Click Me!: Skillful Use of Subject Line Gets Your Emails Read

April 13, 2015|

By Jeb Blount, Founder, Sales Gravy

Here’s a fact of life: According to the Harvard Business Review, the average business executive gets 200-plus emails a day. Add to that the mail they get in their social media inboxes, instant messages, and the chatter on crowdsourcing tools deployed by many companies, and there is simply no way they can possibly get to it all.

So your prospects cope with being crazy busy and overwhelmed by an inbox that is set to “infinite refill” the same way you do: Scan and Triage. They, like you, must make instant, split-second decisions to open, delete or save for later.

In this paradigm, to get opened, your prospecting email must stand-out from all of the noise and be compelling enough to entice a click. Though subject lines are not the only thing that gets your sales prospecting email opened – timing, your name, brand, and email address also play a role – the subject line is, by far, the most important of these elements.

3 Common Reasons Sales Prospecting Emails Scream “Delete Me!”

1. Too Long: Data from many sources across the sales ecosystem prove that shorter subject lines outperform longer subject lines by wide margins. Frankly, it’s intuitive. A long subject line requires your prospect’s brain to work harder. That extra effort in the context of split-second decisions about the value of an email gets you deleted.

Neither do long subject lines play well on mobile. It’s estimated that 50 percent or more of emails get opened on a mobile device. With the limited screen size, you get but a glimpse of the email subject line. If you think about your own behavior on your mobile phone, you are even quicker to delete a message there. More than 50 characters in your subject line and the open rate goes down exponentially.

Solution: Keep email prospecting subject lines short – three to six words or 40 to 50 characters including spaces. Remember, less is more

2. Questions: Email prospecting subject lines in the form of questions are delete bait. Virtually every major study conducted on the efficacy of different types of email subject lines conclude that subject lines in the form of a question quickly doom your email to the delete-button death roll. Though there may be a time and place for using a question in your email subject line, in most cases you should step away from the question mark.

Solution: Use action words and directive statements instead of questions. List-based subject lines that include a testimonial like 3 Reasons Why ABC Chose Us are especially powerful, as are referral subject lines like Jeb Blount Said We Should Talk and statement-based subject lines like Biggest Fail in Industrial Pumps

3. Impersonal: Generic, impersonal subject lines are boring. When you are attempting to engage hard-to-reach executives a failure to connect will send you straight to the trash. Think about it. Every salesperson in your industry is trying to connect with the highest-value prospects in your market. These executives are inundated with requests for appointments. You will never break through this noise and get their attention with cheesy, impersonal subject lines. Instead of standing out, you’ll look like all of the other schmucks junking up your prospect’s inbox and wasting their time.

Solution: Connect your subject line to an issue your prospect is facing, especially if it is emotional or stressful, or compliment them on a recent accomplishment or something that you know makes them feel proud. For example, the easiest, fastest way to get me to open your email is a subject line that reads: Loved Your Book!

The reality is we are all self-centered and almost always focused on our problems, issues, accomplishments, and ego. The fact is 95 percent of the time we are thinking about ourselves and the 5 percent of time that we are not thinking about ourselves something – maybe a mouthy salesperson – has gotten in the way of us thinking about ourselves.

So, play the odds, and make your subject line about your prospect. It’s really easy to do if you take a little extra time to research the recipient of your prospecting email through an internet search, company website, and on social media sites.

Jeb Blount is the founder of Sales Gravy in Thomson. He helps sales teams across the globe reach peak performance fast through keynote speeches, boot camps, seminars, and on-site and online training experiences. Hire Jeb to speak at your next sales meeting or conference. Call at 1-888-360-2249 or visit for more information.

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