A Talk with Jennifer Schaus: GSA Schedule – What to Know Before Applying

Jun 25, 2024

Navigating the complexities of the GSA Schedule can be daunting for businesses looking to expand their reach within federal markets. To shed light on this topic, we had the pleasure of speaking with Jennifer Schaus, an expert in government contracting. Jennifer brings a wealth of knowledge from her extensive experience and provides invaluable insights. In this interview, we delve into who should or shouldn’t apply, the agencies that utilize the GSA Schedule the most, and effective strategies for marketing your GSA Schedule.

Interview

Thanks for joining us today, Jennifer. First question: From your experience, which types of companies really thrive on the GSA Schedule? We know that many struggle with it.

Jennifer:

Thank you for inviting me to participate in this forum. I appreciate the opportunity and hope your audience can learn a few things to make more informed decisions about their strategies in the federal sector.

To answer this question, let’s start with raw data and then expand. There are about 18,000 companies that hold the GSA Schedule, and 60% of them have ZERO sales (through their Schedule.) Keep in mind they may be doing plenty of business on other contract vehicles or in other procurement avenues. So, a small percentage of companies do the bulk of the business. These select few tend to be large businesses (as defined by SBA). It would behoove anyone to conduct market research on this, specific to your solution/s. The data is publicly available.

It is important to note that the companies that thrive have made the decision to get onto the GSA Schedule because they conducted research and had conversations to ensure that GSA is how their clients prefer to purchase. They conducted market research to ensure their prices would be competitive with other GSA vendors. They had a sales pipeline and communications with prospects, who again preferred to use the Schedule. It’s that simple. Use the data to make decisions.

Makes sense. It’s also about if your target agencies actually use the Schedule or not. In your opinion, which federal agencies rely most heavily on the GSA Schedule, and what makes it so essential for them?

Jennifer:

To answer this, I am going to revert back to using the raw data that is publicly available in this market and suggest that vendors be very specific about the opportunities they are pursuing. Just because the overall Department or Agency shows a high volume of GSA Schedule purchases does not imply this is a good strategy for your business. Vendors must drill down to understand better if the government client is purchasing their specific solution (categorized by SINs – Special Item Numbers). The data is out there. Use it. And use it to make specific decisions about how to spend your time, efforts – and, ultimately, money. For reference, and no surprise, the GSA data mirrors overall federal spending, with DOD, HHS, and DOE coming in as the top spenders. It’s more complex than searching on this one data point.

Right. Speaking of getting agencies to notice you – marketing is always a big challenge. What strategies have you seen work best for companies to get the most out of their GSA Schedule?

Jennifer:

First and foremost, you must be a credible company with a credible solution. Understand your customers, their needs, the organizational environment, how they prefer to purchase, etc. Use this data to make your business and offering attractive and customized, if possible, to meet the customer’s needs. It’s reverse engineering to back into the solution your customer needs. That is how they will notice you. You paid attention, did your research, and then took action. I can go into the weeds with this one on tips and suggestions to showcase your firm professionally to give the government confidence in working with you. There is no silver bullet, but rather several steps vendors can take to ensure success. Let me give you an analogy – it’s the difference between the white tablecloth restaurant and the one with wobbly and dirty tables.

Another question – we’ve seen some companies face hurdles during the application process. What are the most common pitfalls that you’ve seen companies suffer from, and how can businesses avoid them?

Jennifer:

Premature execution of getting onto GSA and unrealistic expectations are the biggest problems when discussing GSA Schedules. Aside from those major pieces, pricing is the biggest focus and component of the Schedule. It’s the most important section to get right so that the Schedule is not a liability for you but rather an asset. Presenting your pricing in a competitive and compliant manner – especially for vendors who do not have a pricing process in place can be a hurdle. Vendors need to understand the proposal requirements, disclosures, and post-award pricing impact of having a Schedule.

Thanks for the insights. Last question – post-award compliance can be a bit of a maze. What steps should companies take to ensure they stay compliant with GSA Schedule requirements?

Jennifer:

Companies already doing business with the US Federal Government are best suited for the Schedule because they will typically have a compliance program or back office reporting function in place. New entrants to the market most likely do not fully understand the requirements or have these processes as part of their business operations.

There are several pieces to the GSA post-award function. Best practices include setting up a post-award compliance matrix with designated functions for team members. This should cover everything from reporting the IFF payment to accepting the MAS Mods and updates with new Refreshes, ensuring that internal processes are intact, and not violating any pricing conditions set with GSA. Pricing should be reviewed regularly. All of this will also ensure a smooth GSA audit, should one occur, as well as renewals, customer-assisted visits (CAVs), overall compliance with your contract, and a better relationship with your GSA Contracting Officer. This is not just signing up for a contract vehicle and sailing off into the sunset with a pot of gold. Having a formal process in place will ensure the best success.

Thanks for those insights, Jennifer. We hope our readers have gained a deeper understanding of the GSA Schedule and are better equipped to decide if it’s the right path for their business. We look forward to seeing more businesses succeed in the federal marketplace with the right guidance and support.

Jennifer Schaus is at the helm of JSchaus & Associates in downtown Washington, DC. The consulting practice helps companies navigate the federal market through market analysis reports, business development, and proposal writing services. Jennifer and her team have educated thousands via their complimentary YouTube channel, which has almost a thousand videos on federal contracting. Additionally, Jennifer is a recognized speaker who frequently shares her insights on government procurement topics.

For businesses navigating the GSA MAS Schedule, iQuasar offers comprehensive support services, from application to post-award compliance. Our experienced team ensures a streamlined process and a high success rate, helping you unlock new opportunities in the federal market. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you in achieving your goals with the GSA MAS Schedule.

 

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