Contributors from members of the Copper team
Fact: nearly 50% of people open emails based on the subject line alone.
And if you’re in sales, this stat definitely deserves your attention.
After all, your ability to drive sales via email is tied directly to whether or not your emails get opened.
The ability to write great subject lines goes hand in hand with scoring responses—and closing more deals. On the flip side, sub-par subject lines can sink even the best sales campaign.
It’s crucial for salespeople to understand the best practices of writing sales email subject lines. Not only that, but it helps to have a variety of good subject lines available at any given time.
Which sales email subject lines score the most clicks?
Just like no two customers are the same, no two sales teams take the same approach to email outreach.
Maybe you represent a suit-and-tie SaaS company. Perhaps you’re in ecommerce sales.
Either way, it never hurts to have options when it comes to the wide range of messages you have to send (think: prospecting emails, nurturing emails, follow-ups, etc).
Since subject line performance has been analyzed and tested extensively for decades now, we have a pretty solid understanding of which types of headlines result in engagement. From minimalist subject lines that pack a punch in just a couple of words to personal headlines that highlight your human side, salespeople should likewise learn the elements of a click-worthy email.
Below are 31 sales email subject lines, broken down and grouped into specific styles and why they work based on marketing research.
(We’ll also highlight how you can put these headlines to use and speed up your email writing process.)
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Minimalist subject lines
According to an analysis from CoSchedule, shorter subject lines consisting of 17-24 characters tend to win the most opens. There might be a time and place for wordier subject lines, but conventional wisdom tells us to adopt a “less is more” mentality.
Minimalist subject lines work because they pique peoples’ interest. Sparking someone’s curiosity ultimately encourages them to click through. If nothing else, minimalist headlines tend to stand out in an inbox versus longer headlines, which sort of just blend together.
1. “It’s happening.”
This short subject line is purposely vague as readers click through to figure out what “it” is. Product launch? Industry news? Huge sale? No matter what, they’ll naturally want to know.
2. “Let’s get real.”
Here you can introduce a pain point or bring up something to your prospects that perhaps isn’t being talked about among your competitors. A great way to highlight your unique selling proposition and grab someone’s attention at the same time.
3. “You deserve better.”
Anything you can do to butter up your reader is a plus. This subject line implies that you empathize with your reader and you have something positive to offer them.
4. “Lucky you.”
Similar to the headline above, this subject line relies on the power word “you” which makes the reader feel like they’re receiving special attention.
5. “I’m impressed.”
Compliments are a great way to win clicks. This is a prime prospecting subject line when you’re reaching out to someone regarding a company or personal milestone. (Think: a new fundraising round, new role...)
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Numerical subject lines
Food for thought: sales email subject lines containing numbers receive more opens and replies than messages without them. Numbers allow you to save valuable characters while also being easy to understand at a glance (think: “$5,000” versus “five thousand dollars”)
6. “Fix your [pain point] problem in [x] days.”
Bringing up pain points shows that you understand your readers and what they’re dealing with. In a single headline, you’re able to show empathy and present a speedy solution to that pain.
If you choose this type of subject line though, know that you have to deliver what you’re promising. If you say you can "boost someone’s sales in three days,” you better have a detailed, almost-foolproof plan for achieving that.
7. “Do you have [x] seconds?”
It’s safe to assume that just about anyone you’re emailing is crazy busy. This subject line respects their time and presents whatever you’re selling as quick and easy.
8.” $[x] in [X] months.”
This punchy subject line is a great way to highlight a client success story or what your typical customer saves on average thanks to your product.
9. “[x] days/hours left.”
Urgency and scarcity are two of the most popular triggers for encouraging readers to take action. Here you make it seem like the clock is ticking.
10. “[x] things you should know.”
This subject line implies that your reader is getting exclusive or personalized information, either of which can encourage a click.
Humorous and lighthearted subject lines
Let’s be honest: most sales emails suck.
Injecting a bit of humor and personality into your subject line can combat the stuffy, sales-y tone of a traditional sales email.
Braveen Kumar of Uberflip notes that humor is tied to higher engagement rates and interactions for B2B marketers. Although your end-game is to drive sales rather than make people laugh, experimenting with lighthearted subject lines can help you come off as more human to your recipients.
11. “Can you keep a secret?”
This compelling subject line can be used to hype up anything from a product launch to a subscriber-exclusive freebie (think: access to a demo or case study).
12. “The word of the day is…”
Money? Time? An industry buzzword? This open-ended subject line can go in a ton of different directions to drive clicks.
13. “This ain’t it, chief.”
This meme-worthy subject line is ideal for introducing a pain point or problem in a playful way.
14. “Leave [pain point] hell behind for good.”
Hey, this one actually looks familiar.
This humorous headline introduces a problem in a tone that makes you seem human and relatable.
15.”Don’t visit our website (unless you want results)”
A playful example of reverse psychology, this is a sales email subject line that allows you to self-promote without coming off as smug.
Personalized subject lines
Referring to your recipients by name is always a smart move.
Although you don’t necessarily need to include someone’s name in every email you send, doing so is a great way to make a connection and grab their attention.
16. “Nice work, [name].”
This subject line manages to compliment your reader while also letting them know you’ve done your homework on them.
17. “[Referral name] said I should get in touch.”
Bringing up a referral immediately personalizes your message and gives you some secondhand credibility.
18. “Really, [name]?”
This subject line forces your reader to do a double-take as they wonder what they did. Then, you can follow it up with a compliment (“Really, John?” I can’t believe more people aren’t sharing your awesome article…”)
19. “We heard you’re an expert, [name]”
Here you can highlight your reader’s accomplishments to warm them up for your pitch.
20. “[Name], got a second?”
Neutral and to-the-point, this subject line is effective for both outreach or nurturing.
Pssst, using email templates in Copper, you can save time by using merge fields like #FirstName and #LastName. This automatically inputs the names of your contacts without you having to type them manually into each and every email.
Here's how it looks:
The ability to create your own templates in Copper for your most frequent types of emails is a huge time-saver. Specifically, personalization tags including your recipient’s name and company allow you give your messages a personal touch by pulling from your contact data.
Follow-up subject lines
Not all of your sales emails are going to get opened the first time around.
21. “Don’t worry. We’re busy, too.”
Remember what we said earlier about people being busy? This sales subject line makes you seem relatable and makes light of the fact that you never got a reply.
22. “I knew I was forgetting something.”
This subject line allows you to tack on an extra benefit or selling point during your follow-up without seeming spammy about it. Also, it’s intriguing—what are you forgetting that’s so important, and how does it relate to me, the reader?
23. “Let’s try that again.”
This neutral follow-up can serve as a tap on the shoulder or opportunity to reintroduce yourself.
24. “Never gonna give you up!”
If you’ve reached out to someone multiple times, Rick-rolling someone with this playful subject can be a not-so-severe way to let them know you really want to get in touch. Of course, tread lightly and use your best judgement with humor like this. The goal here is to get your recipient’s attention, not annoy them.
25. “Last chance.”
Short, mysterious, and to the point, this “now or never” headline gives your readers an ultimatum to act.
Real-world sales subject lines from major brands (and why they work)
Any of the subject lines above can be adapted and adjusted to fit your business’ tone and product.
But how about some sales email subject lines that we’ve seen in the wild? Here’s a deep dive into six real-world subject lines and why they work.
26. “Today is the Deadline Sale. Tomorrow it’s over.” (from the New York Times)
Again, urgency is one of the best motivators to get your readers to take action.
Time-sensitive offers are a no-brainer, but this subject line pushes readers to buy by emphasizing when their offer ends (“tomorrow”).
And wouldn’t you know it: email subject lines that include the words “yesterday” or “tomorrow” boast higher engagement rates than those without them.
Not only is this all the more reason to choose your words wisely, it’s also motivation to think about the timing of your sales pitch emails. People want to know about events, sales, or promotions that are happening soon—but not last minute.
27. “Put on your headphones to win a prize! 🎧 🎁” (from Quuu)
Who doesn’t love winning a prize?
Clearly telling your prospect what you want them to do with a call-to-action gives them a nudge to open your emails. The requested action, “to put on headphones,” is short and powerful, and explains how their prospect will need to do something before getting their prize.
But what we really wanted to hone in on was the use of emojis.
The use of emojis in email marketing messages increased by 775% between 2015 and 2016. It’s a trend that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
Why? Because over half (56%) of brands who are using emojis in their subject lines reported higher open rates for their campaigns.
So, take a page out of Quuu’s book and start to split-test whether emojis can do the same for your sales pitch email. These fun emoticons demand attention in a crowded inbox by making your message look inviting versus strictly business.
28. “Think fast. Cyber Monday is our biggest sale.” (from Adidas)
FOMO (fear of missing out), a psychological phenomenon that 69% of millennials experience, is a powerful motivator much like urgency.
This subject line doesn’t just put the fear of FOMO for missing out on a sale, but rather they’ll miss out on Adidas’ biggest sale if they don’t “think fast.”
As a result, this subject line frames the message as a sort of benefit as you’re getting an exclusive heads up on the best deals.
29. “Free what? FREE SHIPPING” (from MOO)
It’s probably not much of a surprise that emails containing the word “free” see 10% more opens than those that don’t.
Including any sort of freebie, whether it be free shipping or a demo, allows you to tack on value to your messages without necessarily impacting your bottom line.
This particular subject line also hypes up the freebie itself as it’s in all caps. Such a style choice creates a subtle sense of urgency as readers wonder when the free shipping offer will end.
30. “$20k in two months? Possible” (from the Contract Shop)
The team at The Contract Shop understand that one of the dilemmas their potential customer faces is reaching a $20,000 revenue goal.
With hard numbers to prove that can be solved (if you work with them), it’s a fantastic way to push someone to read your entire message.
The simplest way to use this concept in your sales pitch emails is by focusing your subject line around a case study of a similar client.
For example, if you’ve got data to prove your software helped a previous customer increase their website traffic by 50%, be proud of it and allow the statistic to take the spotlight in your subject line.
31. “When you can fit us in, [Name]” (from The Gym Group)
Let’s face it: nobody likes receiving emails from someone to remind them of what they should or could be doing.
But this subject line example from The Gym Group is pushing us to get back on track at the gym and visit them again for one reason: their sales pitch email is personalized.
The subject line addresses you by name, so you know the message is intended (and personalized) for you before you even open it.
Plus, they’re using previous behavior to build a crafty subject line that makes you feel like they understand you.
They’re proving they understand my pain point: not having enough time for the gym. A simple phrase like “when you can fit us in” makes you feel like The Gym Group really “gets” you, so we're already hooked and ready to press open.
Don’t neglect the power of personalization. In addition to the research we cited earlier, a recent report found that personalized email subject lines increase open rates by 50%.
Although it takes time to find information on your prospect and include that in your sales pitch email (especially if you’re not using a CRM), just imagine the results you could drive if you doubled your current open rate.
How to put these sales email subject lines into action
By now your head is probably swimming with ideas of how you can adapt the subjects lines above for your own business.
But coming up with sales email subject lines is only half the battle.
Because having all these ideas available doesn’t mean much if you don’t actually use them. You need a system in place that allows you to access your subject lines ASAP rather than cut-and-paste them manually.
Think about it. Does it make sense to bounce between bookmarked sites featuring your favorite subject lines? Or pull them from a Google Doc whenever you sit down to write a sales email?
No—just like it doesn’t make sense to write every subject line from scratch.
The good news? There’s a better way.
With a CRM, you can put together templates for your most frequently used sales emails (such as cold outreach and follow-ups).
If your CRM is integrated with Gmail, like Copper is, these templates should be able to pull from your Gmail contacts and auto-fill your email content based on parameters such as prospect names and companies.
Here's how it looks in Copper when you're creating a template:
You can create multiple templates in Copper—after you’ve created them, Copper stores them and makes them instantly accessible in your Gmail inbox:
That’s not even the best part, though.
Copper automatically feeds your sales email subject lines in Gmail from your templates. Think about how Google autocomplete works. Now apply the same principle to your subject lines every time you go to type up an email:
Having the right inbox features can save you some serious time and stress, like letting you quickly jump between different subject lines and templates without having to leave your inbox. These features go hand in hand with increased productivity: more emails sent, no more bouncing between tabs or copy-pasting customer information when it’s time to touch base.
The end result is your personal collection of click-worthy your fingertips whenever you open your inbox. It’s a win-win as you’re able to write more messages without having to rack your brain trying to craft the perfect subject line.
How many sales email subject lines are in your arsenal?
Email is easily one of the most important sales activities on your plate.
Trying to come up with subject lines on-the-fly isn’t just stressful: it’s ineffective.
When your subject line represents the make-or-break factor of whether or not your messages get read, you can’t afford to freestyle them.
Instead, you should understand the best practices of sales email subject lines and how you can realistically use them.
With these ideas and tools like Copper, you can encourage more clicks from eager customers in no time.