Top executives at State Farm recently witnessed college students from around the nation compete in the company’s own niche – selling car insurance. While a mock exercise, the event gave leaders a good glimpse of a new generation of entrepreneurs.
On Nov. 11, eight universities participated in the second annual State Farm Marketing & Sales Competition on the University of Central Missouri campus in Warrensburg, Mo.
Students traveled from as far west as Los Angeles and from as far east as Pittsburgh, Pa., and Winston-Salem, N.C. An intense day-long competition required the young adults to sell an auto insurance policy to mock buyers who already had a quote from another major carrier. They also had to take an existing State Farm advertising campaign and develop a plan to maximize it in a local market.
No pressure, except for the fact that watching the competition were some of the Fortune 37 company’s topmost executives, Mike Davidson and Rand Harbert. Mike oversees State Farm’s sales force of nearly 18,000 agents, and Rand is senior vice president and serves on the firm’s chairman’s council. They both also happen to be alumni of UCM. “The competition is a great opportunity to identify great talent, and it gives us the students’ unique perspective on the marketplace,” Mike said.
All 16 students received $1,000 from State Farm for being chosen to participate. In addition, the top three individual competitors received a total of $10,000. Rand said the benefits cut both ways. “It’s like a live learning lab for us,” he said. “It gives us the chance to hear students talk about our products in a way that we may not be talking about them. That in and of itself is a ‘win’ in this competition.”
• University of Central Missouri (UCM)
• University of Missouri-Columbia (MU)
• University of Houston
• Louisiana State University (LSU)
• University of Southern California (USC)
• University of Illinois
• Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, North Carolina)
• Duquesne (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)