Monday, September 8, 2008

Who’s Selling Your Products on GSA Advantage? You’d Better Keep Tabs…

A client of mine recently faced a problem. A company had added my client’s products to its GSA Schedule contract and put them up on GSA Advantage, GSA’s e-commerce site.

However, not only did this company not get my client’s permission to do so, my client had never even heard of this company!

One initial reaction might be, "So what? This just provides more feet on the street and more possible sales through the channel." Unfortunately, it is not that simple.

A Group 70 IT GSA Schedule contractor that acts as a dealer needs to obtain a "Letter of Supply" from the manufacturer. This letter guarantees a source of supply and, among other things, provides certifications about the country of origin, Trade Agreements Act, etc.

Somehow, this "rogue reseller" was able to add my client’s products to a GSA Schedule without this letter, most likely due to lax oversight by the GSA Contracting Officer.

From my client’s perspective, this was a very bad situation. The reseller had never been trained on the products, had no ability to provide pre-sale technical support, and did not have any access to warranty and repair services. If a sale by this "rogue reseller" went sour, my client's brand name would be unfairly tarnished.

The reseller was even listing products my client no longer manufactured! If the reseller received an order for these products, there was no way it could be fulfilled.

My client realized the damage that could be done, and sent the unauthorized reseller a certified letter demanding the immediate removal of the products. The reseller complied, and the problem was fixed…for now.

However, I’m beginning to see this as a persistent problem.

Manufacturers must monitor GSA Advantage and look for unauthorized resellers if they want to maintain control of their federal sales channel, maintain pricing integrity and minimize the risk to their brand equity.

Take a few minutes and check GSA Advantage. You might be shocked at what you see.

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