Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules

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Change is in the Air

in Federal Business News, Federal Contracting, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules, News by David Lowe Leave a comment

January 15th Dan Tangherlini announced that he will be leaving GSA effective February 13, 2014. Denise Turner Roth will assume the responsibility of Acting Administrator as President Obama works to fill the position permanently.

What can we learn from this change?

Exactly that, change is inevitable and we have to learn to live with it. When I saw this I remembered a comment from a former federal CIO (for the life of me I cannot remember his name)

    Ignore change and Die
    Accept change and Survive
    Embrace change and Thrive

There are many changes coming for GSA schedule holders including new FSSI initiatives, professional services combined schedules and even some schedules slated to be dissolved altogether.

Leveraging Change

Anytime there is a change in the internal structure of an organization there are new opportunities created. Think about it… If you have a relationship with Dan Tangherlini and he leaves, that is a problem for you because you will be losing a key relationship. If you didn’t have a relationship with Dan Tangherlini, now you may have a way to develop a relationship with Denise Turner Roth, who will likely stay for several years even if she is not considered for the permanent position.

Planning for Change

Your federal strategy should include developing and nurturing relationships throughout the food chain. This will inevitably establish key areas of influence as lower level folks accept promotions and move up the chain of decision-making. Think about the people who already know Denise Turner Roth… They are now in a great position and have political cover as they pursue larger federal contracts with GSA and other agencies.Join me on January 20th at 11am where I will be hosting the “Drive GSA Sales” webinar series. The topic for 2015 is Disrupting the Current Pattern of Purchasing. Register here: Drive GSA Sales 2015

Chinese-made Products and GSA

in Business Development, Federal Contracting, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules by Jamey Zell Leave a comment

Trade with ChinaGo to any Walmart, Costco, Best Buy or any major retail seller and you are going to find products made in China. Low manufacturing and labor costs: it’s simply cheaper to have goods produced there and then shipped all over the world. Many companies have gone to China as the best way to maintain their profitability, or in some cases even just survive against their competitors.

I spoke with a business owner providing finished steel products and who did the transition to China a few years ago. He said he didn’t want to shutdown his U.S. factory but he had to because of labor costs to keep his company in business. He said despite the costs of loading huge heavy steel cargo onto oceangoing ships and shipping it all the way USA, it was still far cheaper than running his factory in the States and it was what he had to do.

So it’s the way of the modern world market to use China as a major supply source.

How does this affect companies who want to sell their products made in China in to the federal government through GSA’s acquisition path?

Here’s the scoop: China is not a TAA compliant country so if you make a finished product that comes from China, like a flashlight or a hand tool, and want to sell it to the government through GSA…you can’t do that. Another thing you can’t do is take a finished product made in China, ship it to USA, put it in a new package or box of some sort, and sell it to the government. GSA simply doesn’t allow that.

So what’s the work around to get past this trip wire?

There are two solutions:

1You can take a series of parts made in China that on their own are not the final product, assemble those parts here in the United States or in a TAA compliant country and then the magic happens: Substantial Transformation.

Substantial transformation is the key to be able to sell China made products to the federal government through GSA and be completely compliant. A good example of this is Dell Computers. They take a series of parts that don’t function on their own and assemble those parts in the U.S. into a finished, working computer. At that point the computer they have created is classified as a US-made end product and can be sold to the federal government through GSA with no problem.

Dell_wiki

Dell: Manufactured in China, Made in USA

There are many other examples of substantial transformation and those companies enjoy sales through GSA while maintaining good margin and still be in compliance. To get those products on your GSA Schedule, we still have to prove the elements of substantial transformation to the Procurement Officer (PCO) at GSA.  That is usually pretty easy to do as long as substantial transformation is really happening. The companies we have had trouble with are the ones who want to take a finished product, put it in a new box, slap on instructions or warnings about use, and try to call that substantial transformation.

Many companies have slightly shifted “how” they build their products to be able to get them on their GSA Schedules. For example, still want to sell those flashlights I mentioned earlier? Have the core components made in China but shipped to the U.S. for assembly and packaging, and in doing so you can achieve a genuinely substantial transformation: from batteries, diodes and what have you into a real, working, light-emitting device. Getting a little creative and adjusting your production methods can be a good way to get your products that started in China onto your GSA Schedule and be sold in compliance with good profit margins.

2Or, you can have lower production and assembly costs and still be able to sell your products on GSA buy looking to and embracing Taiwan. In August of 2009 Taiwan became TAA compliant. That was huge news in the industry and, as opposed to China, many companies prefer to have their products made and assembled in Taiwan. Taiwan has similar costs for production and assembly labor like China–but TAA compliance means the need to prove substantial transformation doesn’t exist and Taiwan made products can be easily sold on GSA.

Taiwan becoming TAA compliant has been a huge plus in lower cost manufacturing and a great alternate path rather than use China.

Which other countries are TAA compliant?

To check out that list, head to this page and click the TAA button to see a world map of who else you can work with for lower manufacturing and assembly costs.

TAA Compliance and What it Means for Your Federal Business

in Bidding Basics, Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Contracting, Federal FAQs, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules by isiFederal Web Admin Leave a comment

What is TAA?

TAA refers to the Trade Agreements Act of 1979, which impacts how the United States government does business with other countries–in effect, it actually implements provisions previously negotiated in the Trade Act of 1974.

What is the purpose of TAA?

Besides its most obvious purpose (implementation of the Trade Act) TAA is also intended to nurture free and open international trade, maintain a healthy balance of payments, ensure a substantial amount of US tax payers’ money goes back into the US economy thus providing the maximum benefit to US business owners, and stimulate economic development in underdeveloped countries, all while enforcing the standards that make it possible to do business with the federal government.

Which countries are TAA compliant?

Broadly, there are four types of countries on the TAA compliance list:

  • Countries with a free trade agreement with the United States (this includes Canada, Mexico, and Australia)
  • World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement (WTO GPA) participants, such as Japan
  • Least Developed Countries such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh
  • Countries in the Caribbean basin
On a map, here’s what it looks like:

TAA Global Map

TAA Global Map

As of 2014, there are 119 TAA compliant countries:

List of TAA Compliant Countries (2014)

TAA Compliance Country Chart (2014)

Why should I bother with TAA compliance?

A GSA schedule is the government’s preferred procurement vehicle, and being TAA compliant means you can focus on growing your business at home and abroad without worrying about losing that. It’s also a good way to ensure you still give back to country even as you explore new horizons!

Already TAA compliant? Get a GSA schedule!

How to Get Just About ANYONE to Refer You

in Federal Contracting, Federal FAQs, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules, Reaching Your Buyers by David Lowe Leave a comment

Depending on the culture of an organization, some people will never give out any names. You probably already know this and you probably already know how difficult it can make things, especially when you’re just starting out.

Manufacturing referrals is a process you can use, no matter what your business is, to get to who you really need to reach. Now, this is not universal but I would like to suggest that you can get a referral from just about everyone if you keep a couple of things in mind:

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GSA by the Numbers

in Federal Contracting, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules by David Lowe 1 Comment

The 2013 GSA sales numbers were finally released in late December.  After hovering around the $38B, GSA sales have declined below the $35B mark.  The fact is, GSA sales have been declining for the past 3 years and are expected to continue declining due to several areas that affect the federal marketplace.

Certainly the federal budgeting and sequestration mess affects spending but more importantly to your federal market and GSA is the development and utilization of large IDIQ’s, BPA’s and other GWAC’s executed without GSA involvement.  While agencies have always had BPA’s (Blanket Purchase Agreements) and IDIQ’s (Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity) to facilitate repetitive purchases the real explosion goes back to NMCI, a multi-billion dollar contract for managing desktops in the Navy and Marines.

Another component to consider are GWAC’s (Government-Wide Acquisition Contract) like NASA SEWP that has grown to $2.5 Billion annually and is often utilized ahead of schedule 70 in many civilian agencies.  Other contract vehicles like NMCI (Navy Marine Corps Intranet) managing more than 363,000 computers and Army CHESS (Computer Hardware Enterprise Software and Solutions) which is mandated by the Army as first priority for all IT purchases and Seaport-e the Navy’s attempt at CHESS bite into GSA schedule 70 potential market and contribute to the decline in overall revenues.
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Why 80% of GSA Schedule Holders Fail

in Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Contracting, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules, Reaching Your Buyers by David Lowe 1 Comment

I recently sent out an update from a Driving GSA Sales webinar session and I received a response from a gentleman that makes sense to share with everyone.  Here was my update and the ensuing response…

Hey Everyone,

Normally I don’t send out recaps for our Driving GSA Sales Series but since we maxed out the webinar yesterday, I wanted to make sure that everyone had access to the presentation and link to the video (see below). With FY2013 closing out, federal spending is red hot with opportunities really breaking loose at a record pace- but not for everyone…

Did you know that 80% of GSA schedule holders are in the process of failing right now? Yesterday we took a look at how to change that by getting in front of the right people and getting your message across with procurement briefings. Again, sorry if you were not able to log on, please make sure you are registered Driving GSA Sales 2013 and get there EARLY next month as we will be in the throws of the final spending madness. Also, if you have any topics that you would like to cover in 2014, please let me know so we can keep the series fresh…

Thanks!
-Dave

Dave,

I am curious, where do you get your information from ? Your statement, “ 80% of GSA Schedule Holders are in the process of failing” ….

That seems like an extremely high amount – how are they failing? Why are they failing?

-Patrick

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GSA OASIS Roundtable

in Federal Contracting, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules by David Lowe Leave a comment

 

Friday March 29th 2013, GSA released the much anticipated OASIS (One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services) Draft RFP.  The files can be downloaded directly from FBO:

OASIS_RFI Full and Open w/50% Small Business Comittment

OASIS_SB_RFI 100% Small Business Set-Aside

Response Date:  Apr 29, 2013 11:59 pm Eastern

Thursday 4/11 at 1PM EST there will be a roundtable session to develop industry comments that are due by 4/29.  This contract will be segmented into “pools” responses graded on core disciplines (functional areas).  Some of these requirements are pretty challenging for small businesses but that doesn’t mean shy away, it means make sure you have your ducks in a row and you respond professionally and meet all the mandatory requirements. 

Join the panel of leading proposal development, capture management and federal sales experts as they:

1) Market potential by pool
2) Review the core requirements of each pool
3) Discuss qualifications necessary to compete for your pool
4) Identify key areas of concern
5) Develop your proactive proposal response strategy

Determine how you can best compete for this opportunity and how you can best position your company.

 

Register-Now.gif

 

GSA is looking for comments on Green Building Certifications

in Federal Contracting, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules by David Lowe Leave a comment

For those who are in the Green Business… The GSA is looking for comments on Green Building Certifications. Here is the link:

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/02/05/2013-02408/sequence-24-findings-of-the-eisa-436h-ad-hoc-review-group-on-green-building-certification-systems?goback=%2Egmp_2669591%2Egde_2669591_member_222434245 , on the right side of the page there is a “Submit a Formal Comment” button.

Green initiatives cover just about every area of federal government and almost any technology or service can apply to green solutions if you position them correctly. Certifications like this are often used to help minimize the competition by requiring them in the SOW. We will likely discuss this next Tuesday when I host the Driving GSA Sales webinar. Here is a link for that too: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/697858502

3 Ways to Leverage Sequestration

in Developing Your Federal Strategy, Federal Contracting, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules, Reaching Your Buyers, Understanding Your Market by David Lowe Leave a comment

Unless you are living under a rather large rock, you have been pummeled with sequestration hype. Here is the thing… The Federal government is not closing down and even with cuts, this coming summer and especially September will likely be a record setting months for GSA sales. Why? Think about it. Say they need to cut 5% of their budget… They have been holding back spending for the past 5 months and likely to hold for a couple more. 8 months of no spending means when May and June agencies are going to start realizing they have some catching up to do.

You CAN maximize your exposure right now…

1) Find and pursue new buyers. There are 85,000 buyers within 492 federal agencies. Chances are the ones that buy what you sell are currently piling up requirements waiting for money. Why not take this opportunity to identify and introduce your company to them? Here is a video and links on how we do it.

Marketing Essentials Video

Federal Marketing Essentials – SAMPLE

STEALTH Tactical Intelligence – SAMPLE EXCEL

2) Do a Marketing Makeover. Start with your capabilities by creating a tight, easy to read one pager. Then, update your website to include a federal landing page so you can direct people right to your federal information (including your schedule).

3) Update your GSA offerings on GSAadvantage. Most GSA schedule holders put stuff on GSA and just leave it there. Make sure you have the right new products and services listed so they can find you when they are ready to buy.

Remember, September is coming and so is a windfall of spending. People buy from people they like. They can’t like you if they don’t know you. Dedicate resources for going after some of the most important people in your federal market. Chances are your competition is not being proactive so this can be a huge competitive advantage for you

The Right Message

in Federal Contracting, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules, Reaching Your Buyers by David Lowe 1 Comment

The message that sells, specifically – your message that sells – needs to be formulated around your customer. This is critical because a lot of buyers, especially contracting officers really don’t care how good you are at what you do. A key way to get your message across is in your capabilities statements.

I recommend two, customizable capabilities:

1) 1 page with bullet points. This doesn’t have to be sexy, it needs to be functional. Make sure all off your contact AND contract information is on there. 3 bullet points that will resonate with that agency (look at their initiatives and your competitor’s info).

Sample Federal Capabilities

2) A multiple pager with past performance and sample SOW’s. Do this right and your communication may turn into a completely baked (that means your words copied and pasted into an RFP) opportunity.

Do this right and you will win. Do it wrong and you will waste a ton of money and time plus your competition will be banking your tax money. Now, if that doesn’t motivate you…

The Psychology of the Federal Sale

in Federal Contracting, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules, Reaching Your Buyers, Understanding Your Market by David Lowe Leave a comment

The Psychology of the Federal Sale

Every single thing you do is advancing (or not advancing) a sale. Maybe it is selling the meeting, a follow-up or your actual product or service. The important thing to know is where you are relative to your buyer’s buying motives.

Think about the federal buyer for a moment… What are some of the stereotypes that come to mind? Write them down and you have a great foundation of the make-up of a federal buyer and what they need from you…

If you are a typical business person frustrated with government bureaucracy and inefficiency, did you know that you probably are projecting those negative thoughts in your phone conversations and maybe even in person?

How? We as humans “can’t not” project these things subconsciously because we believe them. That is why we need to be careful about our belief structures and what we are projecting. In fact, if we understand what makes the federal buyers buy, then we can project the solutions to that and they will receive these positive reinforcements to their buying motives- and it all happens subconsciously.

Hard to believe right? Well think about this for a moment… How is it that you and your best friend can finish each other’s sentences, move the same way, act the same way without any scripting? It all revolves around rapport and rapport starts, or doesn’t start within milliseconds of meeting or talking with someone. You know it happens because sometimes you just “click” and other times you can’t seem to generate a connection.

Now, when it comes to federal buyers, there are two important components to understand. First, where are you right now, and second where are they and what are their buying motives.  Federal buyers are not complicated, they are just like you – they want things to be easy.  That doesn’t mean they don’t work, they just don’t want to have to do extra work to buy from you.  So, if you can help them trim the work load, you are golden!

3 Golden Nuggets

Provide them with sample scopes of work that they can use in their next procurement.   Provide them with Sample Standard form 1445 filled out with the appropriate boxes filled, ready to go with item descriptions and all.

Provide them with your certifications- especially the ones that help them like small business, 8(a) and SDVOSB.

If you get into their world and understand what they do, you can positively change your belief structure and become more aligned with them – generating real rapport.

Drive GSA Sales

in Federal Contracting, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules by isiFederal Leave a comment

Dave Lowe, CEO of isiFederal is guest host for the September Drive GSA Sales webinar series. This series shows how GSA Schedule holders can effectively market their schedules by understanding their market, identifying buyers and proactively marketing to them.

This month’s topics:

  • Everyday Marketing Materials
  • Capabilities Statements
  • Business Cards
  • e-mail Signatures
  • Websites

This webinar is hosted every 3rd Tuesday. To register for future sessions click https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/697858502

GSA Schedule Development

in Federal Contracting, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules by isiFederal Leave a comment

Doing business with the federal government requires a contract vehicle. There are many types of federal contracting vehicles for may purposes. For examples of different types of vehicles, visit our friends at SAIC.

GSA (General Services Administration) assists with procurement work for other government agencies. As part of this effort, it maintains the large GSA Schedule, which other agencies can use to buy goods and services. The GSA Schedule can be thought of as a collection of pre-negotiated contracts. Procurement managers from government agencies can view these agreements and make purchases from the GSA Schedule knowing that all legal obligations have been taken care of by GSA. This makes purchasing easier for contracting officers and is in line with the streamlining efforts put forth by the Whitehouse.

Schedule development is a time consuming task. Visit GSA for more information. The concept behind the GSA schedule is to find products and services, negotiate best pricing and provide the resource to “customers” (agencies) in the federal government.

isiFederal will assist you in developing your schedule and more importantly, negotiating with GSA to maximize your profitability. Click to download a list of GSA Schedules.

This process takes approximately 6 months to accomplish and we guarantee to work until you get on a schedule. Pricing for schedule development varies by product and service offerings. While the GSA schedule development is part of the isiFederal Turn-Key Business Development process, at the minimum we recommend that you perform a primary cometitive analysis before entering into the GSA process to get an understanding of which of your competitors is winning and why.

Happy New Year!!!

in Federal Business News, Federal Contracting, Getting (and Keeping) GSA Schedules, Reaching Your Buyers by isiFederal Leave a comment

And it is indeed a happy new year for federal contractors who were positioned to pounce on “Use it or Lose it” spending. While weexecuted a last minute proposal for $525k that was chump change in the grand scheme of things.

In fact, 49,199 contracts were awarded in the last 10 days for $6,452,379,288.03 and we still have until 11:59pm. With an average of $131,148.59 per contract, there more than are a few party poppers going off right now. The best part is many of these contracts are only partially funded, that means even more funds coming on these fine wins over the next few months.

FY2011 is looking like another banner year for federal contracting with significant opportunity in construction, facilities management, Information Technology, cloud computing and security. Other areas that will be gaining steam are telecom, furniture and supply.

Hot Initiatives for 2011

Green- LEEDs certification, energy savings and alternative energy sources will be huge in 2011. Read GSA announcement here. If you haven’t embraced green technologies, you had better get on board. Make sure your GSA schedule is up to date with new technologies.

Emergency Response- With the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 approaching, hurricanes, blizzards and earthquakes, emergency response and preparation will be a key focus of expenditures in 2011. Make sure you have registered with FEMA’s contracting registry, click here https://www.fema.gov/doing-business-fema.

In-sourcing- The pendulum has swung firmly into government labor growth. That means anything to do with people in buildings is growing. Staffing agencies, furniture, phones, computers, software, security and office supplies are going to increase significantly in 2011.

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