What's Our Political Fundraiser Attack Ad?

Heir to a construction fortune, Alistair McAlpine appeared to eschew his silver spoon to make it big on his own. At a frighteningly youthful age, he’d made a new mint and became chief fundraiser for Margaret Thatcher.

His death this week informed me of his remarkable achievements. (Westminster Villagers can read this piece for more by rambunctious Fleet St legend, Simon Heffer).

Over his 15-year role, at its height in the 80s, “It is said he raised around £100million for the party“.

He had plenty of wealthy contacts. But what caught my eye was how he gained their commitment to the cause.

“The McAlpine method of fundraising was as straight and amusing as the man. Potential donors would be taken for a fine lunch, either at the Garrick Club or at his offices, and a discussion of the political situation and life in general would be unsullied by mention of money.

This, though, would come in a prompt follow-up letter. Sometimes other even less subtle methods were used, such as when Alistair had his staff send copies of Labour’s 1983 manifesto to business leaders, with certain paragraphs (such as about the nationalisation of the banks) highlighted for emphasis.”

A kind of behind-the-scenes one-man attack ad machine.

What works beautifully in politics doesn’t exactly translate into our b2b world though.

Slating the competition is an approach that sits uneasily in solution selling.

I’ve found in the main that salespeople that use this tactic tend to also exhibit other allied tendencies towards questionable integrity.

They may have success, but it is not sustainable.

Whereas those that do not concern themselves outwardly with their opponents – often to the extent of driving their prospects bananas about their apparent lack of interest – prevail. Over and over again.

So US-style attack ads are not something I’d likely recommend. For all sorts of reasons.

This British tale reminded me of a practice of computer hardware sellers back in that age.

Every Friday afternoon all the reps had to be in the office pumping out faxes. In those days, this was unheard of. And unpopular. The pub or the golf course were where reps expected to be at such a time.

Among the info they shot off, were press clippings. Showing their wares in fine light. Helping to re-affirm their prime suitability in buyer minds.

Yet as technology evolves, have we as a race become lazy in this regard?

Sending a favourable editorial is a three-click process these days.

I can’t imagine any salesperson taking the time to put together a ‘bundle’ of relevant, positive cuttings and pdf-ing them over to their prospect for discussion later.

Maybe that’s a shame.

On the other hand, isn’t there more to this than blowing our own trumpet?

The prospect has issues. Problems. Things they need to get on top of.

Why aren’t we focusing on those? From their point of view?

Who else do we know solving similar situations? Where is that documented? How can we collate and pass it on?

There’s surely plenty more beyond attack ads in our arsenal.

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