With summer here, we are reminded that the federal fourth quarter (Q4) buying season is upon us. September 30 marks the end of the federal government’s 2018 fiscal year (FY), and federal contractors should take steps to obtain as much yearend money as possible. For those companies whose commercial sales may lag in the summer months, this can be the perfect time to focus on sales, especially through the GSA Schedule Program, as federal agencies strive to spend the rest of their budgets to avoid the risk of losing existing funds or the downsizing of their future budgets.
The government will be spending more this time around. In fact, Washington Business Journal noted that the FY 2018 federal budget increased by $143 billion, with 56% increased spending at civilian agencies compared to Q4 spending during the same two months last year.
One of the greatest challenges for agencies associated with spending Q4 funds is that the procurement process must be simple and fast. During this time agencies are looking to existing contracts, GWACs and BPAs, to facilitate a quick purchase. For this reason, the GSA Multiple Award Schedules are always a likely candidate. The GSA Schedule contract vehicle can cut down the procurement process considerably, and it is fairly easy for agencies to use.
Top eight things you need to do to increase your GSA Schedule Q4 sales:
1. Start Early
Many agencies start their planning prior to September, so start gearing up your marketing campaign now to avoid the end-of-the-year rush and panic. Use the summer months to work closely with staff to create proactive marketing plans to ensure that you have appropriately marketed your services/products in such a way that the government will seriously consider your company when determining final spending decisions.
2. Make Sure You Comply with New SAM.gov Requirements
To do business with the government, first and foremost contractors must be registered in SAM, and they must have a login.gov user account to access their SAM profile. Due to suspected fraudulent activity, all SAM users are required to submit a notarized letter appointing an entity administrator. While the GSA recently announced that activation of SAM registrations is no longer dependent upon receipt and approval of the entity administrator letter, it is important to note that the letter must be submitted to the Federal Service Desk within 30 days of submission of the SAM registration for the registration to remain active. All contractors are advised to learn more about these recent changes and how they affect both the registration process and access to SAM.gov.
3. Keep Your GSA Contract Current and Compliant
It is imperative that your GSA Schedule be up-to-date with all of the services/products that you offer. Make sure that new services/products are added, that old ones are deleted, and that you have applied for your appropriate annual price escalations. Out-of-date products and pricing will make it difficult for both you and your customers.
4. Make Sure You Are Registered on GSA Advantage! and eBuy
For government agencies to find contractors that have the services/products they wish to purchase in Q4, they may look to the online ordering systems set up by GSA. It is crucial to have your current pricelist loaded on GSA Advantage! for viewing and searches. This will also register you with eBuy so that you can see all the available RFQs released to the GSA Schedule(s) that you hold.
5. Contact Current and Past Clients
A primary part of your proactive marketing plan should be getting in contact with current and past clients to find out if they have year-end money and requirements for which you are qualified. Repeat clients account for much of Q4 money spent. It is more efficient to sell to a customer who is familiar with your products/work, than it is to find and convince new customers of your value.
6. Offer Promotions to GSA Schedule Users
Although the purchases off a GSA Schedule can be made using “best value” justification rather than a best price, government purchasers are always going to be concerned with the bottom line. For GSA Schedule product holders, Q4 is a great time of year to run yearend promotions or discounts to encourage agencies to spend their money with you.
7. Be Mindful of the Micro-Purchase Threshold Sales
Purchases under the micro-purchase threshold are the easiest for federal buyers to make. Be sure you have the ability to accept the government purchase card to close orders that are below the micro-purchase threshold and even the $250,000 Simplified Acquisition Threshold. Credit card purchases under these thresholds can be accomplished with far less paperwork and administration.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Start Small
Some agencies during Q4 may only have a minimal amount of cash left to spend on projects smaller than you may be used to. Don’t walk away from business because it seems too small. This can be a great way to gain entrance for your company to a particular agency or office with which you have not previously worked. In this way, you position yourself for larger contracts in the future.
As is always the case with your GSA contract, you should be vigilant, making sure your contract and marketing efforts are up-to-date. But now, more than ever, you and your team should take steps to be sure you are fully prepared for the coming fall harvest in Q4 of FY 2018.
About the Author: Courtney Fairchild is President and CEO of Global Services. In more than 20 years in the arena of federal proposals and GSA Schedules, Global Services has empowered companies with over 2,500 contract awards in excess of $20 billion in value.