One of the hardest things about being a sales rep is just getting someone to talk to you. In order to do what you love as a sales rep -- that is, sell -- you first need to get buyers to want to talk to you in the first place.

Getting someone to engage with you takes effort. It takes setting yourself apart from all the other sales reps reaching out to the prospect.You need to be unique, show that you did research, and demonstrate that you care.

When sending sales emails, you of course need to carefully customize and tailor the body copy to the buyer's unique situation. But there's just one problem -- if you have a terrible subject line, they'll never get to your beautiful body copy.

For this reason, the success or failure of a sales email often comes down to the subject line.

How to Write Sales Email Subject Lines That Grab Buyers' Attention

First and foremost, always be real. Be human. Be yourself and reach out that way. If you approach sales with this hat on, you really can't go wrong. 

In regard to emails, think: How would you reach out to a friend or personal acquaintance? Would you write a subject line all about yourself, or would you try to make it about the person you were writing to? I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this ...

My number one rule for writing sales email subject lines: Make sure it's about them, not you.

This sounds simple, but not many reps do it. Why? Time. If you're personalizing each and every subject line to the recipient, you can't mass blast out emails to hundreds of prospects with a personalization token inserted here and there. But I can assure you -- the time you invest personalizing your emails to this level will pay off. 

To write unique subject lines that speak to my buyers, I research my prospects. Some ideas of where to look for subject line-worthy insights:

  • Search LinkedIn, Medium, their company website, or any other blogging channels for articles written by the person you are reaching out to. Then feature an insight or tidbit from one of their articles in your subject line.
  • Go to your prospect's LinkedIn profile and review their recent activity. Have they contributed a comment in a group or on a post thread? If so, use that as subject line inspiration.
  • Read the description of their role on LinkedIn. Analyze how they've described what they do, think about how your product or service aligns with those responsibilities, and then create your subject line connecting those two insights.
  • Search their company website bio page for attention-grabbing information. Did they write something random and quirky, like their favorite baseball team or hobby? Rule of thumb: Always highlight the weird and quirky in your subject line instead of waiting for the body copy.
  • Visit the company's Twitter account and review their tweets. Then refer to a recent post in your email subject line.

Here are some examples of personalized email subject lines I've used in the past:

  • "love that you were in a band"
  • "Someone from your Myrtle Beach location"
  • "This article could have lots of leads coming in"

Each of these subject lines started a conversation. Real response from a prospect: "You nailed me with that headline." 

The easy part of sales is finding those diamonds in the rough that you really want to help. The hard part is getting them to realize this.

By writing personalized subject lines, you show that you are different than all the other sales reps out there. Just by doing research you set yourself apart from the vast majority of sales reps who spam anyone and everyone. Make this level of care painfully clear to your buyer by incorporating a personal insight in the very first thing they see: the subject line. 

What are your best sales email subject lines? Join HubSpot's Slack channel to share your thoughts and engage with fellow reps in real time.

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Editor's note: Ali Powell is an inbound marketing specialist at HubSpot. Join the Women in Sales Slack channel to connect with like-minded ladies in sales here.

Originally published Mar 25, 2016 7:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017


Sales Email Subject Lines