First impressions are key. Would you show up to a black tie event in your favorite Netflix binge watching sweats? Of course not. Your sales email subject lines are the first impressions you project to your prospects with every email you send. Are you putting on your best suit every time you hit send?

We’ve learned a lot about what works by analyzing the data from tens of thousands of our own emails. Our top-performing email subject lines have five key traits in common:

  1. They’re short, sweet, and straight to the point.
  2. They’re written in a human way – non-formatted, casual subject lines seem more personal.
  3. They’re personal – they directly reference the company or the prospect’s name.
  4. They include a simple call to action.
  5. They’re relevant to the role, title, and persona of who we are reaching out to.

If that advice is not enough to set your sales team in motion, here are the actual top performing email subject lines our team has used. Suit up with sales excellence, and watch the engagement roll in.

Subject 1: The Personal Shout-out

What to say:

“(Name), quick call next Tuesday?”

Boom. Results: Across over 4,800 emails delivered, this subject generated an impressive 34% open rate.

Mark Kosoglow, VP of Sales, explains why it works:

The most read part of any email is the first word of the subject line. When someone reads their name first, it ensures their brain will pay just a bit more attention. Everyone loves to hear their name called out, even if it is just reading something aloud in their own mind.

After grabbing your prospect’s attention with their name, they now have a simple call to action that can be answered with one word and very little thought. The day of the week call to action requires no energy to answer. The mind says “yes” or “no” immediately because the line from consideration to decision is so short. This easy decision moves the recipient to consider the rest of the email because they have a bias to an answer that the brain will want to validate.

This email works well for busy leaders by empowering them to make a split second decision of “yes” or “no”.

 

At the end of the day, effective sales engagement depends on the solutions you have at your disposal. When you automate simple tasks like follow-ups while still maintaining the personal connection you’ve built, you will lose fewer deals by working smarter, not harder. With follow-up sequences and a few other tactics, you can close up to two weeks faster and keep ⅔ of your prospects engaged. What could you accomplish with two extra weeks in the month?

Want to Send More Emails in Less Time with a Sales Engagement Platform?

Subject 2: The Open Question

What to say:

“Tech question / (Company) sales process”

Boom. Results: This subject line has a 30% open rate over 4,250 emails delivered.

Alex Lynn, Sales Development Manager, explains why it works:

Everyone wants to share their opinion. Referencing a question that needs to be answered piques the recipient’s curiosity. They’re more likely to open the email so they can figure out if they can show off their expertise in answering your question. This is the formula used by the single most successful advertising headline in history.

Caution: the first sentence of your email must resolve their curiosity or your reader will lose interest (at best) or get frustrated at you (more likely). No one likes a bait-and-switch! Since we sell into sales organizations, we’ve increased the level of desire to be an “expert” by referencing what most sales leaders consider to be their secret sauce:  the sales process. Adjust this subject line to reference the secret sauce of your target prospect.

Personally, my curiosity is heightened when I can see a connection between technology and the sales process, but it is not obvious so I’ll click through to read more. I want to see what the sender’s take is.

Subject 3: The Casual Meeting

What to say:

“Time to meet?”

Boom. Results: Emails with this subject were opened an outstanding 42% of the time across more than 600 emails delivered.

Mark explains why it works:

Time to meet… about what? This subject is just ambiguous enough to make your recipient want to know why you want to meet and open your email. Also, this very short subject line allows more of a message preview on mobile devices and email clients. When your recipient scans their inbox, they’ll probably see the first sentence in your email, too. With this approach, the first sentence of your email is just as important as the subject.

The call to action is simple here – a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. I sell to sales teams who are used to constant ‘no’s’. This subject works well for us because while the call to action is simple, our prospects tend to think twice before sending an automatic rejection. This gives us an opportunity to show our value in the message and change the recipient’s mind.

Subject 4: #Winning

What to say:

“more wins for (company)”

Boom. Results: This subject line drove a 29% open rate over 570 email deliveries.

Alex explains why it works:

The more casual an email looks, the more “off the cuff” it seems. When someone does something for you in the moment, it creates a feeling of thoughtfulness. This subject line feels hurried, like the writer can’t wait to share thing that’s prompting them to write this “impromptu” email. This is further supported by the use of lowercase letters. Call it the Texting Millennial approach.

Subject 5: The Magic Combo

What to say:

“new tool / increase in results / (company reference)”

Boom. Results: In over 500 deliveries, emails with this subject were opened 38% of the time.

Mark explains why it works:

Everyone is interested in new things and in increased results. It’s a simple and obvious hook. The danger is that it’s too obvious or too overtly salesy. That’s why the last piece is important.  By putting in a short reference to a company initiative, news, or product, it adds a layer of personalization that causes the reader to think the sender knows them and wonder what information they have to help.

Personally, this works for me because I know that there are only three ways to increase sales rep performance: give them something better to sell, train them to work harder/better, or give them a tool that helps them work smarter. Even though I have the best product ever to sell (and sell with!) I’m always looking for techniques and tools to get better at sales engagement and sales management. Because the “increase in results” reinforces my own theory on new tools, I have a confirmation bias that drives me to see what’s next. It’s a powerful cocktail for my brain to continue being reaffirmed in my opinions by opening the rest of the email.

 

At the end of the day, it’s important to use your best judgment when figuring out what subject lines will resonate best based on the type of prospect you’re emailing and any other context you have. However, these are a great starting point to build your sales engine and drive your SDRs to book more meetings. Nothing replaces the authentic, helpful, engaging copy you write in the body of your cold email, but enticing subject lines certainly can help widen your funnel. Make sure your suit is fresher than Barney Stinson’s and your first impression is flawless so your can convert your prospects into a captivated audience.

Mark Kosoglow
Mark Kosoglow
Alex Lynn
Alex Lynn is a Sales Development Manager at Outreach, and is an energetic sales professional that is all about the data. He firmly believes as a team, when one member wins, every member of the team wins. His diverse background includes going to Undergraduate school for Physical Therapy, to running operations for 26 different Verizon retail locations, to coaching youth basketball, to being an avid outdoorsman.

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