Email is a vital tool for a salesperson. The chances are, you send a lot of them. And a fair number of emails are going to be sent to prospects with whom you’ve not got a pre-existing relationship. That is to say, they’re cold emails. And what’s the biggest thing that decides whether a cold email is read or not? Cold email subject lines.
That’s why, if you are a sales development rep or an account executive, this article is for you.
I’m going to break down 7 types of cold email subject lines, and explain why they work for sales professionals. Plus, I’ve included 37 examples of the best cold email subject lines for sales, from myself and other sales experts.
What Is a Cold Email?
A cold sales email is a message sent to a prospect that you haven’t built a prior relationship with. It’s asking them to respond to you based on the content of the message alone. As a result, its chances of success are relatively low. This means that the subject line is absolutely crucial.
Kevin George of Email Monks calls the cold email subject line it “the biggest factor influencing email open rates,” while data gathered by Anum Hussain for HubSpot reveals that “33% of email recipients open an email based on subject line alone.”
Why Send Cold Emails?
It’s a numbers game. Each individual cold email has a relatively low chance of success, but they’re also relatively efficient to send. They get the name of your organization out there widely, and you only need a relatively small number of prospects to engage for them to be worthwhile.
How to Write Best Cold Email Subject Lines That Get Opened
A subject line needs to get the reader engaged. It needs to challenge them, and tell them that there is something they need to know in the body of the email. It can promise answers, intrigue them, or inspire them, but it has to create either an emotional connection of some kind. These are good traits for a cold email subject line to have:
A good email subject line makes the other person think. It doesn’t offer all the information, but it offers enough to get them engaged.
The offer has to appeal to the prospect. It’s got to give them something that they want. Some emails conceal what they’re about altogether, which is fair enough, but if you’re going to make an offer, it has to be a good one.
Everyone loves the sound of their own name. And everyone has stuff they’re interested in. So if you can tap into that with personalized email tactics, you’re in business.
Any offer needs to land when the subject is interested. So you need to arrive at the right point in their buying cycle, and in their day. You need to talk about something they’re interested in right now.
If they don’t open your email immediately, chances are they won’t open it at all. So if you can create some fear of missing out if they don’t open straight away, you stand a much better chance.
Cold Email Subject Line Examples
Below are 37 of the best cold email subject lines, grouped into the following seven types:
- The Question
- The Call Out
- The Shorty
- The Connection
- The Benefit Proposition
- The Congrats
- The Meeting Request
All of these attention grabbing subject lines have been tried and tested and found to work.
All of these cold email subject lines below pose a leading question that is more likely to get prospects to click:
1. “Tech question for [prospect]”
2. “Are you making these mistakes?”
3. “Can you help me?”
4. “Did you know XYZ Corp. was doing this?”
5. “Is this a challenge you face?”
Why It Works
According to Mark Kosoglow:
“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.”
Kosoglow got a 30% open rate over 4,250 emails delivered on a single campaign.
Things to keep in mind:
- You don’t need to ask a direct question. You can tell the subject that there will be one in the body copy.
- Ask an open-ended question. Questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no” don’t engage the prospect.
- Make sure you answer the question quickly in the body of the email
Get these elements right, though, and you could see similar results as what Kosoglow got.
The Call Out
In all of these, the subject line includes the recipient’s name, title or other personal information (often added through the use of a merge field).
6. “[First name], what would you do with an extra $1,000?”
7. “Check it out, [first name]”
8. “Special savings for [first name]”
9. “I made a custom report for you, [first name]”
10. “[First name], I estimated your ROI”
11. “[First name], do you want fatter margins?”
Why It Works
Invesp’s Khalid Saleh shares data suggesting that “emails with personalized subject lines are 22% more likely to be opened.”
The reason personal callouts work is a no-brainer: we’re all wired to look out for ourselves. Messages that appear to be tailored specifically to our needs are more likely to catch our attention than generic-sounding email copy.
A short subject line, typically no more than three words, can work well.
13. “You ready?”
14. “My biggest mistake”
Why It Works
Short subject lines respect your recipients’ time, and they create a more casual, conversational feel than longer subjects (which may read more like slick copywriting).
Videofruit’s Bryan Harris is a fan:
“I try to keep my subject lines under four words when I’m writing to an individual… This is way quicker to write and it seems more conversational when I’m talking to them.”
A subject line that suggests a connection between the sender and recipient has a big effect, whether it’s a referral, a reference to common participation in an event, or a reference to an online forum you both took part in.
16. “Mutual connection with [name of connection]”
17. “Did you enjoy [recent event]?”
18. “Just saw your comment on [industry blog]”
19. “[name of mutual contact] recommended I ask you this”
20. “Did you work with [name of mutual connection]?”
Why It Works
People are far more motivated to help others when they feel uniquely qualified to do so. Email subject lines that indicate a shared connection also overcome the initial distrust most people have of sales emails by removing all or part of the “unknown” aspect of cold messages.
As a note, the power of connection is easily abused. Use it as a starting point for a new conversation, rather than attempting to double down on one that’s tenuous at best. And never say a mutual connection recommended that you connect unless you’ve checked with that connection first to make sure it’s okay.
The Benefit Proposition
This email subject line offers a clear and compelling benefit to the recipient.
21. “A new HR strategy for Business Inc.”
22. “A savings of $25k for ABC Corp.”
23. “An all-time revenue record for Organization XYZ”
24. “No more long meetings”
25. “19 extra hours of selling time each month for Company X”
26. “Chasing for signatures is over”
Why It Works
Benefit proposition subject lines take advantage of humans’ natural tendency to ask “What’s in it for me?” You can observe this force on your own by looking at the cold emails that capture your attention the fastest. Are you more likely to click on generic copy or on the messages with subject lines that speak directly to one of your pain points?
These cold email subject lines offer congratulations on a recent accomplishment of the recipient.
Example Subject Lines:
27. “Congrats on the big news”28. “Congratulations on your book deal”
28. “Congrats – just saw you featured on [top website in your industry]”
29. “Loved your presentation at [name of a conference or event]”
30. “Way to go – just noticed you launched [a product or piece of content]”
31. “Just wanted to say I admire how you [something they did]”
Why It Works
Who doesn’t love being flattered?
Using congratulations in your subject lines – as in the examples above – requires a bit more digging, as you’ll need to stay up-to-date on your top leads’ activities. For this reason, this subject format is especially valuable as a subject line for follow-up emails. Even if you’ve begun the conversation using one of the other formats here, you can keep the conversation warm by reaching out whenever you come across news about your prospects.
The Meeting Request
These cold email subject lines ask directly for a future meeting.
Example Subject Lines:
32. “[Recipient_Name]: Do you have 5 minutes?”
33. “Meeting request: [your name] + [recipient’s name]”
34. “[Recipient_Name]: Can we meet?”
35. “Can I show you something next week?”
36. “Time to talk on Tuesday?”
37. “Following up on our meeting”
Why It Works
Some people appreciate directness. If you’re eventually going to ask recipients for a meeting, why not come out and say it in your subject line?
Disclaimer: This only works if it’s SUPER relevant, well researched, and doesn’t feel like spam.
Additionally, meeting-based subject lines can be more useful after a meeting has occurred, as you’ll be able to leverage the connection you’ve created to drive follow-up opens.
Creating Great Subject Lines = Better Cold Emails<
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As you can see from the structures above, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” recipe for successful sales email subject lines. Some of the samples I’ve shared won’t make sense for your business, while you may notice that others combine several of these elements together into a single template.
Use these structures as a starting point, but remember that the best results come from testing. Work to continually improve your performance by iterating as you go if you’re serious about cold email success.
What are some of your best cold email subject lines? Do you have a favorite? Leave me a note with your suggestions below!
Also published on Medium.