Having spent the past 60 months obsessively studying how to sell B2B-related products and services to connections I come across on LinkedIn, I've made plenty of mistakes.

I've also (finally!) found a proven strategy that allows me to fill my webinars, sell my online courses and build powerful, lucrative relationships - all from people I meet on LinkedIn.

It all has to do with a misunderstood and often underutilized feature of the platform - LinkedIn's internal search engine.

LinkedIn = Search Engine for Sales Prospects

Now, before we dive into LinkedIn Search, I have to explain the incredible opportunity that the platform holds.

LinkedIn's goal is to become a "one stop shop" for professionals worldwide, with the platform providing professional training courses, networking groups, industry-specific news stories and thought pieces, user-generated blogs and content, job listings, a freelance marketplace and much more.

Even better, LinkedIn is essentially a search engine for sales prospects. Because it sorts, saves and categorizes every single piece of data its members share on the platform (from job titles to physical locations to employers to schools to status updates) you can leverage that data to find your ideal prospects on the network.

Here's what I mean.

Using LinkedIn's built-in search engine, I can instantly find (and connect to) a list of Business Coaches who live in Chicago and attended Notre Dame for college.

Talk about getting specific in your audience targeting!

You will not find a faster, easier and more effective way online to instantly create customized, targeted lists of your ideal clients and prospects than by using LinkedIn's advanced search engine.

Now, the hard part is knowing how to quickly build and scale the type of "Know, Like and Trust" relationships that turn strangers into prospects and prospects into paying clients!

On LinkedIn, Personalized, 1-on-1 Marketing is Key

Once you connect with your ideal clients and prospects on LinkedIn, it is critical that you don't immediately try to marry them on the first date!

What I mean is, you have to perform a little professional courtship! You have to warm your prospects up. You have to earn the right to ask for their time, attention or money later on.

Try and treat each new connection you make on LinkedIn like a series of virtual coffee meetings, breaking the ice, building a relationship and warming someone up before you ever ask for anything.

Remember, if you're only connecting with the exact people who you want to buy your product or service, you're not wasting your time to invest in building an authentic relationship with them!

Best of all, LinkedIn makes this easy to do.

By taking 10 seconds to skim someone's LinkedIn profile, you can immediately see where he or she lives and works, what school he or she went to, and so on.

Something as simple as, "Hey, I see you live in Minnesota - how do you survive the frigid winters there John?" is a great way to kick off a LinkedIn conversation with me and break the ice. (See what I just did there?)

Now, right off the bat, without even having to speak to someone first, you can mention two or three things in a personalized LinkedIn message that makes the other person feel at ease and curious about who you are and why you're interested in connecting.

Remember, this entire approach to selling on LinkedIn hinges on putting your audience first and showing how you can help them solve their biggest challenges or problems long before you ever ask them for anything in return.

LinkedIn = Land of Digital Opportunity

There's much more to the story, of course.

But, if to this point you've only looked at LinkedIn as a boring, sleepy social network that's mostly used by job seekers and HR professionals, you're missing an immense opportunity!

In my experience, there is no faster way to build your brand, generate quality leads and build your business online (assuming you have a B2B focus or want to reach specific types of professionals).

Either way, make sure you're taking this type of approach with your connections on LinkedIn.

And remember, if you target the right prospects using LinkedIn search, then it's not a waste of your time to engage them in quick, personal and friendly 1-on-1 conversations on the platform!