Half the people you email decide whether to open your email based on its subject line alone. If you spend all your time crafting the perfect email and neglect the subject line, that’s a 50% margin for error, lost sales, and lost revenue. In this article, we’re sharing five foundational best practices for crafting striking subject lines, six specific writing tips you can use, and an inspiring list of 40+ examples that get emails opened and lead to closed deals.
From top sellers’ advice on tailoring your subject lines for any sales outreach scenario to phenomenal subject line examples—bookmark this article to return to any time you feel stuck and need to get your creative email juices flowing.
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- 1. 5 Foundational Best Practices for Unforgettable Sales Email Subject Lines
- 1.1 Prioritize Simplicity and Brevity
- 1.2 Personalize Your Sales Email Subject Lines
- 1.3 Watch Your Tone
- 1.4 Evoke an Emotional Reaction
- 1.5 Don’t Get Jaded
- 2. 6 Tips For Writing Striking Sales Subject Lines for Any Scenario with 40+ Examples
- 2.1 For Cold Outreach—Use Curious Word Choices
- 2.2 For Inbound Lead Follow-Ups—Leave Them Hanging
- 2.3 For Booking Meetings—Use Internal Camouflage
- 2.4 For Follow Ups And Networking—Make Them The Expert
- 2.5 For Promotional Emails—Subvert Their Expectations
- 2.6 For Leads That Have Gone Cold—Surprise Them
- 3. Creating The Best Sales Email Subject Lines Is Easier Than You Think
5 Foundational Best Practices for Unforgettable Sales Email Subject Lines
1. Prioritize Simplicity and Brevity
Your sales email subject lines should be short and sweet—1-5 words is ideal. That way the first line of the email is visible without opening it. Emails with shorter subject lines perform better, according to Mailchimp.
Email Subject Line For Sales No-No: Don’t send an email without a subject line. It can be perceived as lazy.
“The shorter your subject line, the more characters of the first line of the email they see. Make sure it’s personalized and resonates with the persona. Show them you know them.”
Kyle ColemanClariSVP, Marketing
2. Personalize Your Sales Email Subject Lines
Make sure your sales email subject line is relevant to the recipient. When constructing your subject lines, write them in lowercase to appear casual and include their first name, e.g. [Name], question about your book.
Your recipient should feel like your email fits naturally among the regular correspondence they usually get—the kinds of emails they actually read.
Email Subject Line For Sales No-No: Never include generic greetings. Their email hosting may flag your email as spam, or the recipient may think it’s irrelevant. Instead, eschew them entirely and opt for the recipient’s name. E.g., Instead of Hi there or Hello begin your subject line with [Prospect name] can’t wait to speak with you this week.
3. Watch Your Tone
Be mindful of the tone of your sales email subject lines. Ensure your follow-up doesn’t read as pushy or your initial cold outreach doesn’t sound too formal. Be careful of phrases like ‘gentle reminder.’ (Will the next reminder be less gentle?)
Email Subject Line For Sales No-No: Never use phrases like ‘urgent,’ ‘read now,’ or ‘immediately’ unless it actually is vital. Otherwise, you’ll lose the lead’s trust and potentially turn them off from reading your email—or worse, get flagged as spam.
4. Evoke an Emotional Reaction
On the other hand, eliciting a positive emotional reaction—laughter, curiosity, competitiveness—is a great way to entice prospects to read your emails. Try challenging your prospect or evoking a reaction like surprise or joy. It can be helpful to include personal pronouns like ‘you’ as in “I have incredible news for you.”
Email Subject Line For Sales No-No: Avoid eliciting negative emotional reactions like panic, confusion, or anger. Even if your prospect opens your email, they may be left with a poor impression of you.
5. Don’t Get Jaded
Every failed subject is just another opportunity to learn. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again. Iterate and improve your subject lines. Not every one of them will be winners but when you apply these best practices, you’re sure to find something that works.
In this episode of Sales FAQ, sales leaders call out what makes an effective cold email subject line stand out. Watch this video to learn what subject lines will be sure to get you an open
6 Tips For Writing Striking Sales Subject Lines for Any Scenario with 40+ Examples
Now that you know the theory behind the best sales email subject lines let’s dig into the practice. Use this list of 40+ example subject lines to inspire your own. We’ve also compiled tips and practical advice from sales leaders on tailoring your writing for any sales outreach scenario. And here’s a tip, if you decide to send a video email message, test adding the word ‘video’ to your subject line to entice that open even further.
For Cold Outreach—Use Curious Word Choices
You can’t rely on being a trusted name or business for cold outreach, so it takes extra work to engage prospects. The human brain prioritizes the novel—novelty triggers the release of dopamine in the brain as a reward, encouraging us to find out more. By using unusual words prospects are not expecting in a sales email, you may be able to grab a precious moment of their time.
- Onboarding, enablement, and napkins
- Reply Rates, CTR, and Axolotls
- Cold Calls, Email Subjects, and Spears
- We’d never strongarm you 💪
- The force is strong with this one…
- Always Asking Atypical Questions
For Inbound Lead Follow-Ups—Leave Them Hanging
Picture your sales email as a mysterious suitcase. It’s your job to offer the suitcase to your prospect and ask them to open it. If you pitch how interesting what’s inside will be, they’re more likely to want to open it up. Withholding some information elicits curiosity and makes them want to click. It becomes a mystery they are compelled to solve.
- [Name] I have to tell you…
- X options to get started
- [Name], I saw one of your ads…
- Our next steps
- [Name], your CEO…
- 5 things you need to know
- Time to meet?
“What makes people uncomfortable about this approach is that you skip the pleasantries. But it really works.”
Chaniqua (Nikki) IveyInclusivv (Formerly Civic Dinners)CRO
For Booking Meetings—Use Internal Camouflage
Use internal camouflage—the appearance of working in your prospect’s company—sparingly. If done well, your prospect will be pleasantly surprised once they open your email. If not, they may feel duped if they believed your sales email was internal.
- Reply rates
- Template refresh
- Last week’s results
- Sales templates
“The thing that I don’t want to happen is for your subject line to scream to the reader, “Hey, you’re about to get pitched!” So what do you do? Use Internal camouflage. It looks like it could be internal and won’t ring alarm bells in your reader’s mind.”
Will AllredLavenderCo-Founder & COO
For Follow Ups And Networking—Make Them The Expert
Your prospects love to feel smart—who doesn’t? When you frame your subject line as a bid for knowledge-sharing, your prospect will likely be intrigued. This type of sales email subject line works well for sales follow-up and just as well for networking with new folks.
- Tech question / [Company] sales process
- Looking for your advice on [subject]
- Wanna get coffee and continue chatting about [subject]?
- I need your advice on something
- [Name], I loved your blog post on [website name]
- [Name], question about your book
- [Name], wild idea?
For Promotional Emails—Subvert Their Expectations
We’re all tired of the same promo emails in our inboxes. By subverting your reader’s expectations—through a pithy phrase, carefully placed ellipses, or unique word choice—you’ll stand out among a sea of promo emails.
- I love everything in this email!
- What if we told you____
- And they said it couldn’t be done
- I don’t usually do this…
- They told us it was impossible
- Do not open this email
- I think [product] would be perfect for you
“What will challenge this person’s narratives? What will make them think my email is different enough from the countless others they receive?”
Dale DupreeThe Sales RebellionFounder and CSO
For Leads That Have Gone Cold—Surprise Them
Cold leads are hard to revive. That’s why the element of surprise works so well when reaching out for the final push. It’s your last chance to hook them—pull out the most striking words you can conjure, the hook that will finally get them to open your email. Show them why they’re missing out and should reconnect.
- Should I stay or should I go?
- Where is the love?
- Permission to close your file?
- Feeling blue?
- If you change your mind about partnering with us
- 3 ideas for you
- I never want to assume
- [Name], you in?
“I don’t do it to instill panic. It’s a great motivation to open the email, which is the barrier we have with email subject lines.”
Jen AllenChallengerChief Evangelist
Creating The Best Sales Email Subject Lines Is Easier Than You Think
Top sellers agree—subject lines can make or break your sales outreach. So why not listen to the experts? Remember to opt for brief subject lines that are specific to your prospect and include unique keywords. The examples above are a great springboard for your own creative renditions. And when all else fails, remember there are no bad sales subject lines, just great opportunities for A/B testing!
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