A GSA Schedule contract is often the first step that a company looking to get into the federal marketplace will take to establish itself as a valued government partner and increase its footprint in the public sector. Contractors can sell just about anything through the GSA Schedules program, making it appealing to a variety of industries. Contractors may sell everything from building supplies, furniture and medical tools to cloud services, cyber security and cutting-edge information technology (IT). Contractors may also sell their services including professional, technical and consulting services. Having a GSA Schedule contract awarded can be mutually beneficial for both a company’s growth and the government’s ability to acquire a high volume of high-quality, low-cost goods and services.
While the advantages are clear, it is important to understand the process of obtaining a GSA Schedule before determining if it is right for your business. GSA will only award contracts to companies they deem as suitable industry partners, and there are specific requirements for eligibility. In order to qualify to apply for a GSA Schedule contract, companies are required to be in business for at least two (2) years and show revenue of at least $25,000 per year. The reasoning behind this is that the two primary determinations that GSA will make when reviewing a company’s proposal are overall financial fitness and performance capability. GSA looks at companies’ past performance as well as their ability to perform tasks/fulfill orders that will be required once the contract is awarded. However, if you are an IT small business, you may be eligible for the IT Schedule 70 Springboard Program. With the rapid emergence of new technologies, GSA wants to get the latest technology to federal agencies quicker. This program allows companies with less than two (2) years of experience to submit proposals for a GSA Schedule.
The GSA Schedule is designed to correspond directly with a company’s commercial sales practices. For this reason, potential contractors are required to prove that the products or services they propose to sell on the GSA Schedule have been sold to their commercial customers. This helps GSA determine fair and reasonable pricing and ensures that companies are able to provide the proposed products and services. Invoices, pricing proposals or other forms of pricing support are required to submit with an offer to prove a company’s commercial prices.
Companies that sell products must also ensure that they are compliant with the Trade Agreement Act. Items sold through the GSA Schedule must either be manufactured in a TAA compliant country, or the final product must be substantially transformed in the United States or another TAA compliant country. Lastly, potential contractors are required to have a Dun & Bradstreet (DUNS) Number and an active SAM.gov registration. While these preliminary requirements can be easily overlooked, they are immensely important to review before diving in to the process of submitting a GSA proposal.
The next step in preparing a GSA Schedule proposal is determining where your company may fit in the scope of the entire program. IT services providers, law enforcement and security solutions firms, and many more types of businesses each have a place in the Schedules program. There are 20 different Schedules in the GSA MAS program, which create a general categorization of products or services that can be sold through the GSA Schedule. Once a company has determined the Schedule they will pursue, a further scope determination will need to be performed. After a Schedule is selected, the next step is to determine the Special Item Numbers (SIN) that your products or services fit under. Each Schedule has a variety of SINs that further specify the product/ service offering. For example, Schedule IT 70 includes SINs such as Cloud Computing Services (132-40), Health IT Services (132-56) and IT Professional Services (132-51) among many others. Each schedule has a set number of these designations that contractors will need to review and assign to their product/service offering.
Once a scope review is complete and a company has determined where their offering best fits within the Schedules program, the next step is the creation of the proposal. The proposal is separated out into three main sections – administrative, technical and pricing. Each of these sections has its own specific requirements based on the Schedule and SINs that the company will be offering. The requirements for each Schedule can be found on FedBizOpps.gov via the GSA eLibrary website. It is important to thoroughly review the Solicitation documents of the desired Schedule before submitting a GSA proposal. These Schedule-specific solicitations will outline the necessary documents for submission, guidelines for the technical review, and other specific review requirements as they pertain to the Schedule.
The total proposal that is to be submitted is very extensive and requires a large number of documents including examples of past performance of the type of work described in the solicitation, pricing justification, commercial sales practice disclosures, pricing support and more. The sheer size of the proposal can be intimidating, and many wonder how long it will take to complete from initiation to submission and from submission to award.
Unfortunately, there isn't an exact time frame that can be given for either. The time it takes to prepare an offer is dependent on the company’s knowledge of the process, time and resources available and accessibility to necessary documentation. Getting on a GSA schedule is a complex process that requires documenting, pulling, and preparing large amounts of information in a precise GSA-specific way. This includes prerequisite registrations (such as the System for Award Management registration), administrative company information, past performance reports, customer reviews/ratings, and more. If attempting this process on your own, it is wise to budget about a year.
It also depends on what type of Schedule you are seeking obtain. Some schedules, such as Schedule 56 (Building Materials) or 00CORP (Professional Services Schedule) could take a year from submission to the actual award. On the other hand, IT Schedule 70 typically runs on a more expedited schedule, sometimes taking only three months from submission to award.
Once submitted, the proposal will undergo a preliminary review and could be chosen for a financial review, where GSA digs deeper into a companies’ financial stability. A contracting officer will be assigned to review the proposal and can either reject the proposal for insufficiencies or request further clarifications. Once the contracting officer has received all clarifications, he or she will initiate negotiations to request GSA discounts such as a higher standard GSA discount, quantity/volume discounts or prompt payment discounts. Upon completion of negotiations, potential contractors are asked to draft a Final Proposal Revision with all the agreed upon terms and conditions of the contract, sign and return to the contracting officer. Once this has been completed, the contracting officer will sign and award the contract.
Once a GSA Schedule contract is awarded, the contractor will gain access to a variety of resources that will help grow the public sector portion of the business. In addition to being visible on websites such as GSA eLibrary and GSA Advantage, approved contractors will have access to GSA-specific Requests for Proposal (RFPs) and Requests for Quotes (RFQs). Due to the streamlined nature of the program and ease of use for government buyers, over $33 billion annually flows through GSA exclusive contracts with industry partners. In order to be eligible to receive any portion of those opportunities, a contract proposal will have to be submitted and reviewed by a GSA Contracting Officer before award. GSA Contracting Officers review every company’s proposal in extreme detail before awarding the contract to assure that all information provided is current, accurate, and complete. Preparing and submitting a finely polished proposal to GSA shows a company’s responsibility and fitness to enter into and perform work through the GSA Schedule.