It was August, and September — Life Insurance Awareness Month — would come quickly.
That got Warren Barhorst’s mind racing. But to those who know him, that’s nothing new.
Barhorst owns and operates the largest Nationwide Insurance agency in the United States, Barhorst Insurance Group (BIG). In 18 years, he’s grown the company from just two employees to more than 100, and from one location in Jersey Village, Texas, to more than 30 across the state. His company is set to expand by 30% annually, and he established an internal goal to reach $1 billion in sales revenue by 2020. Founded in 1993 as a Nationwide agency, BIG is today a captive hybrid agency representing more than 50 insurance carriers. Barhorst is a published author, speaker, and an entrepreneur in the purest sense of the term. And he is continually striving to find new and effective ways to sell insurance.
Barhorst communicates the concept of being a trusted advisor to his team, with a goal of being an advocate, a resource and a provider of peace of mind for clients. “I will never tire of hearing, ‘Wow, I’ve never had an insurance agent sit down and explain it to me like that,’” says Barhorst, who prides himself and his company on being different. From Halloween costume contests and impromptu sales competitions to regular all-hands meetings, Barhorst strives to keep spirits high inside his offices. He realizes his team has a demanding and often monotonous job, so he continually tries to find ways to reward them.
Promoting life insurance internally
Barhorst figured Life Insurance Awareness Month would be an easy sell to his team. “It’s obvious that it’s a necessity, right? It’s an easy sell, right?” he says.
Not so. The fact was that most of BIG’s employees were uneducated about the realities of the life insurance market. They didn’t realize how many people didn’t have it, how much an average household would need, or the impact when someone died without it. And the lack of education meant they didn’t know how to sell it.
Barhorst realized he needed a creative internal campaign not only to promote LIAM, but also to educate his team on the importance of having life insurance. He wanted to impress upon them the criticality with real-life examples that hit the heartstrings and make them realize that no one should be without it. Sell it internally, and then they can effectively sell it to the clients, he reasoned.
Motivating from the ground up
To promote LIAM, Barhorst started with his core: his internal teams in Houston and Dallas. He knew the motivation had to start from the ground up. Educate, encourage and incent employees, and they will turn and sell it outward.
Barhorst kicked off a lead generation and sales contest — an internal campaign designed to sell life insurance and also delight and motivate his employees. The main concept was to create a fun and memorable campaign, and, with a pre-planned series of touches, keep life insurance at the forefront of the team members’ minds for the entire month (and beyond, he hoped).
On the morning of Sept. 1, employees were greeted with boxes of “Life” cereal at their desks. (Gallons of milk were on hand in case anyone wanted to dig in. Most did.) A bowl featured the main contest graphic, and the box included contest details and rules as well as life insurance facts from www.lifehappens.org.
Employees tracked life insurance leads on a weekly basis and turned them in for prizes — gift cards that increased in value as the month progressed to maintain a high level of interest.