Sales email subject lines: 50+ tips, examples, and biggest mistakes
When sending sales emails, make sure your subject line isn't foiling your efforts. Though the subject line is sometimes overlooked when sending cold emails, it's arguably the most important part, as it will determine whether or not your email will be opened at all.
Thousands of B2B sales teams around the world have used Close to send millions of prospecting emails—and here's what we've learned when it comes to craft the perfect sales email subject lines, plus examples you can use for your own email campaigns.
Let's dive into the first section—the starting point for creating your subject line.
Essential questions to ask yourself when crafting sales email subject lines
Before you even start a first draft, get into the right mindset to better relate to your prospects, and remind you of key points you can make with your email subjects for sales. Here are 9 questions to ask yourself before you begin:
- What are you selling? - Of course you know what your company has to offer, but think about the value it can bring to the potential customers you’ll be sending this email to. If you're launching a new product, nobody cares about the fact that it's a new product, unless it can address one of their pain points better than what they're currently doing.
- Who are you selling to? - Who are your potential customers? Why do they need your product or service? Put yourself in their shoes and think about their needs.
- What metrics are you aiming for (open rate % goal, reply rate goals, etc.)? - Knowing your targets may help you craft better subject lines so you can elicit the proper action from your email recipients.
- How can you best motivate them to respond? - Your goal is to lead the recipient to want to open, read, and reply to the email. Address their pain points in their own language, or hit them with a time-sensitive reference.
- Are they familiar with your company already? - Are you corresponding with someone who knows your company, or is this email going to be their first introduction to it? You want to make a good first impression.
- Do you have any mutual connections? - Maybe you have a mutual acquaintance, went to the same school, or are part of the same LinkedIn group. Finding common ground, coming with a referral, and hinting at it in your subject line will drastically increase your chances of capturing the prospect's attention.
- Why should they want to open your email? - Think of this as a way to “hype up” the body of your email, in a sense. Make it sound good so they will be interested in reading the rest.
- Would you delete an email with this subject line if it appeared in your own inbox? - Think about your own experiences with receiving sales emails. How many of those do you delete and how many do you actually read? If you wouldn’t click on it yourself, your prospective customers probably won’t either.
- BONUS: How are you going to track which subject lines work best? - Once you start experimenting with different types of subject lines to see what your customers have engaged with most, it’s important to keep track of what’s working and what isn’t.
10 tips for making good subject lines for sales emails
Your subject line is perhaps the most important part of a sales email campaigns, as it’s the first impression you give to the recipient. To make the best first impression, here are our top 10 tips to creating the best email subject lines for sales:
1. Keep it real
You don’t want your subject line to sound too much like you’re trying to expedite a sale. Craft them in a way that you would in a ‘real’ email, as you would to a friend or coworker. Communicate like a real human—not a salesy email marketing expert trying to make some quick sales. Including things like slang and idioms (where appropriate) can be a great way to do this.
Good Example: Hey! Our [product/service] has your name all over it
Bad Example: What’s up, homie? Check out our [product/service]
2. Keep it short
Many people only check emails on their smartphones, so keeping your subject lines short and sweet is imperative. If they’re too long, they may overflow on to a second line, or worse—get cut off. Based on analysis by Leadium of over 40,000 sales emails, short subject lines with 4 words or fewer seem to perform best. Try keeping them short and to-the-point and see how it goes.
Good Example: CRM with predictive dialer
Bad Example: Wasting too much time manually calling your sales leads? We’ve all been there! Our CRM with a built-in predictive dialer will help you!
3. Keep it personalized
When you see a subject line that addresses you personally, or seems catered specifically to you, you’re more likely to want to open and read the email. Personalized subject lines are far more effective than a ‘universal’ sent to everybody on your list.
Good Example: How happy are you with [company Name]’s project management tool?
Bad Example: We can offer you [product/service]
4. Use their name + a cliffhanger
This 2016 paper by Stanford showed that including a prospect's name in the subject line increased open rates by 20% on average. The more your personalize your cold email subject lines, the better. And if you pique their curiosity with a little cliffhanger, they'll be more likely to open the email. (A tiny bit of fomo is fine as long as you keep it light.)
- Steli, you in?
- Steli, question about your book
- Steli, open to this?
- Steli, your thoughts?
- Steli, crazy idea?
- Steli, you dig this?
Bad Example: Steli, webdesign services 20% discounted
5. Keep it relevant
Think about why this person needs your product or service. How does this sales email pertain to them? Also, keep it relevant to the body of the email. Putting unrelated text in the subject line may spark interest for some, but it could also make your email look “spammy.”
Good Example: Declining email deliverability rates with your current marketing automation solution
Bad Example: This could be a game changer for your marketing efforts!
6. Keep it genuine
You should make it a goal to have the recipient of your email feel like you genuinely want to help them by providing this product or service to them. Maybe that means giving them a compliment, or commenting on an event you both attended. The best sales emails build a genuine connection rather than trying to close the sale as quickly as possible. Don't resort to limited time offers unless you're doing very high-volume, low-value transactional sales, as is typically the case in ecommerce.
Good Example: It was nice seeing you at [event you both attended], [name]!
Bad Example: Let’s get down to business. Are you interested in [product/service] or not?
Tip: If you have plenty of prospects but are short on time, you can automate this kind of personalization and still be authentic. In Close, you can use Custom Fields to save details like conference names and dynamically include them in the subject lines of your Email Templates. Try it out yourself free for 14 days.
7. Keep it casual (but not too casual)
If the recipient’s first impression of your email feels cold and too business-like, they might see it and think “ugh, no thanks.” Don't sound like the stereotypical email marketing send, and don't be overly formal. Something a little more casual can be more appealing, and make your email feel more approachable. Some sales teams are seeing great results using emojis in subject lines, but test if that is true for your target audience as well. You don’t want to be too casual, though. The simplest one here, and one that still performs decently sometimes is the classic "quick question" subject line.
Good Example: Can we chat about [their company/your products/services/etc.]?
Bad Example: What’s up, [name]? Hit me up if you’re interested in [product/service]
8. Ask a question
Questions can spark interest and encourage someone to open an email, and they're one of the most powerful tools to move a prospect along the sales process. Whether you’re aiming to make them feel useful by asking for information, or making them consider their own needs and wants, sales questions are the key.
Good Example: What does [department] need at [their company]?
Bad Example: This is what you need: our [product/service]
9. Keep your promises
Whatever your subject line promises, make sure the body of your email lives up to that. Whether you’re promising to make their life easier, give them a good deal—or whatever else it may be—you need to follow through. Don’t make false promises or “click bait” your potential customers. That will only lead to you losing business.
Once you start getting creative with subject lines, it’s easy to get tempted to go too far. Certain subject lines might get you amazing open rates, but you need to look at more than just this one metric. Instead, consider the overall funnel. A lot of cold emailing nowadays is done with the “Re:" subject lines, implying that there’s been a previous conversation.
But your email copy should deliver what your subject line promises. If you mislead people to get an email opened, they’ll read your email and delete it. Nothing is gained from that.
Here's an example of a clever subject line tricks prospects into opening the email, but irritates by being misleading: "Your meeting got cancelled." Capitalizing on FOMO (fear of missing out) gets attention, but once people realize they've been tricked, you lost their trust.
And one of the most effective attention-getting emails I got was the subject line: “Steli, I’m disappointed.”
I immediately clicked on that email, and then, it went on, basically saying: “I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to connect. What we’re doing is … blah, blah, blah …,” and the email went straight into the pitch.
That email was like a guy running a marathon, sprinting the first three miles, being ahead of everyone else, and then collapsing and never making it to the finish line. It was the first email that I opened in my inbox, but once I saw that the subject line was just a clever trick and the sender wasn’t really disappointed, I didn’t bother responding.
Good example: I have a follow-up offer that you will want to consider.
Bad example: [First name], I’m disappointed
10. Keep it mobile-friendly
In 2018, 49.3% of all marketing emails were opened on a mobile device, and it's save to say that this number is even higher now in 2021.
Make sure that your subject lines are optimized for mobile devices too. Tools like Zurb's TestSubject make it easy for you to test how your subject lines will look on popular mobile devices, and avoid unforeseen UI issues.
10 advanced email subject line hacks sales reps swear by
Want to up your game even more? These nine tips are next-level. Experiment with them to see what gives you the most success!
1. Intentional misspellings
We know, this one sounds pretty weird. However, a tiny intentional spelling mistake can make your email come across as more human. A small mistake such as hitting the key beside the letter you would normally put in that word won’t make it seem like you don’t actually know how to spell the word, but rather that you may have typed and sent it in a hurry. This can create a sense of urgency and may actually entice the recipient to open your email more than if everything was spelled correctly.
2. Connect the dots
No, we’re not suggesting you create some sort of children’s art project—we’re talking about capitalizing on shared connections. If you have a mutual acquaintance or attended the same event, these connections may be able to help you secure a new client. Referrals are gold when it comes to cold email subject lines.
3. Check on deliverability
Ensure you’re not using any words that may trigger your recipients’ email services to sort your sales emails into their spam folder. Including words and phrases such as “bonus,” “click here,” and “winner” may send your emails straight to junk. You should also run a test on your DNS records to make sure there aren’t any issues.
4. Know your audience
A good email subject line is appropriately adjusted to the tone of your email based on the type of people you’re sending it to. If you’re sending an email to CEOs of large companies, your tone should be different than if you’re emailing free-spirited small business owners.
5. Only use company names
Instead of addressing your recipients by their first name, experiment with only including their company name, or no personal/customized variables at all.
6. Use lowercase text
When sending an email to someone you know, you likely wouldn’t capitalize every word in your subject line. Only using capital letters where necessary can make you come across as more human and genuine.
7. Be creative!
Making use of your wit and sense of humor is a great way to create catchy email subject lines for sales. People may be intrigued if you use a pun or set up a joke, and it’s a unique way to make your emails stand out. We’d recommend giving this a shot.
8. First sentence of the email
While this isn’t actually a part of your subject line at all, we’d recommend also being mindful of the first sentence or two of body text in your email, as this part can sometimes be shown as a snippet, directly below the subject line, in an email inbox. If your snippet reveals that your subject was simply clickbait, or is full of junk like an unsubscribe button, this can deter your potential customers from opening your emails.
9. Subject-line-only emails
Send out emails with only a subject line and no email body text. Using EOM at the end of your subject line also works well. I know a sales team that’s killing it with this technique.
10. Address their pain points
Getting straight to the (pain) point in your email subject line is often very effective. If you can make a pretty educated guess about one major professional problem they're dealing with, it's worth using it in your subject line. Some examples of pain point subject lines are:
- Marketing attribution mess?
- International payroll legislation quagmire? This could help
- The "find good freelancers" struggle is real (unless you do this)
- WFH team management :/
- Low CRM adoption?
- declining email open rates
- social media still working for you?
- your email list becoming less engaged too?
- disengaged subscribers?
The more you're able to speak the lingo they that use when communicating with their coworkers, the more you'll see higher open rates. Sometimes instead of using visual emojis try using typed emoticons (like in the "WFH team management :/" subject line example). You'll best be able to do this when you talk with sales reps, marketers, support, and customer success agents.
22 killer email subject line examples for each sales type
Need some guidance? Have a look at these examples for every kind of sales email you might be sending out and tweak them to suit your specific needs.
Cold Outreach Sales Emails
- We can help!
- X steps to achieve [goal they might have]
- [mutual acquaintance] suggested we reach out!
- The next steps
- Here's that information you requested
- Getting started with [product/service]
- First steps to improving your [issue you're helping with]
- Hi, we're [company name]. Nice to meet you!
Thank You Sales Emails
- Thank you for our [date] meeting
- It's been great doing business with you!
- New [department] strategy for [company name]
- Jam-packed schedule? Let us help you out.
Sales Prospecting Emails
- X ways we can help you with [issue they might have]
- Could you use one of these?
- Time to chat?
- Free [day of the week] at 1:45?
Reminder Sales Emails
- Have you thought about [topic/product/service]?
- Last chance to snag this deal!
Post-transaction Sales Emails
- It's been a pleasure!
- Would love to work with you again.
Check-in Sales Emails
- Interested in [related topic]?
- We'd love your feedback
If you’re looking for something a little more specific, keep reading to get industry-specific tips for crafting your subject lines.
39 proven subject lines by industry: B2B, SaaS, startups, small business & more
Based on what industry you’re in, your target audience will be different, and the types of sales subject lines you use will vary as well. Here are 39 industry-specific subject line examples to get you started:
- [your company] x [prospect's company]
- Looking to outsource [service you can provide]?
- We'd love to help you grow your business!
- From one small business to another...
- You know you're running a startup when...
- Could your startup use some help with [common issue]?
- Regarding your [related department] needs
- Large companies need [your service/product] too!
SaaS & Software
- Looking to improve your software sales?
- X ways our software can improve your life
- A must-have update for [their company]
- Your site needs this
- Could this go viral?
- Ding! You don't want to miss this notification
- Are your employees' heads in the clouds? We can help.
- We'll help you ditch external hard drives
- X benefits we can bring to your platform
- We can help you build the app of your dreams!
- Improve your services with this tool
- Let us do the groundwork for you!
- Let's turn your ideas into reality
- We can "smarten up" your home!
- Want to be #1 on the app store? Let us help!
- Get better app reviews with this one awesome tool
- The best thing you'll download today
- Sell more properties with help from [your company]
- There's a smarter way to sell real estate...
- This deal deserves a billboard
- 3 ways to make your next commercial a hit
- Want to get more clicks on your Facebook ads?
- X ideas for your next blog post
- All content creators need this tool
- Bring in the foodies with [your company]
- We have a delicious deal for you
- Grab a bite of this!
- Check out our claims & we'll help you with yours
- Risk Management: preparation is not having to gamble
- Investment opportunity too good to pass up
- Need help with financial planning?
These subject lines will be more relevant to your prospective customers than a more general example would.
How to set up subject line experiments to let data do the thinking for you
Have you been paying close attention to the performance of your sales emails? You might not have even thought to run experiments with your email tactics, but it can be a great way to improve your results. Here are some tips and advice for the best practices when setting up subject line experiments:
- Decide what you want to test - How are you going to measure what’s working and what isn’t? You might want to look at your open and response rates for starters. These metrics, and many others, are covered by our email sequences reporting in Close.
- Have an idea of what metrics you’re aiming for - It’s important to set quantifiable goals when it comes to these tests. If you’re not seeing the results you want, it’s time to try something different.
- Pick how many variations you want to try out - What types of subject lines do you think will work best? Select a few types and decide how long you want to test them before having a look at the results of your a/b test.
- Don’t get caught up in your success - What’s working now won’t work forever. Always challenge your current techniques, because the time between realizing you’re losing leads and finding a new template that works could last months. Don’t stop experimenting altogether just because you’ve found one thing that works.
- Follow up with recipients - To get more information about your target audience, consider reaching out to those that opened or responded to your emails to get their feedback. Ask what made them want to open your email, what they liked about it, and what they didn’t like. This qualitative data can be used to your advantage when writing future emails.
Following these guidelines, run some experiments to see what types of subject lines seem to resonate well with your target audience and generate the most engagement.To take it to the next level, learn how to run cold email experiments when you’re emailing smaller sets of leads and don’t have enough data to achieve statistically significant results.
Keep in mind that if you wouldn’t open an email with the subject line you’re using, your leads probably won’t either. Entice your prospects with great subject lines for sales emails that are short, relevant, to-the-point, and sometimes funny, and you’ll be improving your cold email response rate with new customers in no time.
Want more tips? Get your copy of the new Cold Email Hacks 2.0 e-book!