GSA schedules, also referred to as the Federal Supply Schedules (FSS) or Multiple Award Schedules (MAS), are lists of prequalified suppliers in their respective areas of discipline, who will have submitted their price lists and other qualifying information to the government in the form of a GSA proposal. GSA vets companies to provide to the rest of the government a wholesale supply source for millions of products, services, and solutions. According to BGov analysts, as of 2011, roughly 7 percent of all government contracting is done through GSA schedules.
GSA includes a Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) and the Public Buildings Service (PBS). Basically, any company in good standing, registered as a government contractor, can apply to obtain a GSA schedule.
You need to know as a business developer that it is not always advisableto get a GSA schedule, nor is it required to sell to the government, contrary to what many unscrupulous businesses around government contracting might tell you.
According to GSA’s own statistics, less than half of GSA schedule holders get anything out of their schedule, and 5 percent of the GSA schedule contractors win 80 percent of all business.
If you work for one of those 5-percenters, or fully intend to use your schedule to the max and will dedicate ample resources to business development, our kudos to you. But for the rest, it is usually not a worthwhile endeavor. It takes about six to nine months to apply to get a schedule, it is valid for five years, and you can extend it for three years up to three times. You also need to make at least $25,000 in the first two years using the schedule to keep it, and continue making at least $25,000 annually thereafter.
Approximately 60 percent of GSA schedule holders don’t meet the minimum sales requirements to keep the schedule.
Having a schedule makes it easier for some government customers to award a contract to you. Remember, you are already prequalified as a good vendor, so all the government needs is to receive a quote (a shorter proposal) from you and two other companies to award a contract. You will, of course, need to offer a deep discount from the price list you have provided to the government initially.
Do not waste time and money getting a GSA schedule, however, if your target government buyers prefer to award contracts through other mechanisms and don’t use GSA schedules.
The GSA maintains a useful and informative web site, GSA.gov, that will tell you much of what you need to know about the schedules. You can even look up your competitors there, but be aware that their pricing will not be what they actually offer to the customer. They will issue discounts of 10-25 percent or more.