Working with GPO Successfully and Profitably Requires Expert Know How

by Deborah Snider, Senior Vice President, e-LYNXX Corporation

Working with the United States Government Printing Office (GPO) to supply the federal government with printing is very different from working with private sector commercial accounts. Fundamentally, GPO is contrarian to everything printers know about selling customers.

With commercial printing, printers large and small learn how to treat customers. Selling is requisite to gaining new business. Relationships are paramount. Pricing is based on what the customer is willing to pay. And when it comes to minor disagreements, the customer is always right, and if the relationship is sufficiently deep, even the cost for fixing the problem can end up in the next job.

GPO is different. Gaining new business has nothing to do with selling. In fact sales persons need not call. Relationships don’t count. Pricing is not based on what the customer is willing to pay, but on being the low price among other responsive, responsible and qualified bidders. In fact, the GPO customer is not always right, and there is no eye wink allowance to add the cost for fixing a problem into the next job.

Rather, what defines and controls the GPO relationship are rules, regulations and paperwork. Dealing with the federal government and its GPO is not easy for novice want-to-be GPO printers. Having the skill to read and understand the subtleties of solicitations, specifications, contract terms, quality assurance guidelines, paper specifications, terms and conditions and more is just the tip of the iceberg.

Instinctive decision making and commercial sales experience have no place in the GPO marketplace. Working with the massive, complex and convoluted GPO is different. By not accepting this difference printers can expect burned fingers, work accomplished out of scope, reduced prices and even rejected work. Some printers try to compensate for a lack of knowledge through over-caution. This, too, results in excessive production costs, paper bought at higher than necessary prices based on misinterpreted specifications, and frustration throughout the operation. .

That is why the majority of the top 50 GPO print suppliers work with a full-service GPO bid services firm – one that provides full representational services, accurate information, market intelligence, past price histories and access to all available GPO solicitations. Only a full-service firm is able to help with paper work handling, specification interpretation, proposal preparation, bidding process management, the production process, change order negotiation, invoice preparation and collection and cutting through government red tape.

A full-service GPO bid service differs from other types of bid services in several ways:

• The full-service firm buys the nationwide GPO Bid Subscription Service and obtains all of the available GPO bid opportunities including formal and informal solicitations of one-time jobs and programs.

• The full-service firm provides analysis and advice based on the largest database of GPO job histories in the industry,

• The full-service firm has a staff of GPO-experienced print experts who will meticulously handle all available GPO bid opportunities and expeditiously process them.

The only firm that offers these services is Government Print Management whose clients are gaining 17% more in revenue than their counterparts who do not benefit from the GPO Bid Subscription Service, in-depth market intelligence, advice and counsel.

Once a printer starts winning GPO work consistently, it can expect to increase its profitability from an industry average of 2%, before GPO work, to 14% or more afterwards. Production utilization will increase from a print industry average of 70% to full utilization of 90% to 95%. Those percentages are based on a printer using proven tools and services developed for printers seeking GPO work, identifying open production capacity and discounting prices to fill non-productive, non-revenue generating schedule openings. 

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