"I know I need to expand my centers of influence," said Michael during a conversation at our rainmaker workshop. "Do you have any suggestions?"

Michael wasn't prepared for my response. His firm was promoting seminars; he was thinking in terms of a series of lunch & learns, and a direct mail campaign targeting local executives. Well, I moved his cheese with a quick one-line response, "Let Kevin talk to you about running a search through LinkedIn."

I'm not certain of Michael’s exact age, but if he's not yet 50 he's close. In his mind, social media is something his two kids in college play around with. It had never occurred to him that a financial professional could actually market within affluent circles using this medium. I confessed that not long ago, I was where he was, naive. But through our research and with the assistance of Stephen and Kevin, my young and very bright associates, I have been enlightened.

Word-of-mouth influence remains the primary method within which the affluent make major decisions. Also, it is important to keep in mind that your affluent clients will personally introduce you to a friend rather than give you a referral. In addition, they are constantly online, they are Internet savvy and use it primarily for secondary research. What I learned from Stephen and Kevin is that LinkedIn is by far their social media connection of choice.

In our last article we reviewed some quick do's and don'ts on social media. In this article I want to talk about utilizing LinkedIn's advanced search feature. Kevin is our social media marketing expert and I must confess, he has his hands full answering my questions and keeping me up to speed with this ever-evolving medium. What I've learned is that LinkedIn, as compared to other social networking websites, has quite a robust search feature. It appears that most professionals who use LinkedIn don't take advantage of this feature, which allows you to see if anyone in your extended network is connected to someone who fits your prospect profile. If leveraged the right way, it can serve as an excellent resource to expand your network and pinpoint prospects.

The first step, before diving headfirst into the digital world, is to remember that you are marketing your services in the world of the affluent. This is an environment filled with skepticism and cynicism, and it’s a place where our research indicates purchase decisions are made on one major criterion, word-of-mouth influence. So before getting over-anxious with this technology, it's important to remember that it's best used to get you face-to-face with affluent prospects. Period!

So I grabbed Kevin (for his brains) and pulled Michael aside. Kevin had him start up his laptop, and I watched him walk Michael through a quick four-step process for engaging the advanced search feature through LinkedIn. Kevin then walked us both through the right way to put this information to use - which is the most important part.

As for background, Michael had a solid business and already had a healthy number of strong relationships, which are referred to as 1st degree connections. The more 1st degree connections you have, the more valuable the advanced search feature and the higher probability that you will find a mutual connection.

Step 1: Select the People and Advanced Feature

Start this process by denoting "people" in the search bar in the upper right hand corner and select the "advanced" button. This will take you to the advanced search page. From here, you can enter the details for the type of prospect you are looking for.

Step 2: Use Keywords

You want to input any phrases or keywords that are likely to be listed on your prospect's profile. Michael was looking for people beyond just corporate executives: doctors, dentists, CPAs, attorneys, small business owners. So under "keywords" Kevin had him input a generic term such as "dentist" for that particular niche.

Step 3: Select the Industry
Scroll through the list of industries and select one that makes sense for your target market. You can select more than one. For Michael, we selected a number; "Dentist," "Business Owner," "Medical Practice," to name a few.

Step 4: Select the Proximity
Here is where you can really start to narrow your focus to local prospects. Under the location field, plug in your zip code and narrow your results to, say, a 50-mile radius. This will ensure that your search results stay relatively nearby.

Obviously, there are a lot of additional options to select with your search, but the majority of your results can be accomplished with these four simple steps.

You are now ready to engage the search. Once you run the query, LinkedIn will create a list of contacts who meet your specifications. As you scroll through the results, be on the lookout for 2nd degree connections (this will be denoted beside their name.) A 2nd degree connection means there is someone to whom you both are mutually connected. From here, LinkedIn will actually show you the person who is between yourself and this newly discovered 2nd degree connection.

Now that you have identified your prospect's connections, you can brainstorm a way to get in front of them. Even though LinkedIn has a feature to ask for introductions electronically, take that approach with caution. As tempting as it might be to take the easy way out and to keep your prospect at a distance through the Web, utilize your sales skills.

Michael was blown away by how efficient this was; he had never considered this type of prospecting. Suddenly, after a quick advanced search on LinkedIn, some detective work to uncover a handful of local dentists, and identifying connections in common, Michael realized that if he used his seamless affluent sales skills to orchestrate face-to-face contacts, his prospecting had just morphed into a new dimension.

The summer is a perfect time to do this type of homework; apply the four-step process outlined above and use time to identify as many 2nd degree connections as possible. You will create a platform upon which you can take rainmaking to the next level.

For a FREE excerpt from our upcoming Social Media Prospecting mini-guide, download a free copy of our “10 LinkedIn Profile Tips.” This will give you some guidelines to keep in mind as you construct your profile. Enjoy!

Also, if you haven't already - join The Oechsli Institute's Group on LinkedIn!

Once again, we want to thank all of you who have emailed comments and questions to us. We will continue to do our best to answer each one.

If you have any topic suggestions or special requests, please contact Rich Santos, publisher of Registered Rep. and Trust & Estates magazines, at rich.santos@penton.com.