Step-by-Step Guide for Multiple Award Schedules
The six steps in this guide will, among other things, help you determine the correct MAS Schedule and the correct Special Item Number (SIN), evaluate the competition's products and pricing, assess market potential, prepare a solicitation package, and handle negotiations with a GSA Contracting Officer. The end goal is that you "get on schedule" and receive that much-sought-after "GSA Contract" or "GSA Number," which many businesses work very hard to obtain.
Step 1: Determine which GSA Schedule and which Special Item Number(s) [SIN(s)] apply to your company's product(s) and/or service(s). These are the numbers you will use throughout the application process and in dealing with GSA.
Note 1: There are more than 40 Schedules currently available through the MAS program. (See this GSA site for the complete Schedule List. Use the search command to find a brief description of the products and/or services that each Schedule covers.)
Note 2: There is a rule that may affect the GSA Schedule you choose. A contractor has to have sales of at least $25,000 in the first 24 months and for 12 months each following year or that GSA contract will be canceled.
- Go to the GSA Schedules e-Library and enter a keyword that best describes your company's product/service in the space under the word "Search". Then click the Search button. The search results will include a listing of the relative Schedule number(s) and the Special Item Number(s) (SIN) that best matches your keyword.
- Read the category description next to the SIN number and determine whether this SIN category is a good match for your product/service. If not, start a new search with a different keyword.
- Watch for the "Introduction of New Products" SIN categories, which could appear on most of the MAS Schedules.
- After finding a match on a SIN category, click on the highlighted SIN number itself. You will get a listing of all current contractors for that category, their contract number, phone number, business indicators (large, small, woman-owned, disadvantaged, 8(a), veteran ownership, etc.), and details about their GSA Advantage! status. You will also get contact information, including web site, phone, and email address.
- Review this information to learn details about possible GSA competitors.
- Print and save this information for later research on awards.
- Save the name, phone number, and e-mail address of the GSA Schedule contact person, which appears at the top of the first page. You may need answers to questions as you go through the process.
- Jot down your SIN number and the Schedule number that corresponds with your desired SIN category (such as 75 Office Products/Services Schedule; or 03FAC Facilities Maintenance and Management Schedule). You will need your SIN and Schedule numbers later in this process.
Step 2: Determine whether your product or service is currently required to be purchased/contracted with so called "mandated" sources, such as the Federal Prison Industry or UNICOR, the National Institute of the Blind (NIB), or the National Industries for the Severely Handicapped (NISH).
It is difficult to win a GSA contract for products that GSA determines would compete with these mandatory product suppliers.
- Go to the GSA Advantage! website.
- Go to "Advanced Search."
- Enter a product keyword, click in the box next to UNICOR Mandatory Items, and click FIND IT.
- Go BACK and repeat the process using the box next to NIB/NISH/JWOD.
- If your product(s) does appear as a mandatory source item, further research is needed before proceeding. Do the following for each product shown as a Strategic Sourcing Item:
- Click on the highlighted UNICOR name button. This leads to its home page, which details its program, rules, and products.
- Click on the highlighted NIB/NISH/JWOD name button. This leads to its home page, which details its program, rules, and products.
- For either UNICOR or NIB/NISH/JWOD, contact the Schedule point of contact person listed in the GSA e-library research from Step 1. That person can advise you on whether to proceed with your own GSA solicitation or whether your product is too similar to a Strategic Sourcing Item.
Step 3: Research your competition. Your competitors are those contractors that already have a GSA contract for the SIN category(ies) you are considering for your own product/service. There are two parts to this research. Both parts should be done for each prospective SIN category.
Part 1 -- Determine who your competition is, including company name, GSA-offered products, and prices for those products.
- Go to the GSA Library. Enter the first SIN number you are considering in the search line at the top of the page to determine which companies already have a GSA contract. The results are a listing of all current GSA contractors, their GSA contract numbers, phone numbers, and business size standards. Also listed is a column called "View Catalog," which indicates the contractor's GSA Advantage! status. It will show the Advantage! symbol or be blank. Note: GSA Advantage! is the site where government employees do their product research and online purchasing.
- Click on View Catalog for each contractor. The results will take you directly to the GSA Advantage! web site listing for that contractor's products. The listing will show all of the contractor's products, item descriptions (including part numbers), and GSA contract prices. Note: In the case of services, pricing details may not be listed, so look under the column Contract Terms & Conditions.
- Review this information to determine how your products compare to those already available.
- Consider whether your company's prices for similar products are competitive with those currently available on that MAS Schedule.
- While viewing a GSA contractor's product, notice the two lines under each product listing; one lists the product's manufacturer and the other lists the product's contractor (the GSA contract holder). This information will tell you whether the contractor is a dealer or the manufacturer of the product. Note: In some cases, a contractor is a dealer for multiple manufacturers.
Part 2: In Part 1 of your research, you learned which possible competitors are currently on GSA Schedule, which products they offer, whether they are a dealer or the manufacturer, and their product prices. But there is more to learn about your potential competitors and the SIN(s) categories to help you determine your market potential. In order to determine this, your research in Part 2 is based on actual past sales from the GSA Schedules.
All GSA contractors are required to report on a quarterly basis their actual GSA sales. This reporting process is known as the "72A Quarterly Reporting." This data becomes part of the Schedule Sales Query (SSQ) Report that you will access in Part 2 of your competition research. The SSQ is the sales reported by contractors for specific report quarters from the current to the past five years.
The 72A Reports are GSA's way of determining the 0.75 percent Industrial Funding Fee (IFF) that all contractors must pay to GSA on a quarterly basis. (For more on the IFF, see Step 6.)
Note: Some contractors show $0 reported sales. There are two possible explanations for this: (1) they had $0 sales to report or (2) the contractor was only recently awarded its GSA contract, and enough time has not passed to file a 72A Quarterly Report.
To determine when a company was issued its GSA contract number: Go to the GSA e-library web site, enter the contractor's name in the search line, and click Search. Click on the highlighted contractor's name. The results will provide useful research information, such as the contract number, contract end date, all contracted SIN(s) and GSA Advantage status, and the contractor's web site and e-mail address. Remember to subtract five years from the listed contract end date shown to get the actual GSA contract award (start) date (all MAS contracts are awarded for five years).
- Your research in Part 2 is based on actual past sales from the GSA Schedules. At this site, there are 11 report formats to choose from. Some formats indicate sales by quarter, while others are for yearly totals. More options include reports by specific SIN, Schedule, and contractor name or contract number.
- Use SSQ Report format 7 (Total by Quarter & SIN by Contract Number and Fiscal Year) to find each contractor's actual sales by SIN number on a quarterly basis. You will need the information you printed and saved in Step 1 of your research to look up each contractor by its contract number.
- Next use SSQ Report format 8 (Total for Each Quarter for a Specific SIN by Fiscal Year) to get the grand total of each SIN category by quarter. There are two things to look for here: (1) whether one contractor is getting the majority of the awards, and (2) whether the overall award amount for that SIN category is on the low side. If either of these is true, you might want to re-evaluate the idea of getting your own GSA contract for your products that fall within that SIN category. Another issue to consider if overall award amount is low: if, say, eight contractors shared only $20,000 worth of sales during the past year in one SIN category and if you add your company's product to that SIN category, will you fare any better or make the awards be larger?
Step 4: Locate the Schedule solicitation you have determined is best suited to your company's product(s)/service(s) and download all appropriate documents. The actual Schedule solicitations are updated at irregular intervals. In some cases the updates are known as "refreshed." In the case of refresh, they are numbered such as Refresh Number 5; always locate the solicitation with the most current "refresh" number.
Go to the site where solicitations are located at FedBizOpps:
- Click on "Advanced Search" at the top-left of the page and click GO to get to the Find Business Opportunities page
- In the "Full Text Search" space, enter the Schedule number (generally 2 or 3 digits). Then scroll down to "Search by Agency," highlight "General Services Administration," and click the "Start Search" button at the bottom of the page. The results will be a list of active GSA postings with that Schedule number. Note: You can enter the full solicitation number in the "Search by Solicitation."
- View each synopsis and determine the correct solicitation. Often there is more than just the solicitation listed, there may be modifications and/or amendment documents. It is important to know whether there are additional documents.
- Download ALL documents, including the solicitation, any modifications, etc. Expect it to be many pages. Example: For the popular Schedule 084, be sure to download the appropriate attachment (there are over 16 different ones) for your product in addition to the basic solicitation document itself.
- Click on the "Register to Receive Notification" line at the bottom of the solicitation announcement page and provide an e-mail address. This is a subscription to a mailing list for all future modifications or refreshed announcements for that solicitation.
Step 5: Complete the solicitation package. Now that you know which MAS Schedule fits your product/service line and have downloaded all necessary documents, it's time to complete the solicitation package.
- Remove cover pages. The first pages of a solicitation are the cover pages. They contain general information and notices of significant changes made to the solicitation since its last "refresh." These notices are informational and should be removed prior to submission of the solicitation package to GSA.
- Sign SF 1449. The first page of the actual solicitation is the Standard Form 1449 Solicitation/Contract, also known as the SF-1449 order for commercial items. Only complete blocks 12, 17b and 30a, b, c. The SF-1449 must be signed by someone able to bind the company into a legal contract with GSA.
- Read, understand and complete basic solicitation. All clauses that require responses must be completed; if they aren't, GSA will return your solicitation package as incomplete. Take the time to read the entire document, paragraph by paragraph, so everything is understood. Contact the POC (point of contact) with any questions or concerns you might have. An e-mail and phone number for the POC is listed on the cover page.
- Include pricelist and catalog/brochure. An important document in the solicitation process is your commercial pricelist. Two copies of your dated commercial pricelist and catalog/brochure containing the products you plan to offer must be submitted with your offer. There are several acceptable forms of pricelists, including published or printed, computer-generated, and copies of internal pricelists. In the catalog/brochure and your pricelist, you must mark the Special Item Number (SIN) next to ALL the products/services you are "offering." All the other products/services must be lined or marked out and the word "excluded" written next to those items not being offered. Do not supply a pricelist just for the GSA items; the Contracting Officer needs to see your actual commercial pricelist, not one that was specially designed just for GSA purposes. Note: If you are a dealer or distributor, a copy of your manufacturer's pricelist must be submitted along with a letter on the manufacturer's letterhead stating it authorizes you, the dealer, to sell to GSA and that it, the manufacturer, will provide all the necessary inventory to support the dealer's GSA sales for the term of the contract.
- Complete the Commercial Sales Practice Form (CSP-1). The CSP-1 form is a crucial part of any MAS solicitation. There are instructions on how to complete this form in the solicitation. In this form, you must state "whether the discounts and concessions which are being offered to the Government are equal to, or better than, the offeror's best price (discount and concessions in any combination) to any customer acquiring the same items offered under the SIN regardless of quantity or terms and conditions."
- If the answer is "yes," you must complete the chart for customer(s) who receive your best discount.
- If the answer is "no," you must complete the chart for all customers or categories of customers to which you sell at a price that is equal to or better than the prices being offered to the government. You must include an explanation of the situations that led to deviations from your standard practice.
- If the Contracting Officer is unable to determine that the prices offered are fair and reasonable because the deviations from your written policies or standard commercial sales practices are so significant, then the Contracting Officer may ask you to provide additional information. This may include copies of current company invoices to your "most favored customer" (MFC).
- Fill-in the Representations and Certifications. The Reps & Certs portion of the solicitation must be read and the appropriate boxes filled in. These cover such things as business size standards, small or large business, woman-owned, veteran-owned, etc. Also, register at orca.bpn.gov for your ORCA application.
- Include additional documents and data. There may be additional data or documents that need to be sent with the solicitation package. Carefully read all the paperwork (clauses) and follow directions to the letter since each MAS Schedule is different. (This gets back to our 3 Rs for success as a government contractor: Read, Read, Read.) For example, product warranty documentation may be requested. Here are some other common items that you need to include or consider:
- Products from designated countries only (not China, India or Pakistan)
- Registration in Central Contractor Registration (CCR Registration)
- A valid DUNS number
- Acceptance of credit cards as a form of payment
- A submitted VETS-100 form to the Department of Labor
Step 6: Negotiate with the GSA Contracting Officer and finally "get on schedule." Remember that the main reason for negotiations is to resolve major differences between the prospective contractor's proposal and the GSA's main negotiation objective: to always obtain the best price. Here are some tips for successful negotiations:
- You do not have to give in on all factors recommended by the Contracting Officer. You do have rights, and it is not worth losing money just to get a GSA Contract.
- A common point of negotiation is what is referred to as the "prompt payment discount." Do not feel pressured to give a discount in this area; stay with net 30 days.
- At the end of negotiations, the Contracting Officer may request a solicitation/proposal revision from you. The revision is GSA's way to confirm all the terms and conditions that you and the Contracting Officer agreed upon.
- If you are offering your best price and it is equal to or better than that of your best customer or group of customers, then you do not need to do better.
- Be aware of the 0.75 percent Industrial Funding Fee (IFF) that comes out of your product/service prices each quarter, so include this 0.75 percent in your GSA price.
- (f) Be sure of the shipping points and FOB points when negotiating. If the GSA Schedule Solicitation calls for FOB Destination, then you have to pay freight. Add the freight cost to your product prices if the solicitation calls for FOB destination pricing.
- Often the Contracting Officer will try to get quantity discounts. If your standard policy has been not to give these discounts, then decline this suggestion.
- GSA may want on-site warranty repair anywhere in the country. Watch out for such provisions; they can be costly.
- Generally provide domestic delivery only, not international.
For information on what to do once you get that award, see guidelines for marketing a GSA Schedule contract.