The goal of the subject line is to get someone to check out the rest of your email. So you’ll want to intrigue and generate interest with the subject line without saying too much. And you definitely don’t want to go with something that clearly says “Trying to sell you something. Click here to learn more.” (Obviously.)

When it comes to generating interest, humans react strongly to five things:

  1. Social proof: Do you seem like a credible person?
  2. Unanswered questions: Is the answer coming soon?
  3. Disrupted patterns: This is different than the other stuff I normally see!
  4. Self-interest: What’s in it for your prospect?
  5. Requests for help: This might seem like it contradicts self-interest, but many people do want to help when possible.

Keeping that in mind, you’ll want to craft subject lines that touch on at least one of these areas. Here are 13 examples of sales email subject lines for each of the above five categories:

Social Proof

1) “[Shared connection] suggested we talk”

Introductions are golden. If you have one, mention the referral in your email subject line. The closer the connection, the better.

2) “Quick intro: [Your name] <> [Prospect’s name]”

By simply tying your names together, you signal that you’re a real person trying to make a genuine connection.

3) “[Prospect’s company] + [your company]”

Same logic as before, but this helps to establish the idea of potential partnership at the business level.

Unanswered Questions

1) “Hi [Prospect’s name]: [Question]”

By asking a targeted question that reflects a real pain felt by the prospect, they’ll want to see if you have an answer. Bonus points for including the prospect’s name as well, to make it feel more customized.

2) “Question about [goal for prospect]”

Similar to the example above, you’re speaking directly to something that matters to the prospect.

Disrupted Patterns

1) [all lowercase letters]

Many people treat subject lines like book titles with their capitalization. Stand out from the crowd by going entirely lowercase. Warning: AN ENTIRELY CAPITALIZED SUBJECT LINE IS VERY ANNOYING AND WILL MAKE PEOPLE THINK YOU ARE YELLING AT THEM.

2) “Feeling blue? Like puppies?”

I worked with the sales rep who came up with this one. The response rates she got were pretty impressive. The sheer randomness of this creative email subject line and the anticipated payoff (cute puppy photos) is pretty immense. Put your own spin on this one (Kittens! Bunnies! Duck-billed platypi!)

3) [no subject line]

That’s right. Sometimes the best subject line is no subject line at all. Mindblowing, right? So if you’re struggling to be clever, just move on already.


1) “[Benefit] for [Prospect’s Company]”

Show that you know you can make things better for your prospect. They’ll click through to see how.

2) “Idea for [What Prospect’s Company Does]”

Free advice is appealing (mostly because it is free). Make it valuable and tailored enough and your prospect will be interested enough to reply.

3) “Looking to help”

Offer assistance -- they’ll need to read more to see what you can do for them.

Requests for help

1) “Are you the right person to speak to?”

Play dumb and send this to a prospect -- this will lower the defenses and make it seem you’re looking for a referral. Be warned though -- if someone is obviously the correct person or is very senior, they may get annoyed by “blind probing”.

2) “Can you point me in the right direction?”

This is a powerful way to ask for a referral or to start a conversation about a topic on which you're seeking your prospect's advice all at the same time.

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Originally published Jul 20, 2016 8:02:49 AM, updated March 28 2017


Sales Email Subject Lines