The vast majority of businesses on the Multiple Award Schedules (MAS), commonly known as Schedules are small businesses. MAS offers are accepted continuously, which allows you to enter the market when you feel you are prepared. That's the good news.
The challenging news? Getting on Schedule simply qualifies you to sell to the federal government agencies. Period. It is not a contract or a marketing plan. By being qualified to sell on Schedule, you receive exposure, through System for Award Management (SAM) and GSA Advantage!®, to federal acquisition professionals looking to buy. However, it does not mean that your products and services will always be what they want to buy. You must still market yourself and be competitive in order to receive possible orders against your Schedule contract.
Assess Your Readiness
How do you know if Schedules are right for you? How much time will it take? What are the resources required?
Fortunately GSA has developed the Vendor Toolbox, which is a collection of resources that will ultimately help you decide if getting a GSA Schedule contract is in your best interest, or right at this time. The Toolbox contains educational information that includes online training, links to vital acquisition websites, and tips for success in the federal market. You can access the Vendor Toolbox through our Vendor Support Center.
The Vendor Toolbox outlines important questions to answer before preparing a solicitation response:
- Fit: Do the products and/or services you offer fit the descriptions within a Schedules solicitation? The GSA Schedules Solicitations page contains a complete listing of GSA Schedules. Clicking on the Schedule number will take you to GSA eLibrary, where you can link to each Schedule's current solicitation on Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps). The eLibrary facilitates searches for Special Item Numbers (SINs), which are groupings of similar products, services, and solutions. Note: Certain products and services such as construction and architecture are not covered by Schedules.
- Price: Can you compete with current contractors on GSA Schedules? Review price lists in GSA Advantage! to complete a price comparison for similar products and/or services.
- Time: Do you have the time and resources to dedicate towards responding to a Schedules solicitation, administering the contract, and marketing to the ordering activities? Getting on Schedule is just the beginning - - you must also have the staff and capability to manage and market your business with a Schedule contract.
Prospective vendors should conduct market research to determine what comparable products and/or services are provided to the government market. Sites such as FedBizOpps, Federal Procurement Data System, and Schedules Sales Query, allow you to answer the following:
- Which federal agencies have purchased my product or service in the past?
- Where are those agencies located?
- What was the price of those sales?
- What are the buying trends and forecasted sales for my product or service?
First Steps: Find the Right Solicitation
After your company has decided to pursue a Schedules contract, you must first find the correct Schedules solicitation for your offerings. Review the information at the GSA Schedules Solicitations page. This provides a brief description of the acquisition centers and the specific GSA Schedules they handle, and include links to GSA eLibrary and to FedBizOpps.
GSA eLibrary is the online source for GSA and VA Federal Supply Schedule award information, and includes descriptions of each Schedules’ Special Item Numbers (SINs). At FedBizOpps you can search all active federal opportunities and download the solicitation files and instructions related to pursuing a particular contract.
Get Registered and Certified
After carefully considering whether or not you have the resources to pursue a Schedules contract, and the time to both market and compete for business once you have a contract, you must complete a number of registrations and certifications before responding to a solicitation. Complete these administrative steps now, so you will be prepared to complete the solicitation process later.
With the exception of the Past Performance Evaluation, the following registrations are free:
- DUNS – The nine-digit Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS), managed by Dun & Bradstreet, is a widely accepted, unique identifier for companies around the world. A DUNS number is a prerequisite for any other registrations.
- SAM – Vendors must update information annually to make sure it is complete and accurate, especially regarding business size status, in order to do business with the government.
- Past Performance Evaluation – Open Ratings, a Dun & Bradstreet company, surveys past customers in order to assess a company’s work performance. Your company must register and provide the names and email addresses of 6 to 25 of your customers. This service does have a fee.
In addition, your company may be qualified to pursue special socioeconomic government programs designed to benefit small and disadvantaged businesses. Some programs are self-certifying while others require an additional certification from the Small Business Administration and/or from the Veterans’ Administration for Veteran-owned small businesses and service-disabled Veteran-owned small businesses.
It may take significant time for these agencies to process required socioeconomic certifications. We urge you to begin the application process as soon as you decide to pursue government business, whether it is for getting on Schedule, subcontracting, or another vehicle. A correct designation can help you make yourself more attractive to certain customers.