How Government Agencies Buy From GSA Schedules
Government Business Development | 6 Min Read
Government agencies use contract vehicles like the GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) Program to purchase many of the products and services they need from commercial customers. The GSA Schedules Program provides over 11 million products and services to federal, state, and local government buyers, and is often the preferred contract vehicle for government agencies. This is because GSA has simplified the acquisition process to make purchasing of products and services as smooth and efficient as possible.
But how exactly do government customers buy from GSA Schedules? As a current or prospective contractor, it’s important you not only understand how to become a contractor, maintain your GSA Schedule, and market your solutions, but you should also know how government buyers purchase from your GSA Schedule contract. We are going to cover a few of the main ways government buyers find and order products and services, and post upcoming opportunities for contractors to bid on.
GSA Schedule Purchasing Procedures: FAR 8.4
The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 8.4 outlines the purchasing procedures through the GSA MAS Program. These procedures are more streamlined than purchasing from other contract vehicles or the open market, which makes it more enticing to the government.
Through FAR 8.4, GSA is able to create online procurement programs that allow government agencies to quickly and efficiently purchase products and services. On these sites, contractors can post their awarded and approved pricelist, products, and services online for easy access. The main websites that are used for this function are GSA Advantage!, GSA eBuy, and GSA eLibrary. We’ll go into each of these sites below.
One of the main ways government buyers can purchase products is through GSA Advantage!. GSA Advantage! is often considered the “Amazon” of the federal government. GSA Advantage! is an online shopping and ordering system that provides government agencies access to contractors who sell their products through the GSA Schedules Program. Government agencies are able to search for your items by using keywords, part numbers, your contractor name, or your GSA contract number, to name a few.
Beyond giving both government agencies and GSA Schedule contractors an easy way to post and search for products, GSA Advantage! also allows government buyers to directly purchase your products online where they can review and track their orders from contractors.
While GSA Advantage! can be very beneficial, it’s pertinent for GSA Schedule contractors to continually keep their GSA Advantage! listing up-to-date with what is commercially available. While maintaining your GSA Schedule contract, updating prices, what products or services are available, or any other terms and conditions of your contract, you need to ensure that GSA Advantage! is also simultaneously updated. You’ll want to read up on GSA Advantage! best practices to ensure you are making the most of this site.
Another online buying tool that contractors can utilize is GSA eBuy. GSA eBuy is used as a Request for Quote (RFQ) and Request for Proposal (RFP) tool. EBuy is designed to facilitate the request for submission of quotes for a variety of commercial products and services. Government buyers often prefer to use this site to fulfill their quoting requirement, so it's an important site to get familiar with.
Anyone with a GSA Schedule can access eBuy and bid on RFQs and RFPs using their awarded contracts. State and local government entities can also use eBuy to post RFQs and RFPs for GSA Schedule supplies and services under the Cooperative Purchasing Program and the Disaster Recovery Purchasing Program.
EBuy maximizes the buying power for government agencies. By leveraging the power of the purchasing through the internet, eBuy increases contractor participation to obtain quotations that result in best value purchase decisions. Government agencies can also select certain contractors when they submit an RFQ or RFP, so you may receive requests within the system. Even if you don’t receive a request, you are encouraged to go after opportunities that apply to you. You can only see opportunities related to the Special Item Numbers (SINs) you sell under, so a lot of them will be relevant.
GSA eLibrary is a directory of all the GSA Schedule contractors. It also lists all the Large Categories and SINs available through the GSA MAS Program. GSA eLibrary contains contractor award information such as the contract number, contract terms and conditions, the primary Point of Contact, contact information, and any special business designations. It also provides easy links to a contractor’s catalog on GSA Advantage! organized by SIN.
Government agencies can use this site to learn more about a contractor and if their solutions fit their needs. If they choose to buy, they can reach the contractor’s POC directly or order through the GSA Advantage! link. Since GSA eLibrary is considered the main directory for contractor information, you should always keep this site updated with your current information.
Types of Government Buyers
As mentioned above, federal, state, and local government agencies can purchase from GSA Schedules. There are some stipulations on when state and local agencies can purchase products and services, however. For example, state and local entities including tribal governments and public education institutions can order off GSA Schedules through the Cooperative Purchasing Program, the Disaster Purchasing Program, and the 1122 Program. More examples of these programs and when state and local governments can use the GSA Schedules Program can be found on GSA's website.
For federal buyers, there are 2 main types of buyers: Government Purchase Card Holders and Contracting Officers. We'll cover each one below.
As expected, Contracting Officers must follow FAR 8.4 buying procedures when placing orders against the GSA MAS Program. There is also a set of ordering procedures that must be followed. For example, if a statement of work isn't needed, then the following procedures must be followed.
For contracts that exceed the Simplified Acquisition Threshold (SAT), government agencies must:
- Develop a Request for Quote (RFQ)
- Receive 3 or more quotes through GSA eBuy
- Seek price reduction
- Cannot place orders orally
- Make a "Best Value" determination
For contracts within the Micro-Purchase Threshold (MPT), government agencies must:
- Survey 3 or more contractors
- Determine if a price reduction is needed
- Make a "Best Value" Determination
The guidelines are a little more involved if a Statement of Work (SOW) is required. More information about ordering procedures by Contracting Officers can be found in GSA's Contracting Officer Guidance.
Government Purchase Cards
Government Purchase Cards (GPCs) make it much simpler for federal, state, and local agencies to purchase from GSA Schedule contractors through one of the sites mentioned above. All GSA Schedule contractors are required to accept the Government Purchase Card for purchases up to the Micro-Purchase Threshold (MPT) and are encouraged to do so for purchases over it. Most purchases with a GPC will be under the MPT, but some agencies have limits that go above it.
GSA makes buying with the purchase card easy and efficient, utilizing modern tools to help facilitate market research and connect you instantly with contractors that can meet your needs. They reduce the administrative burden that comes along with buying products and services, and allow agencies to conduct “on the spot” purchasing. You can find more information on Government Purchase Cards and how they are used in the government marketplace in GSA's Purchase Card Holders Guidance.
Selling to the Government
GSA has created several online tools and websites for government agencies to purchase necessary products and services. The list above doesn’t cover every way a government buyer can purchase from a Schedule, but provides the main ways GSA contractors need to be aware of.
As a GSA contractor, you should learn how to take advantage of these procurement sites. GSA may give you easy access to these sites, but it’s not always easy to properly maintain and keep up with them. If you want to learn more about how to market your GSA Schedule, you can check out these resources:
If you’re still unsure whether you are utilizing your GSA Schedule contract to the fullest extent, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our consultants.