B2B Sales

Best Email Subject Lines for Sales

How many emails from strangers do you actually open? And what drives you to open certain emails over others? 

In most cases, what determines whether or not you choose to click into the email is the email subject line. The same goes for the customers you are trying to reach. 

You could spend 10 minutes crafting the most personalized, interesting, and action-inducing email possible, only to have it sit unopened in your prospect’s inbox because of a poor subject line. 

That is why it is so critical to write one that inspires action, whether by evoking curiosity, a sense of urgency, or some other psychological reaction on the part of the reader. 

So, B2B salespeople, here is a crash course in crafting sales email subject lines. In it, you will learn:

  • Why email subject lines are the most important part of your emails. 
  • How to craft a subject line for specific sales situations. 
  • The different effective styles of subject lines.
  • And keywords and best practices to use.

What Is the Email Open Rate?

An email open rate is a metric that measures the percentage of your emails that are opened by recipients. 

So, maybe only 24% of the cold emails you send to prospects are ever opened. 

And why does open rate matter? 

Because when prospects don’t open your email, they never see the copy of the email. They never see your value proposition or your call to action. 

On the other hand, with a high email open rate, you know that your prospects are at least reading what you have to say. 

And what’s the #1 factor that determines your email open rate? 

The quality of your subject line.

email subject line data

If you have a good email subject line, your email open rate will be high, and vice versa. 

So, you are probably wondering what a good email open rate is in B2B sales. 

The average open rate in B2B sales is 15.1% (not very high is it?)

Luckily for you, a lot of B2B salespeople don’t put much thought into their email subject lines. 

So we wager that after you read this blog post, you will have the knowledge you need to achieve higher open rates than 15.1%.

Principles of Good Email Subject Lines

Now that you understand the importance of good subject lines, let’s go over some general principles for what makes a good sales email subject line. 


Gary Halbert, a famous salesman and copywriter, used to do some strange things to ignite curiosity in his prospects. For instance, he was famous for mailing sales letters with a bag of sand attached to each letter.

What would you do if you got a letter with a bag of sand attached to it? Probably wonder what could possibly be inside. 

Halbert used this technique to grab his recipient’s attention by playing to people’s natural curiosity. 

good email subject lines principles

Although you can’t attach baggies of sand to emails, you can still write a subject line that makes your prospect curious. 


When mail was the main way of business communication, salespeople used to label their letters as urgent, because they knew most people separated their mail into two piles. 

  • Pile 1: I’ll deal with it later. 
  • Pile 2: Urgent. 

Of course, your emails have higher open rates if they fall into the second pile. 

Urgency gives your prospects a reason to open your email. 

It could come in the form of a discount ending at 9 P.M. or a free trial offer that ends tomorrow. 

Pro Tip: If you are selling SaaS and offer free trials, the “offer ends tomorrow” approach can be a great way to get your prospects to sign up.


It’s critical to know your audience. If you understand the job responsibilities and needs of your common decision-maker, you can craft an email subject line that resonates with them. 

For instance, if you sell to marketing managers, make sure your email subject line is relevant to what they do for work, what they want to accomplish, or pains they want to eliminate. 


This principle is the most important. 

If you can deliver a subject line that mentions something about the person to whom you are writing, you will have a much higher chance of receiving a response. 

Before writing your subject line, scroll around your prospect’s LinkedIn, and see if you can find any bit of information you can include in the subject line. It could be their school mascot or something funny they wrote in their “About Me” section. 

If your prospect is holding a Nintendo 64 controller in their website picture, put something witty like “more of a GameCube person myself” in parentheses in the subject line. 

Timing Matters (Kind of)

When you send the email will also influence your open rates. 

Campaign monitor collected data from millions of emails sent on their service. They found the day with the highest email open rate is Thursday.  

They also analyzed open rates by industry:

So, if you are selling to RE professionals, the best day to send an email is Wednesday, according to their data. 

As you can see, it’s sort of arbitrary when you send the emails. Just make sure you send them at times and days when your decision-maker is at their desk. 

Yesware has a cool tool that tells you the best time to email a prospect based on their city of residence. 

Email Subject Lines that Work: According To Purpose

There are many reasons for sending an email to a prospect. You could be sending a cold email, a follow-up, or a fifteenth follow-up (hey, persistence pays).

The purpose of your email will determine what makes a quality subject line. Some subject lines work better for specific circumstances. 

Cold Emails

Cold emails are the main ingredient in most B2B prospecting recipes. They are usually the first attempt to make contact with a potential buyer. 

If you can send cold emails that grab a decision-maker’s attention and influence them to take a phone meeting, you are one powerful salesperson. 

Here are some examples of quality cold email subject lines. 

#1: “[Name] Suggested I Reach Out to You”

This is a great one if you have a referral from their network. The subject line lends your sales message social proof that you are a credible, helpful person. 

Of course, and you probably know this, only use this subject line if you actually have a person who suggested you reach out. 

#2: “Enjoyed Your Comment on [Blog post or LinkedIn post]

If you are thoroughly researching your prospects, you will sometimes come across their activity on LinkedIn or their company blog. 

It’s a great idea to bring that activity into the subject line. For one, it shows that you did your homework, which people respect. 

“If some people are so hungry for a feeling of importance that they actually go insane to get it, imagine what miracle you and I can achieve by giving people honest appreciation this side of insanity.”

Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”

Also, this approach proves that you are reaching out to them specifically, making them feel important, one of our top needs in life.  

#3: A Concrete Benefit

A great way to grab attention is by telling your prospect how you can help their business. Even better, attaching a number to your benefit paints a clearer picture for your prospect. 

Here are some concrete benefits to use as subject lines: 

  • Can I increase your traffic by 45% in 8 months?
  • Can I generate 22% more leads for you? 
  • Interested in reducing churn by 50% next quarter?
  • How I can cut your operating expenses in half. 
  • Want to double your portfolio with the same staff? 

If the benefit is relevant to the prospect’s goals, how can they afford to leave the email unopened? 

Follow-Up Emails

Most of the time, cold prospects won’t respond to your first email. Unfortunately, the same goes for warm prospects already in your sales pipeline. But don’t give up. 

email follow up stats

People are busy. You have to continue to follow up if you want any real results. 

#1: Second Email to a Cold Prospect

When cold emailing, many salespeople will craft a second email subject line and message to send to the prospect, but that’s not the best way to book a meeting. 

It’s best practice to thread your second email to the first email you sent. This way, your prospect will see that you have contacted them before. Therefore, they will be more likely to respond. 

So, in this case, no new headline is needed. 

#2: Following up After a Sales Call: 

“Next steps”

This works because it’s short and to the point. It’s a great way to re-engage a prospect who seemed interested but went cold. 

Yesware analyzed the effectiveness of “Next steps” as a follow-up subject line and found it can achieve a 70.5% open rate and a 49.6% reply rate. 

#3: You Made a Connection and Want to Stay in Touch: 

“Pleasure talking with you, {Name}”

Politeness goes a long way and increases the chances that your connection will remember you if you reach out again in the future. 

Maybe you met a potential decision-maker at a conference and want to continue building a relationship. 

If they open the email, which they probably will, you have the chance to further engage in a conversation where you can find their pain points and goals to potentially make a sale down the line. 

To learn about writing the content of a perfect follow-up email for different sales situations, read How to Write a Follow-up Email.  

No Response

If you have tried hard to get a response, but the prospect has completely ghosted you, there are a few last-ditch effort email subject lines that work. 

#1: “Netflix password?”

At this point, humor is worth a shot. If you have emailed a cold prospect a bunch of times and failed to hear back, try saying something like this, showing your human side. 

If they don’t relate and think the joke is low-brow, so what, they weren’t going to respond anyway. 

And if they like your sense of humor, they might just decide to have a five-minute phone call with you.

#2: “Permission to close your file?”

This one is a classic. It attempts to create a sense of urgency for your prospect and sometimes succeeds, especially if the prospect has been putting off responding to you out of sheer laziness. 

#3: “{Their competitor} just saw {benefit you offer}

If you have case studies about a business in their industry, this is a great headline to use to pass along the study. Not only does it provide useful info, but it also employs the influential powers of peer pressure. 

Niel Patel, Founder of Crazy Egg, says that his deal closing ratio increased by 70% when he started including case studies in his emails. 

Email Subject Lines That Work: According to Style

There are certain ways of phrasing a subject line that work regardless of purpose. In this section, we provide some examples of good subject lines according to style.

email subject line styles


Sometimes short and to the point wins the battle for attention. 

#1: “I’m impressed.”

This is a great subject line to use if your email copy includes applause for something your prospect achieved, whether that’s a well-written blog post or a promotion. 

Any prospect would want to see what they did that impressed someone else. 

#2: “Let’s get real.”

This email subject line is somewhat provocative. A decision-maker who values upfront people might value this headline and reward it with a click. 

Within the copy, describe a common pain point for companies like theirs, and how you help solve it. 

#3: “It’s finally happening.”

Who wouldn’t want to know what’s happening? This email subject line is great if you are hosting an event or finally found a solution to a huge problem for your customers. 


According to Yesware’s data, sales email subject lines containing numbers get more opens and replies than those without. 

So, here are some subject lines with numbers. 

#1: “{x} days/hours left.”

This email subject line creates both urgency and scarcity – two of the most powerful triggers to induce action from your prospect. 

#2: “Managing a team of {X}?”

If you sell to managers, this is a great subject line to use. It shows that you did your research and implies that you know how to make their job easier, or their team more efficient. 

#3: “Increase lead generation by 34% in 3 months.”

This subject line helps your prospect envision how you are going to change their lives and business. A “34% increase” is a lot more tangible than just “an increase”. 

Of course, feel free to change this subject line to fit your company’s value proposition.


If you can get your prospect to chuckle, even smile, you have a much better chance of getting a meeting with them. Humor reveals your human side and helps you stand out from all the other faceless salespeople. 

Now, it’s important to remain relevant. So if you can manage to weave some info about the prospect into the witty subject line, you will further increase your chances of getting a reply. 

That said, here are some witty email subject lines to inspire you (or make you roll your eyes).

  • “Not enough time for eating tacos? We can help!” 
  • “Boo! Sorry, trying to speak your language :)”
  • “Don’t open this (unless you want more traffic)”
  • “The word of the day is…”
  • “Is it you or is it me?”

Try using them to charm prospects with your winsome personality!


Personalization is the best way to get an open from your prospects. People are usually more interested in themselves than in anything else. 

Writing personalized subject lines definitely takes a bit of creativity. You have to inject something you learned about your prospect into a short, interesting sentence.  

However, once you start doing it often, ideas will come to you more quickly. Here are some templates to help you start. 

#1: “Nice job, [name].”

If your prospect has recently earned a promotion or led a business venture/project, give them some props with this email subject line. 

It shows you did your homework, follow the industry, and care about the prospect’s success. So it is a great first impression on the path to building trust with your leads. 

#2: “Big fan of your recent {blog post, podcast, speech}

Have you ever created or written something? If you have, you know the feeling of hope that comes after you click publish or send. 

You hope people will recognize the hard work you put into creating the article, podcast, or video. 

With this in mind, show your prospects you have actually taken the time to research their thoughts and ideas. 

#3: “[Name], got a second?”

Quick and to the point. 

This email subject line stands out because it includes the recipient’s name right up at the front. 

Whenever you include their name, your prospects know the content of the email is relevant to them, so they are more likely to open it. 

#4: “Quick question about your {job responsibility}”

This one works well if, during your research, you found a job responsibility that your solution can help make easier. 

For example, if you sell to sales managers, you can write “Quick question about how you manage your BDRs.” 

Best Practices for Awesome Email Subject Lines

Now that you have an idea of what subject line to use in your sales emails, let’s go over some other best practices you should know about.

Avoid Looking Like Spam

Don’t write statements that look like false promises or explosions of unwarranted enthusiasm. If you sound too salesy, you may be mistaken for spam. 

So, make sure you avoid using more than one exclamation point. Also, stay away from using ALL CAPS. 

Ask a Question

Asking a relevant question brings the recipient into the sales conversation and makes them think. When they see a question, their minds automatically generate an answer. 

“Are you hungry?” 

See, you probably just answered yes or no. You couldn’t help it. And now you are more engaged. 

Aside from this psychological phenomenon, this approach helps because prospects like it when someone is interested in learning more about them and their business. 

Try Using Emojis

Standing out is key, and emojis help you do just that. 

Of course, their effectiveness depends on the demographics of your target audience. For instance, younger people love emojis. They grew up with them. 

But, if your recipients are older bankers or lawyers who pride themselves on their austere professionalism, best to stick with plain English. 

Include Their Location

People form strong connections to their “hometown”, as you can see from the vast number of people attending sporting events. 

So, if you mention the prospect’s town or city name in the email subject line, you seem like less of an outsider, which helps you form a connection. 

Give a Command 

If your prospect is unaware there is a certain problem with the way they do things, try giving a command. 

For example, you could write, “Stop using excel to track your sales data.”

Prospects might open the email to see why excel is so bad, especially if they already dislike the software. 

Use Concise Language 

Avoid excess words. You only have a couple of milliseconds to convince your prospect to open the email, so use your words economically. 

Don’t Forget Your Preview Text

The preview text is the snippet of your email body that follows your subject line. It is usually the first couple of sentences of your email, as you see highlighted below. 

To take advantage of this snippet, make sure your first sentence packs a punch and tells the reader why they should care about your email. 

Keywords to Use in Your Email Subject Lines

Some words hold more power over people than others. For example, “Disgusting” is more potent than “gross”. “Sick of” is more stirring than “tired of”. 

In that vein, here are some keywords to include in your subject lines that will help your open rates. 

Free: People are natural deal hunters. So if you have a free trial or SEO audit to offer, throw it in the subject line. 

Sale: Because of the same logic, “sale” also works well. It actually led to +23.2% opens in econsultancy’s test. 

Alert, News, and Update: Adestra analyzed 2.2 billion emails and found that these three were some of the most successful words to put in a subject line. 

Congratulations: In a study of 24.6 billion emails (that’s a lot!), it was found that “congratulations” was one of the top keywords for open rates. 

That’s probably because it was followed by some type of personalization to the prospect, such as “congratulations on the promotion.”  

Examples of Bad Subject Lines

In order to keep up with best practices for sales emails, you also have to know some of the bad ones. Here they are. 

What’s up, dude? Check out our [product/service]: In B2B sales, you should always keep a certain level of professionalism if you want to be taken seriously as a value provider. Stay away from words like dude or dudette

Are you sick of trying to write all your blog posts by yourself? If so, we’ve got the deal for you. We offer blah blah blah: This subject line is way too long. Always keep them short and digestible. 

Your sales are about to skyrocket!: What part of sales is going to skyrocket? Leads, close rates?  This subject line is just not precise enough. In a world of noise, it’s important to be as specific as possible. Only then will you spark a feeling within your prospect.

This is what you need: our {solution}: Assumptions and arrogance hurt your chances of building a trusting relationship with a potential client. Never assume they need what you sell. Ask instead.  


When writing sales email subject lines, you have to think in terms of what your prospects want.

Really try to put yourself in your prospect’s chair. Ask yourself if you would open up an email with the headline you’ve just used. 

Ask questions like these about your subject line. 

  • Is it relevant to their position?
  • Does it show I’m a problem solver?
  • Does it help them see the value in reading the email?
  • Does it spark curiosity? 

If you answered yes to these, go ahead and click send, and watch the responses flood in. 

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