I received a call from a business colleague last week. It seems she received a cold call from another firm that “expedites GSA sales proposals.” A number of dubious claims were made about their services as well as erroneous statements about GSA schedule contract.
The Truth about GSA Consultants
The firm apparently “guarantees” a business a GSA schedule “if I qualified.” What a remarkable guarantee! That’s a little like saying if the Rangers or Giants win four games of the World Series, then this firm would guarantee them a ring. GSA awards contracts to any firm that meets the criteria (more on that at Qualifying for a GSA Contract). In truth, it does not matter who prepares the proposal – if qualified, the firm will be awarded the contract.
Yes, firms like TurboGSA prepare GSA proposals all the time all the time will get a firm through the approval process with less hassle and in a timelier manner. But the real reason a firm should hire a reputable GSA consultant is to ensure:
- that all required disclosures are properly made,
- that an audit-proof contract is negotiated, and
- that prices are negotiated in a proper and profitable manner –not all GSA contract do!
A GSA contract presents significant opportunity but also significant liability if not negotiated properly.
Schlock Guarantees from Questionable GSA Consultants
And what about those guarantees? Do you get cash back? Some of the schlock outfits promise to deliver in-kind services such as a listing in their federal publication, that just happens to be the value of the amount you paid to them for their ineffective service. Read the fine print promising a guarantee, because it often is not what it appears to be. And those publications aren't worth the paper they are printed on.
Another misstatement was that “if I didn’t get $25,000 sales in the first year, then they would give me back $2500 and GSA would give me $2500” That is also incorrect. GSA expects you to generate $25,000 in the first two years of the contract. If you do not, GSA sometimes exercises the option to cancel the contract due to lack of sales in the third year or later. They will not cancel for lack of sales in the first year. In the third year or later, if you haven’t received any contracts whatsoever, GSA may cancel your contract and send you a check for $2,500.* Aside from the obvious error in the sales person’s statement, no one I know goes through this process in hopes of winning $2,500. Most firms want sales in orders of magnitude greater than $2,500.
Beware of a GSA Consultant Who...
Beware of a firm that claims it can expedite your proposal and get you a contract within 30 or 45 days. Yes it is possible to get some contracts through quickly, but GSA also has a tremendous backlog due to the economic downturn with many firms entering the federal market, and they simply do not have the resources to handle that many offers. Not long ago, for example, the GSA IT Center was averaging 105 days to process an offer, but in ht epast few years, most GSA schedule contracts are taking 6-12 months to review and make an award.
Beware of firms whose only claim to fame is that “we won X number of GSA contracts in the past year." At face value this may seem like an impressive figure, but you need to consider:
- if an experienced GSA expert prepared and negotiated the proposal,
- was it a quality proposal that made all proper disclosures,
- was it priced properly and profitably for your business,
- will that firm be around when GSA audits you and uncovers significant problems with the original proposal, compliance with the price reduction clause, and similarly important issues?
These firms should stop spewing useless guarantees, hype, and mis-statements and start focusing on winning contracts for their clients that are compliant, bullet-proof, proper, and profitable.
Beware of fast-talking Telemarketers who take 35% of your fee!
If the first time you ever heard of a GSA contract was when a smooth talking telemarketer called you, be very, very careful. Reputable professional services firms do not telemarket.
Many of these firms pay these sales people 35% commissions. That's right, 35% goes to paying sales people, NOT working on your GSA contract.
Search their reputation very carefully through Google searches and the Better Business Bureau. Some firms use fast talking telemarketers whose primary goal is to separate you from your money.
How do you protect yourself from bad GSA consultants?
Before signing a contract, check the firm’s Better Business Bureau ratings and several of their references, not just the quotes and testimonials on their web site.
And find out about the experience of the people you will work with on a daily basis. Have they worked in government contracting and federal business development very long? Or are they simply paper processors with little knowledge about GSA?
Ask to speak to the actual consultants who will be working with you rather than the "sales consultant" and see if you are comfortable with him/her and the answers they provide you. Then get written committment that the person you spoke with will actually work with you (assuming you are impressed)
How to Choose a Reputable GSA Consultant
Download our free checklist which, in addition to other useful information about whether your firm can benefit from obtaining a GSA Schedules contract, helps you choose a reputable GSA Consultant.