Sales Best Practices

The Best Catchy Email Subject Lines For Sales in 2019

Mark Kosoglow's Avatar

Mark Kosoglow

VP Sales

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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 catchy email subject lines for sales have five key traits in common.

5 Tips for Top-Performing Email Subject Lines

  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. Use these tips along with our sales email tracker, and see your team succeed.

Subject 1: The Connect Request

What to say:

“Connect?”

Results: 71% open rate

Why it works: It’s concise, purposeful, and matter of fact - the call to action is a simple and quick ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. But it's also ambiguous enough to create a sense of curiosity. We’re wired to be curious - so much so that the reward centers in our brain light up whenever our curiosity is piqued. This approach makes your recipient want to know more (Connect about what? And why?) and open your email.

The fact that this subject line is only eight characters long means that the first sentence in your email will probably show up in the preview on most mobile apps and email clients. This gives your messaging in that first sentence another chance to make a first impression.

Subject 2: The Statistics

What to say:

“6.8 people involved in a decision”

Results: 68% open rate

Why it works: People like numbers. Numbers stand out like an island in the sea of text saturating your prospect's inbox. They convey value, and if they have a decimal point they seem more accurate and trustworthy. A hard statistic is built on more than just a seller’s personal interpretation.

This particular example also helps to build trust with your potential client because it touches on data that isn’t just about the product or service that you’re selling. Prospects can find value in quantitative info like this regardless of anything else. When you volunteer helpful information that doesn't relate to your sales pitch, your recipient gets the impression that you have their best interests in mind.

Subject 3: The Humble Ask

What to say:

“Any response would be appreciated”

Results: 65% open rate

Why it works: Controversial rule of thumb: if it costs them little, most people want to help. We spend all day, every day trying to be of service to the people around us - our employers, our coworkers, our friends and families. That drive can be habit-forming, and the request for “any response” conveys the idea that a simple “Yes,” “No,” or “You should talk to (this person)” will suffice.

Subject 4: #NoShame

What to say:

“Shameless last attempt”

Results: 63% open rate

Why it works: This kind of candor is breaking a pattern. We’re wired to have our curiosity piqued by this kind of exception to the rule. This subject line brings up an interesting caveat though - what works in your sales messaging is always a moving target. This 63% figure holds true over the 3 years we’ve tracked it, but as these “breakup” messages have become more common they’ve also become more polarizing. Polarizing can be good, but this is something to keep an eye on. This is something to remember when reading any blog post like this one: what works today might not work in a year.

Subject 5: The Competitor Play

What to say:

“Time kills deals - {{! prospect’s competitor }} knows this”

Results: 53% open rate

Why it works: Nothin’ wrong with a little friendly competition! This subject line implies that your prospect’s competitors are talking to you and have a deal in the works, and your prospect needs to open this email or get left in the dust.

Technology moves quickly and companies need to constantly upgrade and refresh their tech stacks if they want to keep their edge. Sales moves even quicker, and this email subject line is just direct enough to remind the recipient of that fact.

Not sure which competitor to choose? A quick search on G2 will turn up the top hits, then you can A/B test which company names get the most email opens and positive responses.

Download the full guide to catchy email subject lines that get replies

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Speaking of what used to work... here are email subject lines from the first iteration of this article in 2017. They're not our top performers anymore but, you never know, they might come back into fashion.

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.

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 these sales productivity solutions, 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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

#Winning

What to say:

"more wins for (company)"

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

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.

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.

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.

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