The few short words in a sales email subject line can make a huge difference in whether or not people will open your email

A sales email subject line is your book cover, your handshake, your chance to make a half-second impression and get someone to pause and want more. If that impression is less than stellar, the chance of your email being opened is slim-to-none in today’s busy electronic marketing world.

It’s just as hard to get your audience to open an email as it is to get in the door of an important office, if you don’t already have a connection with the person on the other end. That is why you craft your subject line with the same stealth and thoughtfulness you do your sales pitch. Adhere to the following best-practices to write effective and door-opening subject lines:

1. Keep your sales email subject line short

You have only a heartbeat to engage. The public is inundated with emails. Brief, relevant, and attention-getting subject lines are most likely to get read. Keep your subject under 50 characters if you can.

2. Know your audience

Subject lines pertinent to the recipient will be opened, inapplicable subject lines are more likely to be ignored. Just like a sales pitch, you need to offer the customer a solution to a challenge they are experiencing.

How many emails have you received and deleted instantly because they were not relevant to you? Don’t be the butcher pushing grain-fed beef to the vegetarian without explaining that they also sell fresh vegetables.

3. Avoid SPAM triggers

SPAM triggers are words that block your emails from your recipient’s in-box and ditch them into “junk”. Many companies who use Microsoft Outlook have SmartScreen email filtering software to detect SPAM, unwanted emails, and protect against viruses. Specific promotional terms in email subject lines will cause your important message to go to SPAM, can deter delivery, or send emails to the “junk” folder.

Constant Contact and other email services offer spam-checker features to ensure your email does not go into the SPAM black hole. Hubspot has an exhaustive list you can check to make sure your sales email subject lines pass muster.

Avoiding triggers altogether may be challenging, but do your best to clear the filters.


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4. Offer solutions

Use informational or solution-based subject lines that are relevant to the recipient. You can format them with several approaches that have proven to be effective for click-through:

  1. In the form of a question. If your question is compelling, people will open to discover the answer.
  2. Teasers. A few, well-crafted words to hint at your revolutionary content can be very effective.
  3. Lists. It is commonly accepted that people love lists. Add a number to the front of your article to show the depth of what’s being shared.

5. Hit emotional triggers

Humor. Surprise. Mystery. Shock. Fear.

The hardest to pull off, but ridiculously compelling, is if you can make your recipient laugh, surprise them, intrigue them, or even shock them. Again, relevance is key. You don’t want someone laughing if your email is of a serious nature. But, if you can solicit an emotional response, even fear (fear of missing out, fear of repercussions, fear of not being good enough, strong enough, healthy enough, etc.), people respond.

6. Pick the perfect timing

Good timing required knowing your audience. Does your audience have a budget to spend? Are their contracts up for renewal? Are there timely events happening for your audience to which you can refer? Can you capitalize off current events as they relate to your audience?

Tuesdays and Thursdays are known to reap the best response, but there are many conflicting opinions on that. Some reports say that Saturday emails are the most read due to lower volume of professional emails that day.

The best scenario is to hit your customer when the content is most relevant to them, when they need that service, when they have an issue to solve, but it is difficult to predict that type of timing. Test your email timing to discover what is best for your audience, keeping in mind that emails sent in the afternoon and evening are more likely to be read.

7. Be urgent

FOMO (fear of missing out, as named by Dr. Dan Herman) is a significant new development in consumer psychology in which one’s fearful attitude towards the possibility of failing to exhaust available opportunities comes to light. Even more prevalent now that social media highlights what your peers or competition are doing and accomplishing, the implication that one may miss the boat will generate interest in your email.

The subtle, or not so subtle, suggestion of urgency can be an effective tool in sales email subject line composition. Limited-time scenarios drive click-through as does marrying to any urgent response trigger—for example, “before your contract expires.” Urgency can be very compelling with the right language to hit those emotional triggers.

Spend time where it is most important and craft your subject line well

In the end, it’s about closing the sale, and you can’t close the sale if your first impression isn’t stellar. Every email is a chance to introduce yourself, your product, or your services to your customer, so firm up that handshake and polish off that first impression with a subject line that is brief, relevant, emotional, engaging, and timely. Once the connection is made, the content will take care of the rest, and hopefully a rewarding interaction will be your result.


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What sales email subject line do you use to get the best results? Share your knowledge with our readers in the comments.