A CTC startup client recently asked me how my former company became a vendor for the federal government. I’d be lying if I said we had a master plan – at least at first. The truth is, we began by selling products directly to life science researchers and thought about them as individual end-users. Fortunately, we had early success with that approach.
The real question is, when and how did we start thinking more strategically about the federal government as our customer?
Our end-users get some credit for enlightening us. When asking for price quotes, federally funded researchers would occasionally ask if we had a GSA Contract.
The General Services Administration, GSA, oversees more than $60 billion in government procurement annually, and a GSA Schedule Contract is a gateway to those purchases. It allows organizations to sell to government customers at pre-established prices, terms and conditions.
As you might guess, getting on the GSA Schedule is not a matter of making a quick phone call or completing a simple application form. It’s a mind-numbing multi-step proposal process that can take up to a year. It’s a daunting task for a small business, but luckily, we had a state PTAC to help us.
Again, A what?
A Procurement Technical Assistance Center, PTAC, provides local technical support to businesses that want to sell to the government.
Our PTAC partner was the Wisconsin Procurement Institute. Their counselors came to our offices and helped us navigate the entire process – from understanding the solicitation and registering, to gathering the appropriate company information and completing the forms, to negotiating and finalizing our offer. One meeting at a time. When our eyes glazed over, they helped us focus. When we were running out of steam, they helped push us to the finish line.
Eventually, we got on, and it was worth it. It reduced the pool of competition, simplified the purchasing process for our customers and often shortened the sales cycle. It gave us a competitive advantage that became a key part of our strategic marketing plan.
But guess what?
Once you are on the GSA Schedule, it takes work to maintain it. That’s one more reason to get in touch with your local PTAC. It could be the beginning a beautiful relationship. Contact us to learn more about how to operationalize your startup from R&D to business.