Over 300 million members in 200 countries use LinkedIn as a favorite professional social network, a way to connect with both friends and potential employers. But if you consider it merely a job search and recruiting tool, you’re missing out. LinkedIn is the single most powerful tool for business development and sales leads—if you know how to use it. Lucky for you, we do. Let’s get LinkedIn to work for you.

Before we can start, there are three preliminary steps you must take:

Create your profile with your audience in mind.

Under your profile summary and the description under your current job, write a small “pitch” on behalf of your company…while still conveying who you are as a person.

For instance, you might say, “I have been a sales and business development professional for the last ten years, and it is my personal mission to ensure customers have the best possible experience when they work with my company. If your company needs to convey its strategic value to its target clients, call me. My company can help yours shine.”

Make it easy to contact you: Add your email, Twitter, and even phone number to your profile.

Connect to your existing contacts.

Ideally, you should be linked to more than 500 connections. Your colleagues, former and present, should be the first people you contact. Quality counts as much as quantity. Make sure you are linked to a few leaders of your industry…even if you don’t know them personally.

It may take time for some people to accept your invitations. Be patient.

Join relevant Groups.

Join up to 50 professional associations, industry groups, alumni groups, or geographically specific groups. Remember to focus on the most popular ones in your field.

LinkedIn’s search algorithm gives you results that are displayed in order of keyword relevance, as well as your degree of connection. Those who are first-degree connections come first, followed by second-degree connections (you know at least one person in common), followed by people with whom you share a group, followed by 3rd degree connections and those you have no connection with. Therefore, joining all the right groups is crucial to adding connections.

Once you have set your account up for success, you can leverage the Advanced search of LinkedIn, a powerful tool for reaching the right decision-makers.

To do this, click on the word “Advanced” next to the small magnifying glass icon on the top of the screen.

On the next page, you’ll see the “Relationship” section in the middle. It will default to only selecting 1st/2nd/Group-level connections. Be sure to select 3rd degree connections to get all results.

Here’s where the fun happens:

Search for your future client by job title and company name. If you want to find all the chief technology officers at Aetna, you can complete that exact search. (To make sure you are getting search results of only people currently at Aetna, select “Current” under “Company.”)

Search by a specific phrase, using quotation marks. For instance, if you are searching for alumni of Columbia University, you can do an Advanced Search and enter list “Columbia University” (in quotes) to get alumni of Columbia University. If you search just for Columbia University (no quotes), you will find alumni of the University of British Columbia and several other unrelated schools.

You can use Boolean search terms as well— “OR” “AND,” or “NOT” (in all capital letters). For example, perhaps you want to search for CTOs and CIOs at Aetna. You can enter, under “Job Title,” the following search string: “Chief Technology Officer” OR “Chief Information Officer” OR “CIO” OR “CTO.” To generate a list of CIOs in the oil and energy industry within 50 miles of Houston, you can search by job title and delimit by industry and zip code.

Note: If a contact is a 3rd degree connection, you can either upgrade and send InMail, or copy and paste the person’s “headline” and first name into Google, which usually reveals their full profile and a “Connect” button.

Within your search results, look at the left-hand side of the page. You can also find the top five current companies of people with certain job titles, which can help you expand your search:

You can also look under company pages to find other companies that “people also viewed” to find similar companies and key groups:

And for many individual people in your search results, you can find “people similar to” and “people also viewed” for that contact person—all great sources for additional leads.

Here is an example of “people similar to”:

And “people also viewed”:

Once you find your ideal target, you have to connect with them. To connect, be sure to click to view the person’s full profile (clicking the “Connect” button from the search results page—or from the mobile app—will not allow you to customize your invite message).

Finally, write your crucial introduction message, something like, “Does your company need a secure, cloud-based platform for sales management, which allows for your sales team to connect from their mobile devices? I’d love to tell you more about our new software that is perfect for mid-sized companies like yours.” If the invite is accepted, you can follow up with a longer message and a request to chat.

The rest is business history.