Lead generation webinars are a powerful tool for generating high-ticket sales appointments. In recent years, building high-converting sales webinars and sales presentations have become a top priority for coaches, consultants, and solo entrepreneurs looking to sell their courses through specialists. One such company is The Webinar Agency, run by Joel Erway. He’s been in the game for nearly four years, graduating from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in mechanical engineering technology in 2009 and lasting about eight months before he decided to make a pivot. Every time Joel’s manufacturer would give a presentation, Joel would look out in the audience and see people just falling asleep. Literally, they’d be falling asleep. You can’t buy anything if you’re not paying attention, if you can’t stay awake. But get this: the first time he gave a presentation, Joel set off a spiral of new business which they had booked over the course of the next year, year and a half, which generated between $1 million and $3 million in revenue. Absolute madness! If that doesn’t convince you of Joel’s legitimacy, I don’t know what will.
Aside from running The Webinar Agency, Joel also hosts the Sold with Webinars podcast, and a new podcast called Experts Unleashed, which focuses on coaches and consultants who sell their information for expertise. He interviews all sorts of different experts with the goal of teaching listeners how to spot, create, and seize opportunities to grow your solo expert-based business.
I’m very excited to have Joel Erway joining us. Joel, welcome.
Thanks, Michael. I’m excited to be here.
For those who don’t know you, Joel, just take a moment to explain what you do.
I run a company called The Webinar Agency and I also have two podcasts called Sold with Webinars and Experts Unleashed. Primarily, I work with coaches, consultants, solopreneurs to help them build high converting sales webinar, sales presentation. We do that to either sell their course or we also do high-end lead generation webinars where they generate high ticket sales appointments from those webinars. I’ve been doing this for about three and a half to four years and loving life.
You started your career as an engineer, is that right?
I did, way back in the day. I graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in mechanical engineering technology in 2009 and lasted about eight months before I had to make a pivot. I did start out in the engineering field, yes.
How do you go from being an engineer to get into webinars?
After about eight months of working as a mechanical engineer, I was working on commercial buildings, designing their heating and cooling systems. I was stuck behind the desk and I was drawing CAD layouts, Computer-Aided Design for anyone who doesn’t know what CAD is. It was boring. I knew that I had an outgoing personality, why I decided to do engineering at school, I’m not entirely sure. Within eight months, I was looking for a new gig. We have these sales reps that would come in every month or so, and they would do this lunch and learn presentations to help pitch their products. They wanted us to design buildings around their commercial heating and cooling products. While I was looking for a new gig, I came across this job opening for one of these firms, the sales rep firm. It was for sales engineering role. I was thinking about, “What am I going to be doing over the course of my life? Do I want to stay in this design role where I’m sitting behind a computer desk?” I’m sure I can eventually get to six figures a year.
I’m 22 years old at the time and I knew that I could take a risk. I interviewed for this job. I ended up getting the job offer, and I said, “I’m going to take a stab at this.” They wanted me to build a brand-new territory. I had no experience in sales. It ended up being a very difficult role, but it was one of the best decisions that I had made because it opened my eyes to the world of sales presentations. I was working in a territory in Buffalo, New York. Buffalo was my sales territory. We didn’t have any presence there. The way that we would generate leads and we generate business is we would have our manufacturers that we represented. We’d bring them through to all of our customers and these manufacturers would give a presentation. At the end, hopefully our customers would have a project for us to work on. I say hopefully because it never happened, very rarely happened that that would turn into any work. We’re doing this for two or three years and I was a 100% commission only sales person, which meant I ate what I killed. If I didn’t make any sales, I didn’t make any money.Engineers giving presentations to engineers is some of the most brutal things that you can sit through. Click To Tweet
Two or three years of doing this and realizing that we had very slow growth and I could clearly identify that these sales presentations were completely ineffective, I decided to learn how to give them on my own because I wasn’t giving the presentations at the time. I would bring somebody else in and they would give the presentation. I very quickly realized after reading a few books on sales presentations that engineers giving presentations to engineers is some of the most brutal things that you can sit through, even though you would think that engineers would want to learn from other engineers. Every time that we would give one of these presentations, my manufacturer, who was an engineer, would give a presentation, I’d look out in the audience, I’d see people just falling asleep. Literally, they’d be falling asleep. You can’t buy anything if you’re not paying attention, if you can’t stay awake.
I realized that I needed to change the presentations completely. After a few months of prepping and reading and doing some research on how to give an effective sales presentation, I started to see some trends as to what all these different books we’re talking about. I took it into my own hands and I started giving my own presentations on certain products that I enjoyed. From the very first presentation that I gave, I threw all of the other stuff out the window. I created my own slide decks, I created my own presentations, and the results were astounding. The first time I gave a presentation, it set off a spiral of new business that we had booked over the course of the next year, year and a half, that generated probably between $1 million and $3 million in revenue. To give you some perspective of how much that meant for our territory, our best year to date was $500,000 or $800,000. It was tremendous growth for just my tiny territory.
This was a significant growth. It was above the baseline. What was the product that you initially created the presentation for? Do you remember?
The first product that I created the presentation for was for high-end air conditioners. LG electronics, LG, like television, same company. They created this product called a variable refrigerant volume system or variable refrigerant flow technology, which meant it was highly efficient and our customers were able to control their own zones. It was a very technical and it was very expensive. I knew that there was a big opportunity and our company was making a big push to sell that. That was my first presentation that I put together.
That sounds like it opened your eyes to the possibility of being able to sell effectively from a presentation. You took that experience and then how did you transition from that first win to deciding, “I’m going to go out on my own and build a webinar-focused agency?”
I’d never put two and two together. When I ended up leaving the company, I had entrepreneurial passions and I’m like, “I’m going to try,” and my first venture was to build a course to sell to other engineers. It was a career development course. I put together a course. I was going to sell it for around $500 and it failed miserably. I had learned the start of the art of the sales presentation, the webinar. I learned from a couple of marketing mentors like, “You need to sell this with a webinar, so go get it.” I ran a couple of webinars and I was making sales. I was very green at the time and I thought that I was doing poorly. I wish somebody had told me that you are close to being successful and just stick with it because knowing what I know now, I realized I was probably right there. I just wasn’t putting enough money into my advertising to make it work. I ran out of money and I called up my coach at that time. I asked him for a job like, “I love your program and I have nothing against it. I just ran out of cash. Do you have any openings to sell your coaching program? I can vouch for you as a testimonial. I love your stuff.” He’s like, “All of our leads are handled right now, but what you should do is you should reach out to this other guy who’s in the program. His name is Jason.” I reached out to him because he’s looking for a phone sales person and that’s what I was trying to do. Jason wanted someone to follow up on the phone with all of his webinar leads of people who didn’t buy his program. He was like, “Take a look at the webinars so you know what you’re selling, and I need you to call this list of leads,” so I did. When I looked at his webinar, I immediately saw an opportunity for the webinar to be improved. I could see that it was a terrible webinar and so I asked him if I could take a stab at the webinar before I called the leads and he said, “Absolutely. I hate doing webinars, I just know that I need to do them.” Fast forward two weeks, I worked on his presentation and I pitched the webinar for him. He was making $1,000 every time that he ran the webinar and he was essentially breaking even with his ad spent. That first time that I ran the webinar, we did fourteen sales of a thousand dollars programs. We increased his sales by fourteen-fold. He made $14,000 that week and the rest is history. He was blown away. He had no idea that we could even hit those numbers.
From there you decide, “I’m going to start doing this for others?”
Yes. Words started to spread and people started to hear that I was pretty good at webinars and I’m like, “There’s clearly money in here. I do not want to be doing phone sales. I’m not a phone sales person.” I was hustling at that point. I saw this as a big opportunity and I seized it. I started writing webinars for other clients. I started pitching them for other clients. I don’t do the pitching anymore, that was for the first couple. I realized that this is what my value add is in the marketplace. I have a knack for being able to communicate messages effectively and particularly doing it extremely well on webinars.The number one mistake that I see people do with webinars is they don't have an offer that people want. Click To Tweet
I love how focused your specialization is. Even as you were seeing that you have this expertise in this area and this were creating results for others, did you have any concerns or fears of going so narrow in terms of positioning yourself as the webinar guy?
Absolutely and I still have. I still have the shiny objects syndrome of wanting to go a little bit wider. We have been able to do very well in the past few years. Just going down the webinar niche, I didn’t know how big that market was. When you do get that focused, it’s a good thing and it also opens up this idea of self-doubt like, “Am I making the right decision? Should I go this focused?” So far, it’s worked out very well. We’re a relatively small agency and I’ve done that by design. We did try to grow it and I didn’t like it. We kept it small. We have more than enough leads and work to keep us busy and it’s worked out very well.
How do you get over that self-doubt? When you have that shiny object syndrome creeping in or you say to yourself, “Maybe we could do other things” or when it happened in the past, what’s allowed you to stay very focused on your core area of expertise?
I wish that I had some philosophical answer to give you and be like, “I did this and this is how it helped me keep focused.” Honestly, the clients kept me focused, making sure that I always had work kept me focused. What helped move the needle for me and kept me aligned with what I wanted to do, in the beginning of 2017, I had the opportunity to start a podcast. I’m not a big podcast listener. I don’t listen to many podcasts. I’m usually home. I’ve cut down my traveling since my son was born and I don’t listen to podcasts all that much, but I kept hearing like, “You should start a podcast,” and so I did. I’m like, “I’m going to start one on webinars.” It doesn’t seem like there are many out there on webinars. There were some that were started and they’ve since gone defunct, but that helped me stay focused. To be quite honest, going that niche helped generate a ton of high quality leads for our business. I kept going deep. I was running a bunch of Facebook ads and I had my own funnels that were working, but the podcast has been the single greatest thing that kept me focused on sticking with webinars. I would say that I picked that medium and that helped me maintain that focus.
It’s a great advice and an important perspective in a lot of clients that we work with. Face those challenges, even when they’ve been consulting for quite a number of years. It’s always about figuring out how do you position yourself in a way where you can have a competitive advantage and where you’re able to have a very strong a core area of expertise and not allow it to get diluted for the benefits of lead generation, messaging, mental capacity, and the focus. I appreciate your sharing that. A lot of us see webinars for courses, we see webinars for coaching programs. Webinars are used in many different ways these days, but what about using webinars to get into and land corporate clients? Larger more established organizations, whether it’s government, nonprofit, or even Fortune 500 companies, what’s your experience? What’s your opinion and perspective on people using webinars to land those larger, more established clients?
Mostly, we’ve focused on smaller businesses. We don’t have much experience with the corporate world. I don’t know if I’d be the right person to answer that. I can say if I get this question a lot is I don’t think that my target audience is going to be watching a webinar and when they say that those are the people who are going after your C-level executives, the people who “don’t have enough time.” What a webinar can do is number one, we’ve proven that that is false. If the topic is relevant and it’s interesting, we have seen all people register and watch a webinar. When I say all different types of people, we’re talking eight-figure business owners, nine-figure business owners. They will sign up and they will watch a webinar at some point. Maybe they’re just skimming through it but if the topic is relevant, we have seen them show up. It will help accelerate the education process of who you are, what it is that you do for people and how do you provide a solution to whatever it is that their problem is.
That provides some context for people. I appreciate that you’re being very transparent in the areas where you don’t have expertise and experience and those where were you do. It sounds like for many people that webinars can still be used to connect with owners of eight, even nine-figure businesses in some cases. What are some of the biggest mistakes that you see, Joel, people making when it comes to webinars? What are some of the big glaring problems or mistakes that stand out for you?
The number one mistake that I see people do with webinars is they don’t have an offer that people want. This is where I was talking about earlier when I was trying to sell my course. We had sales coming in. We were selling it. The profit numbers weren’t there. We’ve been working with some clients where this is becoming more and more apparent where slight pivots in the offer make all the difference in the world. I’ll give you an example. I was talking to one of my clients, one of my consulting clients. He does webinars for his clients. He’s like a mini marketing agency. He’s been working with his clients on developing an automated sales webinar. They created this offer, they’re running different tests, and people just weren’t buying. They were calling their attendees and the people who didn’t buy and asking them the simple question, “Why weren’t you buying?”
He found that the people felt they didn’t have the time to go through the course and it was the way that they’re positioning their offer. They didn’t change anything else in the webinar. All they did was they changed how the offer was presented and they were initially pitching it as a six or an eight-week program and now they pitched it as an instant access program. As soon as they did that, they started becoming profitable. When I say becoming profitable, they were going for making zero sales, now they’re not only making sales, but they were making money, which was a huge shift for them. The biggest thing that I see is people don’t focus on creating an offer. They create an offer and think that everybody’s going to want to buy it. They have to really understand what it is that their customer truly wants. You could have the greatest offer in the world, but if it’s not positioned properly to how your audience wants to consume it and how they want to implement it, you’re going to run into some issues. We’ve seen very slight pivots that help make all the difference in the world for an offer.They have to really understand what it is that their customer truly wants. Click To Tweet
Testing obviously plays a big role in that. What’s the approach? What are the best practice? If we shift the conversation away from webinars for a moment, in marketing in general, the importance of validating assumptions and testing things is so critical, yet very often we see people not doing that. What’s your perspective on the importance of testing and validating offers or messaging?
It’s everything. On the podcast we talked to a bunch of podcast guests who made very simple pivots in the title of their webinar and it would drastically improve their ROI. Testing is everything. I’d say probably the biggest things that you want to test are number one, you want to test the different types of offers that you’re making. Number two, you want to test how people are coming into your webinar. I’ll give you an example. I was running a webinar for our webinar course and we were trying to sell to experts, entrepreneurs who wanted to write their own webinar and we’re getting a high cost per registration, cost per lead and the engagement just wasn’t there. We weren’t making any money. I’m like, “What is going on? I’m the webinar guy, why can’t I figure this out?” We ran one test with our ads. Instead of saying, “Let me show you how you can write your own webinar,” which was essentially we’re trying to sell a tool. We’re trying to teach them how to create a webinar, which that angle is very difficult. There’s a lot of resistance with it, which we know now after we’ve done the testing.
We tested one week of saying, “If you’d like to learn how to get paid to write webinars for other people, sign up for this webinar.” When we changed it to be more of, “Let me show you how to write webinars for other people,” it became a business opportunity and there was a lot more interest. That was very telling for us, with our approach for how we needed to go about and selling our program. It was very eye-opening. There were two clearly different offers that the market wanted to buy. The approach that we we’re taking with the first audience, which where the experts learning how to write it themselves, they didn’t want to sit through a webinar to learn how to write their own webinars. It was counterintuitive. We wanted to be transparent and say, “We sell all of our services using webinars because we teach webinars.” We’re in the process of writing a video sales letter for it because what we’re doing is we’re selling a tool. Selling tools versus selling education or models is completely different in the approach. Understanding that about your market and understanding about what you’re offering is so critical for the medium in which you present your offer and present the solution for your audience to buy.
The other big thing is the importance of not giving up. Some people might have been in that situation and said, “We’re putting this out there. Our cost per lead or registration or whatever is too high. Something’s not working here. This is not going to take off,” and they jump to something completely different. Instead, what I’m hearing you say is you thought about it and said, “What else can we do here? What other market can we transition or shift this for and test it out?” Ultimately, you’re just committed to making a success. I see this day in and day out with consultants and others who are looking to build businesses where when they encounter some resistance, some people will try and take steps back and sometimes run away. Others will understand that’s part of the process. It’s a learning experience and you’re getting closer to finding what is going to work by testing stuff.
You’re likely a lot closer than you think to knocking out of the park, especially when it comes to your campaigns and your marketing funnels. With my primary audience, I work with a lot of solopreneur who were one-man show or one-woman shows. They run their marketing, they run their sales, and they’re looking for ways to become more leveraged and to scale their business. They have to stick with it. Sometimes it can be very frustrating. Webinars can be a daunting task. It can be a lot to handle. I’ve seen a lot of people just give up. I completely understand why. You definitely got to stick with it. There are no two ways about it.
Let’s talk about the leverage part, which you mentioned because more consultants want to create more leverage, freedom and time, how do you approached doing that in your own business?
What we’re doing is we’re widening our net right now. We learned an interesting lesson with trying to sell our webinar course to a cold audience. We had a lot of great things that we are offering and we made that offer irresistible. I even hired other people to look at our webinar because I was that committed to it. I’m like, “I’m too close to it. Can somebody else take a look at this?” Ultimately, what I realized was the difference of selling the tool versus selling a model or a training. Like my audience, they already knew about webinars. They wanted that next quick win and we had software that we were including inside of our training that they could use to help build their webinar. That was better sold through a video, a quick software demo and changing the pricing model entirely. We went from selling a thousand-dollar course to now we’re selling it as a lower-ticket continuity product for $97. The way that we’re getting leveraged that way is we’re just turning it into a quick video sales letter, demoing the software, demoing the benefits and throwing some other things into it. That’s how we’re getting leveraged now. We’ve used webinars to create leverage for our high-ticket programs in the past and generating high qualified leads, those were automated webinars too. There are a lot of ways to get leverage through webinars.
One of them that you mentioned to clarify and confirm, what you’ve done is you’ve taken your consulting services, service offerings, and you’ve productize them to create this tool or the service that people will now pay for on an ongoing recurring basis? What about your team? You could have stayed like, “Joel Erway, the solo independent webinar consultant,” but instead you’ve built a small team around you. Why did you do that? What was going on in your mind when you decided to take that step and build out a bit of a team?
Number one, the team that we’ve got right now is still very small. I’ve got a couple of copywriters that worked for me on a part-time basis. One handles all of our webinars and another one helps with content for our own marketing purposes. I’ve got my podcast producer. These are all part-time contractors. I’ve got a project manager and assistant and my wife who helps with the back end and the financials and stuff like that. For a long time, I did do it myself and it was way too much work. Especially when you bootstrap, you have to do everything. I needed to get some leverages, especially with writing the webinars, that was the first thing that I tried to hire out and it wasn’t that I was trying to sub it out and handed off to somebody.You could have the greatest offer in the world but if it's not positioned properly to how your audience wants to consume it, you're going to run into some issues. Click To Tweet
I’m not a writer by nature. It takes me so long to sit down and create a script. I can create the ideas and the hooks and the flow, but I needed somebody to get the grunt work done. Somebody who understood the concepts and could take it from like 50% of the way there to 100% and was somebody that I could trust to complete it. Starting to build that team helped me create that leverage so I could focus more on growing the business. That’s what needed to happen. I’m more of a visionary wanting to launch new products and test my webinar offers in the whole nine yards. I needed a team to help support that.
Joel, I want to thank you for coming on and sharing a bit of your story here with us. What’s the best way for people to learn more about your work and to connect with you?
They can go to TheWebinarAgency.com. We redid our website site. We’ve got a blog. We’ve got a podcast up there. The podcast is called Sold with Webinars, they can go to TheWebinarAgency.com/podcast and you can listen to our webinar podcast and subscribe to that. We also have a podcast called Experts Unleashed, which focuses on people who are in the information space, coaches and consultants, selling their information for expertise. I interview different experts and the whole goal there is to teach the listeners how to spot, create and seize opportunities to grow your solo business, your expert-based business.
Joel, thanks again so much for coming on.
Michael, I had a blast. Thanks for having me.
Mentioned in This Episode:
- Joel Erway
- The Webinar Agency
- Sold with Webinars
- Experts Unleashed
- Experts Unleashed