Sales Operations 2 Comments

How to get your Sales Email Opened

Michael Pici

January 25th, 2017

Get Your Sales Email Opened

It’s no secret that salespeople spend a lot of time in their Inbox: writing email, sending email, but most of all, awaiting for a reply from their potential clients.

Notice I didn’t mention reading email. In fact, getting a response to an email is one of the biggest challenges.

Think of it this way, salespeople use email for a ton of things:

  • Reaching out
  • Booking a demo or a meeting
  • Following up
  • Sending additional information
  • Sending a proposal

If the prospect isn’t even opening the first email, that means none of the sequential steps will ever take place, costing the business new customers over and over again. The scary reality is that email drives revenue, so it’s crucial we get it right.

That’s why this article focuses on solving the first step of the equation: how to get those prospects to open your email in the first place. And, of course, how to persuade them to respond.

The Art and Science Of Engaging Subject Lines

Getting your email opened inevitably comes down to nailing your subject line. I have three core elements that I believe make a subject line irresistible:

  • Relevance
  • Resonance
  • Resistance

1. Relevance

A one-size-fits-all approach will not work for your sales emails. Before you ever hit send on an email you need to know who you’re sending it to. But above all, your recipient needs to feel like you knew it was going to them specifically.

How? Lead intelligence is key to making your subject lines irresistible. Think about where you can collect lead data from on your website.

  • Does your marketing team create gated content that collects contact information in exchange for the content?
  • Can they add an additional field to that form to ask what your prospect’s biggest challenge is?
  • Is it collecting data on what role the person plays in their company?
  • What department they’re in?
  • What size the company is?

Using personalization tokens for the lead data you collect like first name, company name, industry, or department will make your subject line more relevant to the recipient.  

Example:

  • Lead context: Lisa Smith, Digital Marketing Manager in the software industry
  • Previous interaction: Read a blog on trends in the marketing industry
  • Goal of the email: Book a meeting to discuss her priorities for the year

Subject line: “Lisa, these tech marketers have big plans, do you?”

Using her first name will work to get her attention but what’s really interesting here is the emotion we’re playing on. Lisa will likely want to know what her peers are up to whether it’s because she’s afraid she’s forgetting something important or she’s just competitive and wants to prove she’s doing better than her peers.

From within the email we can show her some of the stats we have on her industry and then offer Lisa a 30-minute consultation to help benchmark her current efforts against her competition and discuss her priorities for the year ahead.

2. Resonance

The content you send someone in an email needs to resonate with him or her personally. If you can make your recipient feel like you really understand their goals and challenges in your subject line, you’ve won. Take a bow.

Again, you’re going to need to tap into your lead intelligence to make this work. Look at the previous interactions your lead has had with your company. What blog posts have they read? What social media posts have they interacted with? What do they talk about online? Essentially, you need to find out what they care about.  

Once you know that, you can offer them the most valuable thing you have that aligns with what they care about.   

Example:

  • Lead profile: Sara, Social Media Manager, Small business of 24 employees.
  • Previous interaction: Contact downloaded an ebook on ‘How to Generate Leads on Facebook.
  • Goal of email: Book a demo of our social media monitoring tool.

Subject line: “Sara, when Facebook makes it hard, we’ve got your back”

In this subject line, we made it relevant by using her first name, we gave resonance by mentioning that we know she’s been looking for help with Facebook marketing, and we positioned ourselves as the empathetic friend who’s there for support.

In the body of the email we can continue offering help when it comes to generating leads on Facebook and include a CTA to book a meeting with us to chat in more detail about her plans for social media marketing in the year ahead.

3. Resistance

When I talk about resistance what I mean is that you need to resist the temptation to give it all away in the subject line. An effective subject line will leave a sense of intrigue to know more. It won’t reveal exactly what the email is offering but will leave enough suspense that the recipient can’t but open the email to find out more.

You’ll notice in the first two examples I’ve given, I haven’t mentioned exactly what I was offering in the subject line. You should aim to eliminate the offer from every subject line you write and watch as your open rates soar.

Example:

  • Lead context: Gary, Director of Sales, Enterprise Company
  • Previous Interaction: On our pricing comparison page
  • Goal of call: Book a sales meeting

Email subject line: “Gary, Marketo might not have told you this..”

Once more I used personalization to address that the email is in fact intended for Gary and Gary alone.

I used the lead intelligence available to me to address that Gary has been researching marketing automation vendors that serve Enterprise companies like his. Marketo is one of these vendors.  

But the key here is that I left him with an insane amount of suspense and intrigue –there is no way Gary doesn’t want to know what Marketo might not have told him. He has to open the email to find out what it is.  

Now we don’t recommend bashing competitors in your sales emails. At HubSpot we always take the high road and let our products and customer success speak for themselves so it’s up to you if you want to go down that road. However, we could have written anything in the email itself, the point is that Gary opened it to find out what it was.

Relevance + Resonance + Resistance = Response.

Now that you have the formula to get your sales emails opened why not go test out a few subject lines for yourself. Always monitor what’s working and what’s not. Document your successful attempts and continue iterating until you have a winning formula.

If you want, now you can even check the average sales email open rates for your industry and compare your performance against your peers. Knowing where you’re starting from is always helpful when trying to improve something.

Let me know if you have found any other formula, tricks or tactics that have worked in the comments section below.  

About the author

Michael Pici

Michael is the Director of Sales at HubSpot. He now runs a team of 70+ salespeople and managers and is responsible for growing HubSpot’s sales product from $0 to more than $10 million in revenue. You can see him in action as our host of Inbound Sales Day and The Get Sh*t Done Sales Show.

  • Brendan Short

    Referencing a social data-point (common connection on LinkedIn, college they attended, twitter interaction, post they’ve written) seems to get a reply. You can add these directly into the title, but that becomes a bit gimmicky/salesy/click-baity, in my opinion. Give an honest (not misleading) title, and let the content inside drive a reply. I’m getting 75% open rates and 22% reply-rates with this formula.

  • Hunter Richard Skilling

    Michael,
    I found this to be a very informative read. I struggle with this exact situation on a daily basis. I’ve tried A-B testing & researching the business to be as relevant as I can. Its very difficult because of the low open rate on emails. and I know there is no secret sauce, but Im very excited to use what you’ve suggested (R+R+R =’s Response).
    Thank you so much!
    -Hunter
    https://www.weebly.com/weebly/main.php

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