Men trust their institutions and teams

September 27th, 2009 by elizabethpace Leave a reply »

OSUOne of the most difficult challenges salespeople face is to engage a prospect’s initial interest—at least enough to obtain an introductory appointment.  In most cases you start as a stranger.  In many instances your customer is completely unfamiliar with your company and product.  So how do you break the ice? How do you gain the trust necessary to have an initial conversation about your offering?

The answer lies in belonging to your customer’s in-group.

According to Marilyn Brewer, a psychology professor at the Ohio State University, most Americans trust strangers if they belong to what they consider their “in-group.”[i] But Professor Brewer’s study found that men and women define their in-groups differently.

Men were much more likely to trust a stranger that was a fellow Ohio State student than a stranger from other schools, even those at which they knew someone. Men tend to trust people that share an objective group membership.  The male participants were quoted as saying things like, “Someone from Ohio State would not let me down.”

Men value their group or team. “You see this in male-dominated groups like the military or football teams—there’s a clear distinction between “us” and “them.” Brewer says.[ii]

Advertisers and salespeople can gain initial credibility with a male prospect by belonging to his group. If you are an alumni of the same college, member of the same church, community group, rotary club or association use this membership to fuel your initial introduction. If you are not a member in his club, find someone in your company that is or consider joining your prospect’s group.


[i] “Whom do you trust?” Ohio State Alumni Magazine. Nov-Dec. 2005, p. 30.

[ii] Idem.


Leave a Reply