There used to be a time when layers of secretaries and executive assistants insulated decision-makers against strangers, including peddlers of services. It was hard to position yourself to meet and impress the boss. Social media—and LinkedIn in particular—have broken down those barriers.

Through an advanced search on LinkedIn, you can build a list of your ideal clients while gaining insights into how best to connect with these hard-to-reach people. The first step is finding them.

It doesn’t have to be complicated.

"I found the names and companies of 100 general counsel in the Kansas City area with just a simple search on LinkedIn," Burton Taylor, a marketing consultant at Proventus, told me recently. He started by selecting "advanced search."

Then he simply entered the title, "General Counsel," added the zip code and set the geographical search limit for "50 miles."

The result was a treasure of information. Not just because Taylor now had 100 names of GCs in his area, but because he had context to go with these names—including their connections and any connections he had in common with them.

The most important information you can turn up is how many people you know in common with your targets. In Taylor’s case, he shared one or more connections with a number of the general counsel on his list.

What’s next? Pick up the phone, call your common connection and ask her to introduce you.

Make sure you give her a genuine reason why she ought to, of course—something more than, "I’d like to do his legal work." It could be very simple, like inviting the target to a continuing legal education program your firm is hosting. Perhaps you’d like to ask him industry-specific questions for an article you are writing.

You can also use LinkedIn’s "get introduced" feature; this allows your common connection to forward a message from you to the target.

The barriers to entry are falling. This means not only that you have an opportunity to prospect for clients you never could have reached before; it also means that your existing clients are exposed to your competitors.

Try out LinkedIn’s advanced search feature and find out for yourself how easy it is to identify, qualify and connect with a whole new list of potential clients.

Adrian Dayton is an attorney and author of Social Media for Lawyers (Twitter Edition). His website is