By Cheryl Hall
The Dallas Morning News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Women in business have a very powerful tool in Linkedin. Whether your goal is female business ownership or moving up within a corporate structure, the online networking tool can be a great way to get on the radar with potential clients and then cultivate relationships with them. So what are the do’s and don’ts of Linkedin? Dallas consultant Stephanie Sammons has it all in her new book “Linked to Influence”
Dallas consultant Stephanie Sammons credits LinkedIn for her career reinvention.
Now the 46-year-old CEO of Stephanie Sammons Inc. has written “Linked to Influence,” seven rules that can help people achieve similar miracles.
Earlier this year, it sat near the top of Amazon Kindle lists for entrepreneurship and small business titles.
Sammons has never been paid a penny from LinkedIn for her endorsement. But the people at the business-oriented social media site have returned the love, placing her on LinkedIn’s lists as a top social media expert and marketing thought leader.
Sammons considers herself a corporate renegade turned entrepreneur.
In 2009, she painfully parted ways with her career in wealth management, or in a way, it parted ways with her. She’d seen the writing on the wall at Merrill Lynch thanks to the deepening financial crisis.
“I’d scratched and clawed to climb the corporate ladder for 15 years, and then I had to walk away from everything,” says Sammons, who negotiated six months of severance pay on her way out. “I was a complete wreck.”
After nearly a year of “lost mojo,” Sammons reinvented herself.
She decided to focus on financial professionals, attorneys and entrepreneurs who wanted to shape their digital brands. She created Wired Advisor LLC in 2010 to help them build blogs and websites and develop content strategies and branding.
LinkedIn was becoming the business world’s version of Facebook. “It became a way for me to get on the radar with potential clients and then cultivate relationships with them,” she says.
In 2011, Sammons started writing for Social Media Examiner, a marketing website, and she often focused on LinkedIn as a career power tool. That led to speaking gigs, which led to her first book.
“LinkedIn saved my life by giving me all kinds of opportunities to make connections, find clients and build my reputation in a new digital world,” she says.
Alex Rynne, associate content marketing manager at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, selected “Linked to Influence” as a book marketers can’t afford to miss. She says even she learned some things about LinkedIn, and she lives and breathes this stuff.
“Stephanie’s book is filled with tangible tips to help marketers optimize their profiles to attract their ideal customers. It will also help them build a smarter network based on quality over quantity.”
Earlier this year, Sammons decided to take her own advice and brand herself. She folded Wired Advisor into Stephanie Sammons Inc., and she’s using the book as a marketing tool for expanded consulting services.
Mike Stelzner, CEO of Social Media Examiner, says Sammons is one of his most popular online writers and event speakers.
“LinkedIn has undergone massive changes over the past few years, and Stephanie has helped marketers understand how to best leverage LinkedIn for their benefit,” he says.
Going out on her own is the scariest thing Sammons has ever done. “The fear has never left me,” she says. “I still have it every day. I’m just more comfortable with it.”
Sammons has never been one for conformity.
She decided to try out for school mascot her senior year in high school because she thought it would be cool to wear a wildcat costume and act crazy. When she tried out in front of the student body, she won their votes by rollerskating carrying a broomstick with a box of Cheer detergent on top of it.
She took up basketball long before she realized that she’d top out at 5-foot-4. She had speed, quickness and could read the court to develop plays. She picked point guard because she wanted to be the team leader.
She got her bachelor’s degree in economics at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls on an athletic scholarship.
You can find all of this in quick-hit form on her LinkedIn profile page.
You’ll also see: When I’m not working, I’m practicing hot yoga, writing songs, reading, traveling, and just experiencing life! I’m also a singer-songwriter, acoustic guitar player, snowboarder, hiker, wine enthusiast, investor, and a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan.
“It’s critical to sprinkle your personality in wherever you can on LinkedIn,” Sammons says. “That’s how you make the human connection and resonate with the right people.”
The idea is to get people to go from your LinkedIn profile to your website.
Some additional tidbits you’ll learn about Sammons by going to hers:
I’m a left and right brain person: I love business, technology and finance, but I’m also a musician and occasional artist.
I was diagnosed with ADHD at 44 (this explained a lot about my life).
I’m into health, nutrition, and neuroscience, my parents have also owned a health store (Mike’s Health Collection) for 20+ years.
Choose LinkedIn and go deep into it, Sammons says. You’ll get a lot more out of that professionally than skimming the surface with new social networks popping up everyday.
So why does Sammons believe in starting with LinkedIn?
First off, it’s the most dominant business network by far, she says. So your LinkedIn profile becomes your digital professional identity by default.
“When someone is looking online to learn more about you, unless you have a common name, your LinkedIn profile is going to show up in the top three to five search results,” she says. “It’s the first place to make your first impression about who you are, who you help, how you help them, what your perspective is and what you’re passionate about.”
What are some of her other recommendations?
“You want to weave in these three Ps into your LinkedIn profile, personality, passion for what you do and your unique perspectives, to the extent that you’re comfortable. It can make a huge difference,” she says. “The reason I will often get a client over someone else is because my perspective will resonate with them, my style, my theme, the way I approach business. Or my personality will click with them.”
Spend five to 10 minutes a day cultivating your connections. Choose relationships that you think look most promising. And then set up a meeting. Nothing can replace a face-to-face, she says.
And perhaps her favorite thing about LinkedIn: You can build your connections without ever going to another of those dismal networking events.
PUTTING YOUR BEST FACE FORWARD
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. On LinkedIn, that begins with your profile page, Stephanie Sammons says. Here are her suggestions for making sure you pack a personal punch when people check you out:
Choose a professional picture that makes you look authoritative yet approachable; make eye contact with face forward.
Write in the first person. Use your first name if you feel comfortable with that.
Make a human connection. Share a little bit of your story but don’t overshare. Think carefully so that your story fits the professional personae you want to portray.
THE BIG QUESTION
Stephanie Sammons says one of her most asked questions is whom should I connect with?
Be selective, she says, but not too. Sammons will usually accept an invitation if it comes with a profile photo and a personal message.
“You never know what opportunities might come from that,” she says. “But at the same time, it makes sense to be strategic about making connections.”
Ask questions like:
Are they in a business that is complementary to yours?
Do these people live and work where you live and work?
Did they go to the same college as you?
Did you work together before?
Those are all different sorts of parameters for building a strategic network, she says.
At a glance: Stephanie Sammons
Title: CEO, Stephanie Sammons Inc.
Grew up: Plano, Texas (near Dallas)
Education: Plano Senior High School, 1988; bachelor’s degree in economics from Midwestern State University, 1992
Previous experience: 15 years as a wealth manager at Merrill Lynch and UBS
Personal: Newlywed to Dallas personal injury attorney Kay Van Wey, her partner for 10 years. They have two sons, 15 and 13, adopted from Russia.