For the past few years, brokers have been hearing that they need to adapt their business model and become more of a consultant if they want to survive under health care reform and help their clients navigate through the changes. In addition to offering new services to current clients, brokers can look to expand their book of business and prospect through new mediums and social networking platforms.

The days of cold calling are all but gone, but platforms such as LinkedIn provide a way for brokers to find new clients and tailor their outreach to fit their needs. With more than 300 million members, LinkedIn is the ideal tool for insurance professionals looking to grow their business in the digital age.  Here are five steps to improve your LinkedIn presence and start making connections:

Step 1: Establish your profile

Selfies are for Facebook and Twitter; opt for a professional headshot on LinkedIn as the first step in establishing your credibility.  Take the time to fill out your relevant work experience for both current and past positions, and adequately describe what you can offer customers.  Be straightforward and avoid jargon, as potential clients may not be familiar with industry terms. Before you click the “Done Editing” button, check to be sure your profile includes relevant keywords — making it more likely for you to show up in search results on these topics.

Step 2: Get connected

Start with people you know in real life when building your LinkedIn network of connections. At the top of the LinkedIn homepage and to the right of the search screen is the “Advanced” button that will let you search for clients, colleagues and friends. You can also opt to give LinkedIn access to your email contacts so that it will suggest people you might know each time you log on to the service.

Step 3: Seek out potential customers

Once you’re set up with a strong profile and existing network, it’s time to look for new connections, which you can search for within a specific geography or with an exact title. You can also search based on your connection level or common groups. When you meet new people at conventions or talk to prospects or clients, ask if you can send them a LinkedIn connection request. Include a personalized note with the request to avoid any confusion.

Step 4: Connect with groups

You can communicate with members well beyond your personal connections by joining industry groups and participating in their discussions. LinkedIn groups can have thousands of members and be a tremendous prospecting database, but keep in mind that the value of the network is in finding your niche and qualified customers, the same as you would offline. Also remember that most groups have restrictions on active selling. Play by the rules and focus on sharing your knowledge to build a following.

Step 5: Post status updates

Another way to build a following is through your status updates. As your number of connections grows, it’s crucial to post relevant content such as links to industry articles and your own thoughts as to why the piece is important to your audience.

Now is not the time for brokers to sit back and relax. If you have a LinkedIn profile, be sure you are using it to your advantage by having a professional profile, making connections, getting involved with like-minded individuals and sharing your insights.

Sam Fleet is president of AmWINS Group Benefits, a wholesale broker of comprehensive group insurance programs and administrative services. He can be reached

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