COMMENTARY

10 tips to cracking GSA's Top 100

Advice on how to the sales and marketing techniques that can generate more business

We all know the GSA schedule. It is one of the most visible barometers of success in the government market, a kind of “who’s who” when it comes to identifying top B2G companies.

Several years back, Richard Mackey of CapitalReps began including the Top 100 Schedule 70 vendors in his newsletter around this time every year. I started using this in my articles, then in seminars and speeches around the country. I focused on what these companies did that others didn’t do.

There is, of course, a big reason to pay attention to the Top 100 – they take more than 60 percent of the Schedule 70 dollars – leaving the other 5,000 or so vendors with less than 40 percent.

So pay attention! While there are no guarantees that doing these things will catapult you to the top, I can guarantee that if you don’t do them you will remain well outside the Top 100.

So here is the short list of things you need to do to move up the GSA schedule food chain. Some of them may be obvious to you; others will not. It is also not a comprehensive list – so feel free to comment at the end of this article with your favorite tactic.

  • Know how the agency buys. Many federal agencies have preferred contractual vehicle – agency-specific contracts, established blanket purchase agreements, or other governmentwide acquisition contracts. If they use the schedule, lead with that. If they use SEWP, find a way to get on SEWP. If you don’t have the right vehicle, move on.
  • In a four-CD set I produced with B2G sales guru Max Peterson, Max emphasizes several things, among them “know your client." By this he means more than just the name – know the agency, the mission, the budget, the spending priority, and understand how you can help. The more you know about them, the more receptive they will be to listening to you. Once you have a foothold in an agency, grow the agency business. Account execs have to develop relationships with key people in the agency. Your reps must have defined accounts, and they have to learn everything they can about the office and agency they to which they sell.
  • Match your products and services to the audience, then offer information on the products and services in many ways. Among those are white papers (an oldie but still good), podcasts (think of these as audio white papers), topic-specific webinars, etc.
  • Monitor your competitors. Use “Google Alerts” and stay current on what your top competitors are doing. Use the Schedule Sales Query tool at http://ssq.gsa.gov to determine the rank of the Top 100, and especially those companies that compete directly with you.
  • Have a library of product/service and rep PDF files. With every inquiry you receive, you should be able to direct the inquirer to a PDF for their agency/office rep and the product they are asking about. Don’t e-mail them to the inquirer, as attachments often trigger spam filters, but make certain your e-response includes the links to everything they need.
  • Exhibit at agency specific events, the often derided tabletops. Most of the Top 100 are regulars at these and other events. Face-to-face works, and sales occur at these events.
  • The Top 100 companies often get outside training for their sales reps and provide sales tools to their sales, marketing and BD staff.
  • The top 25 make certain that marketing and sales are closely aligned. I advised CDW-G for three years, during which time I worked with the talented Ann Marie Clark. She had marketing people at every sales meeting, and the results were great.
  • If you are a reseller, work as closely as possible with the manufacturer. And if you are a manufacturer, work closely with your reseller. Leverage the channel to your advantage, Bob Gosselin of EMC demonstrated this to me years ago when he helped CompUSA ramp up government sales.
  • Don’t be complacent. Scott Orbach of EZGSA always says don’t wait for the phone to ring.

    Mark Amtower is a leading B2G consultant and a regular contributor to www.WashingtonTechnology.com. Contact him at Mark@FederalDirect.net.

About the Author

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn.

Reader Comments

Thu, Feb 25, 2010 Anjali

I agree - the article gives generic advice for sales in any arena - certainly nothing GSA specific. For small business contractors the main challenge is to get to know the right prime-contractor and where the projects are. The GSA eBuy and INPUT type of data bases are so cumbersome Im not sure if those vehicles work. And how do you get to know the Agency ? Just start calling them ? Likely they wont take your calls unless you are IBM or someone who already has a huge installed base in the Government.

Thu, Feb 25, 2010

"...the Top 100 – they take more than 60 percent of the Schedule 70 dollars – leaving the other 5,000 or so vendors with less than 40 percent." Hmmm, are the "Top 100" the same players from year to year? If so, it begins to look a bit oligarchical, e.g. barriers to entry, market share, pricing, etc. Perhaps these top players would be wise to keep an eye on any "restraints on competition" issues.

Tue, Feb 23, 2010 John

What did this have to do with being in the GSA Top 100?
The advice was sound albeit pretty generic, but had nothing to do with maximizing your client’s use of the GSA schedule. For example, the first suggestion was to seek ways to shift spending to other vehicles. While I recognize the need to work with our clients to best address their requirements, but that wasn’t the title of the article – catapulting to the top of the GSA charts was!
In reality, my concern with the article is that a prescription to be all things to all people doesn’t reflect the real-world tradeoffs that are core to sales, marketing and business development. For example, if we exhibit at every trade show, we’d go broke. Instead, what’s needed is counsel for making these tradeoffs and decisions, not a laundry list of tired strategies.
_John

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