). While this currently is limited to FY 12, a similar restriction applied to several preceding years and may apply also to future FYs. An IDC is a corporation that used to be incorporated in the United States, or used to be a partnership in the United States, but now is incorporated in a foreign country, or is a subsidiary whose parent corporation is incorporated in a foreign country.
Although this does not affect the process of awarding GSA Schedule contracts since it is funded utilizing non-appropriated monies, it does impact the subsequent placement of orders by customer Federal agencies since they often use appropriated funds. The ultimate implication for an IDC pursing a Schedule contract is the IDC may invest time and administrative resources to obtain a Schedule contract but receive no task or delivery order business.
Next Steps: Responding to a Solicitation
Your firm has completed the vendor toolbox training and decided which GSA Schedule contract is the best fit, and preliminary registrations have been completed. Now you can dedicate the required time and resources to respond to a GSA solicitation.