Over the weekend, I read a blog post not related to the insurance industry about the different people you might encounter in your life. As part of the post, the author listed several “types” of people – the temperamental child, the moody teenager, the hippie-turned-teacher, etc. And one of the people that the author included in her list was “The sleazy insurance salesman.”

Not even just salesman, insurance salesman specifically.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this claim. Back in April, we published a story exploring Gen Y’s opinions about insurance agents – and nearly everyone I interviewed described agents using negative words. Even though most of them did their insurance shopping online (or not at all) and had never worked with an agent, their impression of agents was very specific – and not flattering.

I can’t seem to wrap my head around this idea. Yes, I know that salesmen are traditionally considered pushy, but 95 percent of the agents I’ve met in my two years as associate editor have been anything but pushy – they’ve been helpful and passionate about insurance and hoping to help change lives. Trust is such a huge issue in this industry, but it seems like that’s the big thing missing here – trust.

So what can you do to fix that? The key to not being taken for a sleazy insurance guy is to know when to accept no. Sometimes, that means taking the “no” on the first rejection. And that’s OK, because you can always ask that client to stay in touch if they ever need you. You can also think about mirroring your behaviors and dress code after your clients – don’t act exactly like them, but if most of your clients are jeans-and-t-shirt people, you’ll look slimy in a three-piece suit, so maybe dress down a bit in khakis and a polo.

But the most important skill of all is to listen. Ask important questions, and show the client that you truly care. We can break the agent stereotypes, even though it may take one agent at a time.