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Is A GSA Schedule For You? How to Tell

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A General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule contract isn’t part of every company’s federal success strategy. Yes, it’s a popular kind of contract. It’s essential for some companies selling certain products or services to specific buyers. But the effort to get one also takes big upfront resources of time or money, usually both.
Related: What’s A GSA Schedule Contract?

A Case In Point: Information Technology Schedule Contracts
In 2016, the Federal government awarded $14.75 billion in business through “IT 70” — predecessor to its current GSA Schedule for information technology.  4,924 firms offered their solutions through that contract.

(To give you some idea of how that demand has exploded, in 2024, GSA had awarded a total of 9,571 schedule contracts spanning 19 different categories for IT products and services. In just one category, IT Professional Services 5415S, in April of 2024, 4,985 vendors held a GSA Schedule contract)

In 2016, of those:

  • The top 100 – just over 2% of awardees – won a whopping 66%, clocking in at $9.7 B.
  • And 3,213  other firms – 67% of awardees – shared the remaining 35%, just $4.8 B.

Doesn’t add up, you say? Indeed it does not. Because 1,611 firms–32% of all awardees–sold $0. 

And that number gets bigger every year.

If they had just sold nothing, that would be bad enough. Here’s what these numbers don’t tell you: how much they spent just to have the privilege of winning nothing whatsoever. Each of those nearly 3,000 companies probably spent:

  • Anywhere from $5,000 to over $30,000 in consulting and legal fees or the equivalent of internal sweat equity and six months to a year of elapsed time to prepare and negotiate its offer
  • Anywhere from $30,000 to $200,000 in marketing and sales staff
  • Well over $50,000 in specialized marketing activities for federal government niche, from websites, trade shows, conferences, meetings, and memberships.

So if you’re going to pursue a GSA Schedule and commit serious resources, you want to be sure you’re going to get a return on your investment! Here are some things to think about before you jump in.

A GSA number is NOT a seal of approval
While the contract negotiations include a review of your past performance and your company’s financial stability, a GSA Schedule Contract is not an endorsement of your product or your company.
It does mean that GSA believes it has reviewed your track record, your financial stability, and negotiated a fair price and fair terms and conditions under which you can offer something useful to the government.
Many buyers and partners perceive GSA Schedule Contract holders more positively than those without one – not least because the federal government considers your business to have enough financial and operational viability to be a potential supplier.

Think about getting your own GSA Schedule if: 

  • Serious prospects are asking, “Are you on GSA?”
  • Your competitors are on GSA and you’re losing to them because buyers strongly prefer to use the Schedule.
  • You are willing to invest time and money to learn how it schedules work, and what marketing techniques are effective, and then hire experienced help while you learn to do it.
  • You sell products or services to the commercial market and can show a minimum of 2 years’ worth of corporate financial records, preferably audited ones, to GSA.
  • The prime contractors you want to work with require it for teaming.
  • After factoring in the cost of getting and administering your own GSA contract, you would end up with more profit on your GSA sales than you would earn on those same sales after the margin you surrender as a subcontractor to the primes or partners.

Don’t rush to get a Schedule if:

  • Your prospects can and will use other contract vehicles – whether to you directly or via a subcontract to someone else.
  • You lack resources for proposal development, negotiation, administration, and marketing of your schedule contract.
  • You can spare the margin to sell through a channel partner’s schedule while you build volume and credibility.
  • Your usual order size for products is under $10,000. If so, buyers can use micro-purchase procedures – they don’t even need to complete the purchase – and SmartPay (the government credit card).
  • You don’t expect to win business worth at least $25,000 via this contract within 24 months of contract award. If you don’t sell at least that much, GSA can cancel your contract, or decline to renew it.

Concerned about your GSA Schedule? There’s hope!

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