The GSA Schedule Acquisition Process From Start to Finish
GSA Schedule | 10 Min Read
The process of acquiring a General Services Administration (GSA) Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) contract can be an intimidating one and, like anyone setting out on a new journey, you probably have a lot of questions, such as:
- Where do I even begin?
- How do I prepare a GSA Schedule offer?
- What happens after I submit my GSA Schedule offer?
- What happens once I’m awarded a GSA Schedule contract?
As GSA Schedule consultants, we know the process can be lengthy and involved, but one thing we know for sure is that it’s important to make sure your company is prepared.
Before you start preparing your GSA MAS offer, you’ll want to understand all the requirements. You should also conduct some research on becoming a GSA Schedule contractor to make sure you understand the GSA MAS program and ensure it’s right for your company.
In this blog, we’ll help you understand what the process looks like from the initial steps before you prepare an offer to post-award of your GSA Schedule contract, so you know exactly what you’re getting into.
Before You Prepare a GSA MAS Offer
There are several steps you’ll need to take before you begin preparing your MAS offer to send to GSA. The first thing you need to do is ensure your company is eligible to submit an offer to GSA.
Once you have determined you are able to sell to the government through a GSA Schedule, the next step you’ll want to take is to make sure your company is registered in the System for Award Management (SAM). Once you register in SAM, you will receive a Unique Entity ID (UEI) which you will need to present in various documentation.
Next, if you are planning on offering products, you’ll need to make sure everything is compliant with the Trade Agreements Act (TAA).
It’s also important to determine where your products or services fit under the GSA MAS structure. GSA uses Special Item Numbers (SINs) to categorize all the products and services available on the Schedules program.
SINs are roughly analogous to North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, but there are important differences, and you need to ensure you are proposing everything under the correct SINs.
Preparing the GSA MAS Offer
Once you have completed the initial steps, you must compile your MAS offer, which will be rigorously reviewed by a GSA Contracting Officer (CO). It's important to make sure everything in the offer is right the first time, as the CO will take a while to review it, and any mistakes or questions will only delay award.
Egregious errors may lead to outright rejection. While you can resubmit your offer at any time, you will now need to disclose to GSA the reasons it was rejected the first time, and you will need to repeat GSA’s long review process, delaying your eventual award by months at the very least.
The offer consists of three sections, the administrative, technical, and pricing sections, which we are going to review one at a time, as they are quite extensive.
The administrative section includes mostly background information and certifications that GSA requires from your organization. Notable pieces of the administrative section include:
- Cover Letter – lists out everything included in the offer
- Pathways to Success and Readiness Assessment – You must confirm that you have read and completed both of these trainings. They are set up to help you understand how a GSA Schedule works and what is involved in becoming a GSA contractor.
- Agent Authorization Letter – required if you are utilizing any consultant on the offer. This allows the consultant to be present in negotiations and submit the offer on your behalf.
- Financials – you must provide your Income Statement and Balance Sheet from the last 2 years or a suitable alternative if your company is less than 2 years old and qualifies for the Startup Springboard Program. GSA reviews these documents to ensure the offeror is financially stable, and any negative balances must be explained in an additional narrative.
- Certificate of Registration in the System for Award Management – you must be registered in the SAM to be awarded a GSA contract. It’s important to ensure the NAICS codes listed in your SAM registration match the SINs you are pursuing. It’s also vital that the legal name and organization size you represent to GSA in the offer match your SAM registration.
- Small Business Subcontracting Plan – if you are considered an “Other than Small Business,” you must submit a Small Business Subcontracting Plan detailing your goals for subcontracting to small businesses and how you will meet those goals.
- Letters of Supply – if you are providing products you do not manufacture and you are not on the Verified Products Portal (VPP), you must provide a Letter of Supply from the manufacturers of each product you are proposing to provide.
Once you have established you are a legitimate business and understand all the rules, you will need to establish you are able to provide the goods or services you are offering to the government through the technical section. This section is a bit more extensive, and some SINs will have additional requirements within the technical section.
One example is the cloud services SIN, which requires you to include a narrative explaining why the software or services you are providing are cloud-based.
Notable pieces of the technical section include:
- Corporate Experience Narrative – You must provide a narrative description of your experience in the field. You are required to have 2 or more years of corporate experience unless you qualify for the Springboard Program, which was recently expanded to all Large Categories.
- Past Performance – If you are planning on offering services, you must have a track record of good performance proven in one of two ways:
- CPARS Reports – If you have worked with the government before and you have at least three reports available in the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS), you may submit these reports as evidence of good Past Performance. These reports must be on orders completed within the last three years, on three distinct contracts/orders, and the work performed must be similar in scope to the products/services being proposed for the MAS contract.
- References – If you do not have CPARS reports, you may provide GSA with three past performance references and have them fill out the GSA’s past performance questionnaire. Again, these must be three distinct references, completed within the last three years, and in similar scope to solutions being proposed.
- Relevant Project Experience – You must submit a narrative demonstrating relevant project experience for each SIN you are proposing. This consists of a copy of the project’s fully executed Statement of Work, information on the project and the client it was completed for, and a narrative describing the project. If one project includes relevant work for more than one SIN, it may be used for all of them, but a different description must still be provided for each.
Now that GSA has determined you know what you’re doing and that you’re able to provide a legitimate product or service, it’s time to figure out what prices you are planning on offering them. This is where the pricing section comes in.
It’s important to note that this section is actually a proposal rather than set in stone. You are telling GSA the prices you are proposing, and the actual prices will be determined later in negotiations prior to award. For this reason, Winvale typically advises proposing the higher prices in the initial offer, with the expectation that GSA will negotiate them down prior to award.
Notable pieces of the pricing proposal include:
- Commercial Pricelist/Internal Market Rate Sheet –You must provide the prices you typically charge commercially. This typically takes the form of either a commercial pricelist, or an internal market rate sheet (if your prices are based on market rates rather than a defined pricelist).
- Commercial Sales Practices – To determine what discount you should provide GSA, you must give GSA information on your Commercial Sales Practices and determine your Most Favored Customer (MFC) if you are NOT opting into Transactional Data Reporting (TDR).
- Price Proposal List – This is the backbone of the pricing section, it collates all the information we have previously gathered, and provides it in one easy place for GSA. You can find the updated template GSA requires on their page on available offerings and requirements. The list includes every product or service the offeror is proposing, which SIN they are associated with, their unit of issue (each, by foot, per hour, etc.), all the information included in the description document, commercial price, MFC discount and price, proposed GSA discount and price, any volume discounts being proposed, and a reference to the associated pricing support for each line item.
MAS Offer Review
Once all three sections of the offer are completed and finalized, they are submitted through GSA’s eOffer system for review. You will shortly receive a welcome letter from GSA, giving you some basic information on what to expect moving forward.
Within a month, you should be assigned a Contracting Officer (CO), who will review your offer and work with you toward eventual award. The CO will review most of the offer for completeness and correctness, but some sections, like the financials and subcontracting plan, are reviewed by other departments within GSA.
It can take some time for the CO and other departments to work through the offer, as they have many other offers to review in addition to already awarded contracts they work with.
If the CO or another reviewing department has any questions on the offer or wants anything changed, they will request clarifications. These can be very wide ranging and may apply to any part of the order. They may cover something as simple as correcting a typo or providing a missing signature, but they can also be as complex as providing GSA with an explanation about your financials, or providing more detailed descriptions for your products or services.
As long as you work with your CO and provide the information and corrections they need in a timely manner, these should not be too challenging.
Once all clarifications are settled, the CO will schedule a time for negotiations. In this stage, you will determine your final GSA pricing terms. GSA Contracting Officers have an obligation to ensure “Fair and Reasonable pricing,” and they will base this determination on a number of factors.
If they believe your pricing is fair and reasonable as is, they may agree to your initially proposed terms, or look to get a slightly higher discount, or even a considerably higher discount. It’s important to remember that this is a negotiation, not simply the CO dictating what your pricing will be, so it can go back and forth several times.
Your GSA Schedule Contract Award
Once negotiations are complete and the final terms and conditions are agreed, GSA will provide you with a Final Proposal Revision (FPR), which lists out all the agreed-upon terms and conditions.
You should review this to ensure everything is correct, then sign and return. Once the CO countersigns, you have your contract.
Make sure you keep your FPR, it’s important to be able to refer to it if there is any confusion over what your original award terms were in the future.
Post GSA Schedule Contract Award
Congratulations--now that you have your GSA MAS contract, you can just sit back, relax, and the orders will come flying in, right? I’m afraid it’s not quite that simple.
You also need to be sure to maintain your contract, keeping it current and compliant by keeping up track of mass modifications, and submitting your own modifications whenever you need to add, modify, or delete something on the contract.
We know we just packed your brain with a lot of information, and while you hopefully have a much better understanding of the GSA Schedule acquisition process, it’s completely natural to still feel overwhelmed.
If you want more details and information on the GSA Schedule acquisition process, you can download our whitepaper below.
Of course, you don’t need to go through the offer, post award, or any part of your contract period alone. Winvale’s expert consultants are here to help you with all your questions.