Use of GSA Schedules for Selling Services

GSA schedules are very powerful tools for selling services. In recently adding services to the list of available GSA schedules, the federal government recognized the reality of how services are purchased. Labor rates in the commercial marketplace are, among other factors further discussed below, related to staff experience requirements and the resumes of specific staff members proposed for a project. As a result, the government recognized that it is unproductive and ultimately difficult for a federal end user to try to determine whether a senior management consultant with specific experience related to the project at hand is worth $80 or $85 per hour.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the hourly rate attributed to a particular consultant or employee is not only based on that consultant's experience but also the qualifications of that consultant's company and the past performance of the company. With all of the foregoing considerations in mind, the federal government decided to accept reality and allow service vendors to get their service rates pre-approved. Approved schedule service rates are based on the labor rates a company charges its commercial customers. In essence, the federal government has decided that it will allow the commercial marketplace to drive the service rates into a reasonable range. In allowing GSA schedules for services, the government has achieved the goal of procurement policy - it has simplified and sped up the procurement process which ultimately results in savings to the taxpayers.

The question to be asked is whether the pre-selling of services to federal end users gives preference to the most aggressive and experienced vendors? The answer is a resounding "yes," but one must keep in mind that every vendor has an equal opportunity to make a sales call. Pre-selling recognizes the reality of what has to be done to sell complex service-based solutions (and those involving complex products as well).

In summary, the keys are as follows:

  • The federal government must provide open access to all vendors.
  • End users need to meet with vendors to understand what the vendors have to offer. Networking with the end user is essential to winning business. Solutions and purchases are based on user requirements and these requirements cannot be understood merely by reading a vendor's specification.
  • End users are buying a company's experience and the experience of key staff members. Face-to-face relationship building is therefore essential in the services market.
  • Vendors need to understand how services are bought. Vendors must personally meet the end users and explain the services they offer. Once a relationship is built with the end user, use a GSA schedule to close the deal quickly with minimal, if any, competition.
  • GSA schedules for services offer vendors the opportunity to obtain pre-approved labor rates and open access for the sale of your services. It isn't difficult to ascertain why vendors and end users increasingly use GSA schedules for the purchase and sale of services.

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