In our early days, we made some mistakes and no one replied to our cold emails.

But as time went on, we learned from our mistakes and wrote emails that got replies from CEOs of 9 figure businesses and even from Y Combinator venture capitalists.

The secret? 

We use subject lines that entice our recipients to click open.

If you’re looking for tips on how to craft subject lines that work? Then you’re at the right place. 

In this article, you’ll learn the different techniques and sales email subject lines you can use to create stellar sales emails.

What Makes a Poor Subject Line (Mistakes that will kill your performance)

First, what defines your sales email subject lines as good or bad will always depend on the product or service you are marketing and how your approach to crafting pertains to or hits your target audience.

Here are the most common sales email subject line mistakes we found. 

It inspires nothing (or it's vague)

The worst thing that can happen to you as a sales marketer is that recipients read your email subject lines and have no clue about the email/offer or feel no internal envy to want to click on your email. 

That's what we mean by email subject lines that inspire nothing.

Mostly, subscribers feel like the email has nothing to do with them or anything they care about. The subject line fails to pique their interests, and the email is left unopened. 

The problem here can be narrowed down to targeting the wrong people or not conducting proper research to learn about your targets prior to sending your emails.  

It is too long

Long email subject lines don't do well. If your email subject lines are too long, you're missing the point. 

Email subject lines are meant to be short phrases with the sole purpose of introducing the email. Also, long subject lines always have a poor rendering in most recipients' email box providers (more on that later).

It offers no real value.

You can think of this as email subject lines that promise nothing about the email's value. For the sake of argumentation, here are potential email values most recipients will expect from you as a sales rep. 

  • Solving a problem. 

  • Making a product/service offer. 

  • Discussing something they genuinely love or care about.  

  • A learning opportunity. 

If your email subject lines don't give away or portray a glimpse of these benefits to your audience or customers about your email, then it offers no real value. And thus gives them no reason to open it.  

It's clickbait.

A sales email subject line click baits can have many facets. Any offer or promise that seems unrealistic can tip off your audience, and your subject line will come across as clickbait. 

It can even be subject lines recipients judge as annoying or which contain exaggerated claims or unethical or legally questionable words. 

Also, promising something in the email subject line and failing to deliver it inside the email body, product, or service will hurt your open rate — in the future. 

Because you might get away with subject lines that don't live up to their emails once. But your subscribers or recipients will most certainly know better in the future.

What Makes A Great Subject Line (Attributes that makes them successful) 

Now that we are clear on what makes a poor email subject line, let's discuss the main characteristics of a compelling subject line.

1- It's descriptive

At its core, an email subject line aims to tease off the content of the actual email. In other words, it serves to tell recipients what the email is about shortly and sweetly. 

So, even when crafting a sales email and using several tactics, you should ensure that your subject line does not go far from the content of the actual email.

2- It keeps the audience in mind

The language, messaging, offer, technique, words, and everything else included in the email subject are aligned with the audience. 

It's only a few words, but you should ensure that the target audience quickly identifies with it by making it specific to them.  

Here's an example from Ernest, pitching a guest blog idea to a marketer. Instead of playing around, he decided to use a common connection to stir the recipient's curiosity.

sales email subject lines

Doing so made it easy for the recipient to relate and here's how it turned out.

sales email subject lines

3- It's brief and concise (Optimized for devices)

Sales email subject lines should be one-liners that quickly explain what the email is about and what recipients will benefit from it. You don't need too many words for that.

The ideal length of an email subject line will always depend on what devices the target audience uses to access the email. 

Mobile, desktop, and tablet devices produce email subject lines differently. 

What may seem like a good length on a desktop device will most likely render poorly on a tablet or mobile device. So, it all depends on the target audience. But there is a sweet spot. 

According to Campaign Monitor, a subject line should be 41 characters long to appear on desktops, mobiles, and tablets. 

But, email providers usually recommend and limit the subject line to 60 characters. So, you can go for 60 characters if you are sure it accommodates your target audience devices.

Here's an example from a cold email Ernest sent Tim Soulo of Ahrefs.

short cold email subject line example

Tim liked the email and in spite of his busy schedule made sure that the email was read by the right person. So, he forwarded the email to Joshua Hardwick, Head of Content at Ahrefs.

And here's how it turned out.

great sales email subject line at work

4- It's interesting

Successful email subject lines always come with an element that entices recipients to open the email. Your audience wants to know what's in the email for them before opening it. 

So, will they learn something new? Will they get a unique product offer? Is it about a challenge they face that you want to solve? 

Will you help them hit their goals faster? Are there areas that could be improved in their current strategies or processes? Etc.

You need to ignite the benefit to elicit interest from your target audience and entice them to open your email. The question above will help you develop subject line angles that boost your open rates.

Here's an example of a value-based email subject line.

great sales email subject line at work

This subject line is straight to the point and tells the recipient what's in it for them. Here's the outcome.

great sales email subject line at work

5- It avoids spam trigger words

Spam trigger words are annoying for most people, and they can hurt your deliverability rate. 

Even worse, they can make your email subject line seem clickbait and nullify all chances of getting your emails opened. Successful subject lines are simple and look natural. 

You should ensure not to overpromise and use questionable words, drug-related keywords, or words that pressure your recipients. 

Here's an example of a subject line that uses clear wording to spark the Rand Fishkin of Moz's interest.

sales cold email subject line

Although the outcome was not positive, it nonetheless caught the recipient's attention and got him to reply.

sales cold email subject line

How to Write Effective And Catchy Sales Email Subject Lines

There are countless ways and tips you can follow to craft compelling email subject lines. Fun fact, there can be as many tactics as they are email marketers and sales reps. 

Also, researching and constantly using the same subject line secret sauce will bore your target audience out of your email list. 

According to HubSpot, 47% of marketers continuously experiment with different subject lines to optimize their emails.

So, you need to espouse and normalize A/B testing and constantly develop creative ways to craft subject lines to keep your open rates at their best. 

That said, here are eight approaches to crafting excellent sales subject lines. 

1. Personalize it

Chances are, as a sales rep, you already know that sending mass emails with random subject lines that seek to be inclusive for everyone won't get any results. 

No two prospects are the same, and people want to feel individual. Not surprisingly, emails with personalized subject lines are 22% more likely to be opened.

Prospects want to know that you took the time to research and target them with a specific offer tailored to them. 

And that's how specific your subject lines need to be. You should make sure your subject line is catered to the persona of the people you are targeting. 

You can personalize the subject using prospects' first name, making it specific to a specific demographic, job title, or group of people using the same software, etc.

2. Leverage FOMO

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is deeply rooted in our personalities. It's no secret that no one likes to miss out on something valuable. 

Leveraging FOMO boils down to creating a sense of urgency so that recipients will want to open your email and check it out in a given time frame. 

The urgency factor can pertain to a product deal recipients will miss out on if they don't act quickly, or it can be an urgent request. 

Even if they are not particularly interested in the product or promotion you offer, the FOMO can make them want to see what the offer is about, so it's almost a sure open. 

But while you're at it, you may want to watch how often and where you make urgent requests and time-sensitive offers. 

It is only a thin line between creating a sense of urgency and coming across as an annoying sales rep.

3. Strike curiosity

Striking curiosity is a tried-and-proven tactic for creating subject lines that drive more email opens. Curious people always ask questions and search for answers. 

Curiosity-striking subject lines easily pique your prospects' interests and make them want to learn more about the actual content of the email.

4. Mention the value.

This depends on your product and what you're offering in your email. The value you offer recipients through your email is part of the elements that interest them and make them want to read your email. 

So, if you are offering something unique or exciting, you need to make it known upfront by mentioning it in the subject line. 

That said, are you offering:

  • A discount?

  • A free trial?

  • A giveaway contest?

  • To solve a problem?

  • To help uncover churn?

  • New experiences?

  • Etc.

What benefits will prospects get from reading your emails? 

Whatever value you bring to their table, if you can sparkle in the subject line, it will help you win more openings and drive more interested people.

5. Create a sense of mystery. 

Creating a sense of mystery works in the same way as a striking curiosity. It intrigues recipients to want to learn more about whatever your subject line is about, and their direct action is to open the email and read it. 

But creating a sense of mystery doesn't mean you should make your subject lines enigmatic or obscure—because these will do more harm than good. 

Not only can they trigger spam filters, but they can also annoy recipients and cause them to give you the silent treatment. 

The best way to leverage mystery in your subject lines is to tell recipients just enough to know that you are legitimate and professional and not enough to make them want to check you out or learn more by opening your email. 

6. Leverage name recognition.

Name recognition is one of the most effective approaches to crafting subject lines, and it works like a charm. 

We all have celebrities, influencers, or like-minded people that we respect, admire, or/and look up to. 

Learning about your audience and mentioning the names of figures they respect and recognize in your subject lines can pique their interest and make them want to read what you have to say.

Mind you, relevance is a fundamental factor to success with this. 

Mentioning people that are in no way associated with your brand, product, or service just throwing out a name for the sake of recognition won't get you any results. 

Note: What works even better is when you offer people your audience respect a service, and they appreciate and give you validation. That's literally milk you can cow when targeting prospects. 

Think of it like a super testimonial that breaks all potential objections your audience might have—we've landed many clients with this. 

We created a case study about AppSumo's email marketing strategy and took it in front of Noah Kagan. Noah loved it and hired us. 

Then we created an email with the subject line "Noah Kagan thinks we should talk". 

We got up to 98% open and click-through rates. The better part, we were also able to win and work with top marketers like Ross Simmonds, Irina Maltseva, and more. 

7. Use emojis.

One of the best ways to get your audience to action is to elicit emotions; emojis are the best way to do this. 

A single emoji can help you convey a more profound message than words could ever portray. Using emojis can also make your subject lines fun, light-hearted, and better connect with recipients. 

But you should know that emojis won't hold value in a context that demands an objective voice. So, using it will depend on your goal with the email and your target audience. 

Also, overusing emojis can trigger spam checker algorithms and flag you as a spammer. 

8. Allude to a story.

This is another curiosity-striking approach to crafting email subject lines that get your emails. As the saying goes, stories sell best. Plus, people love stories. 

So, alluding to an exciting story in your subject line can intrigue curious recipients to want to learn more about it and open your email. 

The key is to ensure that the story fits your offer and aligns with your brand. 

30+ Effective Sales Subject Line Templates and Why You Should Use Them

10 subject line templates for cold emails

Here are a few sales email subject line templates you can use when cold emailing your prospects. 

Template 1

[Mutual connection] thinks we should talk.

When you mention someone prospects know and respect, it naturally makes them curious and wants to learn more about you. 

It works very well, especially when you have a testimonial from a mutual connection with the Prospect or a popular figure.

Template 2

Hi [name], [question]?

Questions call for answers. When you ask an intriguing question in your cold email subject lines, it makes prospects want to check you out and see what you have to say. 

Question-driven subject lines also foster a conversation with prospects and drive more replies.

Template 3

A [benefit] for [prospect's company]

This personalized subject line clearly states the benefit/value it wants to offer prospects. 

It is a simple approach that reassures prospects about the relevance of your email and gives prospects a reason to open your email. The key is to ensure that your offer/value/benefit is enticing enough. 

Template 4

X ideas for [pain point]

The quickest way to your prospects' hearts is to solve a problem or challenge they are struggling with. 

Mentioning a genuine pain point of theirs indicates that you truly know them and immediately teases off what they can expect from your email. If you do it right, it's a sure open. 

Template 5

X Idea/tips for [topic the Prospect cares about]

Everybody loves free ideas. Also, adding a number can catch the eye and make your email even sexier. 

Keep in mind that the specificity of your tips or idea towards the topic the Prospect cares about will make you successful here.  

Template 6

Your yearly [X] target

The idea behind this subject line template is to pair your offer with the Prospect's goals to make it relevant. 

Every person at a company is working towards some goal; when you can tie up your offer to their goal, it makes your email relevant and interesting. 

Template 7

[Situation] at [Company]

This is also a personalized, pain point approach which indicates that you've done some homework before reaching out to your target prospects. 

Template 8

Have you tried [a tool prospect use that sucks]?

This is like mentioning a pain point the Prospect is struggling with. The mere fact of mentioning a tool they're having issues with makes you interesting.  

Template 9

Question about [pain point or goal]

Hitting preset goals and solving our pain points are important to all of us. People will be interested to find out what you want to ask, and they will open the email. 

Template 10

[Name], saw you're focused on [goal]

First, it's personalized. Second, it's relevant to their goal. They'll want to know how you want to help and open the email.

10 subject line templates for follow-up emails

Here are subject line templates you can use for follow-up emails. 

Template 11

Our next steps

This is only logical. If you came up with an interesting idea or offer in the previous email, you can use this to tell prospects about the next moves you will take together.  

Template 12

Here's [what you promised in the previous email]

Did you promise something in your previous email? Deliver it. This will keep you top of their minds and the conversation moving forward.  

Template 13

A [plan/solution] for [pain point]

Offering a plan or a solution to your prospects' pain points is also an effective way to move forward. 

Template 14

I'd love your feedback on [something]

Did you give prospects a free trial? A discounted offer? A free product? Or have they purchased from you? 

You can use this subject line to collect their feedback and keep the conversation going.

Template 15

How about a [Low commitment offer]?

This works well when prospects are reluctant and have doubts about taking the next steps. Making a low-commitment offer can get them to beat their fears and take the step. 

Template 16

[Past or current client] also had similar reservations.

You already know prospects will have a lot of objections and what-ifs that can hinder your sales process. 

This subject line supposes that you want to tell a story of someone who had similar reservations and how it played out for them. They will be interested to know.

Template 17

[Prospect], you are going to love [this]

Got an idea on something your prospects will love? Like a blog post they will enjoy or a free trial they can benefit from. 

Personalize the subject line by mentioning their name and letting them know they will love it. 

Template 18

I had this idea since we last spoke

Have an excellent perspective or a new approach you want to share with prospects? This is your subject, your subject line. Also, it encourages them to recall your last conversation.

Template 19

I thought about what you said

This subject line helps you move the conversation forward with the prospects. Keep in mind that it assumes the Prospect had replied to your previous email.

Template 20

Talk on [day] at [1:45]?

Want to follow up with a meeting? Make it clear in the subject line. 

6 subject line templates for "meeting requests."

Meeting requests are an essential part of sales prospecting. Here are a few subject line templates you can use for this. 

Template 21

X minutes call this week?

Think of how much time you will need for a sales discussion with your prospects and let them know in the subject line. 

Template 22

Down for a [Day] demo call?

This can also be a good strategy for handling objections. Ask them for a demo call to show them the value of your product or tool. 

Template 23

Requesting a meeting on [Day]

This subject line lets your recipients know why you are reaching out to them. It invites them to decide and let you know about the next steps. 

Template 24

(Time/Down) for a quick touch base?

This provides an alternative, easy way to attract new prospects or re-engage with dormant ones.

Template 25

Meeting invite: [Date]

Want to send a meeting invitation? This is your subject line. Plain and straightforward.  

Template 26

[Company name] + [Company name]: [Date]

This is an effective meeting email subject line for you to send to partner companies and link up with them.

5 subject line templates for "after no response."

Here are a few subject line templates you can use when your prospects are not responding to your email.

Template 27

This is my final email/It's time to say goodbye

This is the simplest email subject line example you can use to break up with prospects. 

Template 28

Too bad I have to break up with you

This is a good subject line you can use at the end of your sales email sequence for prospects who still don't reply. 

Template 29

Should I stay or should I go?

Have prospects that are having trouble making up their minds? You can't convince them of the value of your offer all the time. Give them an ultimatum and let them make up their minds.

Template 30

Can I close your file?

The subject line of this breakup email encourages the Prospect to move forward. The question can also get them to respond so that you know their position.

Template 31

If you change your mind about partnering with [your company]

This can be a breakup subject line but still allows you to rekindle the relationship. 

Key Takeaways

  • Always keep your sales subject lines short and concise. Make sure it's stripped of any words that can trip up the audience and trigger spam filters. 

  • Make sure it's aligned with your audience and that it is action-oriented. After all, your goal is to get your prospects to open your sales emails and take your desired action. 

  • Set yourself up for success by ensuring you always find an angle that hooks your prospects. Whether you leverage FOMO to create urgency or emojis to elicit emotion. Always find an angle that best aligns with your goals.