OPINION

Top 10 lessons from the GSA schedule

EDITOR's NOTE: We mistakenly published this older Mark Amtower column by mistake. For his latest commentary on the market and how to succeed,click here.

 

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.

I use rankings of the Top 100 Schedule 70 vendors such as the one produced by Richard Mackey of CapitalReps in my articles, seminars and speeches. 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.

About the Author

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower.

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