If you want to win government contracts, you must be on the General Services Administration contract, some people might say. They might say getting on "the GSA" will shorten your sales cycle and grow your government sales pipeline.
Well, they might be wrong!
Now, don't get us wrong. To be successful in winning government contracts, you must figure out ways to make it as easy as possible for the government to buy from you (and not your competitors). Being on the GSA "schedule" is certainly one approach. In its most fundamental form, it's a pre-negotiation of, what the government calls, "fair and reasonable" pricing. It often keeps the government from shopping around, and going out to bid with a government RFP. In addition to the the federal government, the GSA is often used by state and local governments to help facilitate their procurements.
Those are but some some of the upsides.
On the other hand, it's a real hassle to get on the GSA contract (although the GSA would probably argue otherwise) and it doesn't happen quickly (an understatement). I recommend hiring a government contracting consultant to help you. (Um, not this one; not my specialty, but I know some good ones.)
Secondly, getting on the GSA contract will affect pricing throughout your company. You see, you are guaranteeing the government that they're getting the best price. And, if you sell for less to, say, your commercial customers, you could get into trouble with the government. In fact, they'll audit you to find out. Again, get a good government contracting consultant to help you figure this out.
Then, managing your GSA contract is an ongoing process, particularly as you offer new things and adjust your pricing.
These are just a few of the pros and cons. Let's assume for now that you've decided that being on the GSA contract is not for you. Then, what? Must you give up on trying to win government contracts.
There may be other contracts or buying arrangements that will work just as well for you, not tie your hands as much and be easier to access. What's the best way to find out what they may be? Your government contracting consultant might be able to help, but I tell my clients to talk with their prospects. Find out which purchasing vehicles they like to use. Do this early in the process, otherwise you won't be able to do much about it.
Here's another good route for sales acceleration through contracts: Partner with someone who is already on a contract that might work. Then, work on convincing them that your product or services fit their contract. Show them there will be enough contracting volume to make it worth their while. Talk with them, and find out if they have objectives other than sales volume to make the contract worth their while. One of my best partnering experiences was with a company that would sell millions of dollars of services just because our product, which costs thousands, was in place. So, you can bet they placed us on their contracts and turned out to be an excellent partner, even though they were a very large company and we weren't.
Finally, don't even consider getting on GSA (or any other contract) as your "contracting strategy". You simply won't make contracting arrangements and start seeing orders magically come in. You still have to make your value proposition case to the right people at the right time. The contract vehicles should only be part of the overall strategy.
Build relationships. Establish trust. Listen. Present strong value propositions. Nurture you relationships. And, listen to our podcast, Myths of Selling to Government or read out book, Seven Myths of Selling to Government: Secrets for Success in Government Sales Today.