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6 of The Best Email Subject Lines for Superior Sales Follow-Up

I'm sure you know this already: email subject lines are a major factor in whether your leads even open your follow-up messages.

It's just that, choosing the best subject line isn't that freaking easy, isn't it?

And so, if you struggle to find the right way to kick-off your follow-up emails, you're going to love this post.

You'll learn 6 types of subject lines that will get more leads open your follow up emails.

Intrigued? Let's dig in then.

BONUS: Want to write powerful email subject lines? Make sure that you avoid those words and phrases [FREE CHECKLIST] Get it now>>

Fact: If You're Not Following Up with Leads More Than Once, You're Leaving Money on the Table

Did you know that 73 percent of leads who enter your pipeline aren't actually "sales-ready"?

In fact, 80 percent of leads need you to follow-up five times before they're ready to make a buying decision.

But here's the crazy part:

44 percent of sales reps give up on following up with leads after just one attempt!

Or, as Scott Tousley put it over on the HubSpot blog:

"In other words, 44% of salespeople aren't putting in 1/5 of the effort needed to close the deal."

When you hear it that way, it's hard not to admit that you're missing out on valuable business by not conducting a proper round of follow-ups with the leads in your pipeline.

Okay, Fine. But What Impact Do Email Subject Lines Really Have on Lead Conversions?

Quite a big one, actually.

According to EduBirdie, 35 percent of people open emails just based on the subject line.

And it makes sense why:

Most people now read email on their phone.Graph of market share in 2015-2016.(image source)

Think about how simple it is to quickly check a message the moment your phone vibrates in your pocket and immediately decide whether it's something worth reading.

We all do it, right?

And as a result, plenty of blog posts focus exclusively on limiting your character count.

People think if you optimize your subject line to fit on a mobile screen, that's all that matters.

But the truth is, length is really only one piece of the puzzle.

In order to really see a big return on your follow-up emails, you need to intrigue your reader enough to want to know what's inside your message.

And that's what I'll show you how to do now.

Try These 6 Types of Subject Lines to Increase Your Lead Response Rate

Ask an Open-Ended Question

As a salesperson, I'm sure you know how to use open-ended questions during a discovery call.

But I bet you didn't realize they also work in your email subject lines for the exact same reason:

Open-ended questions encourage deeper conversation by pushing people to respond to your questions with more than a simple "yes" or "no."

Susan Farrell wrote about the effect of open-ended questions in user research for Nielsen Norman Group and though her focus wasn't on how people react and respond to email subject lines, her conclusion makes a lot of sense:

"The most important benefit of open-ended questions is that they allow you to find more than you anticipate: people may share motivations that you didn't expect and mention behaviors and concerns that you knew nothing about."

Just think about the difference between the following closed-ended questions and their open-ended alternatives:

  • Can We Connect? vs. When Are You Free?
  • Did You Know… vs. How Do You Know…?
  • Do You Need Help? vs. How Can I Help You?

That last one is actually a real-life example I received from the team over at and I liked it so much I thought I should include it here.Screenshot of Gmail.

What's great about this email is the combination of open-ended question in the subject line, followed by suggestions of how they could help in the body of the email.

It's a great example of how leading off your message with an open-ended question can spark the reader to not only open your email, but also think deeper about the value in connecting with you.

Give a Compliment

It's a simple fact: flattery works.

And it's not hard to understand why:

  • "Everyone loves a compliment."

That's an observation from President Abraham Lincoln in an 1865 letter and it still absolutely holds true today.

Psychologists have researched the impact of flattery on buying decisions and found that people do in fact respond more positively to sales requests where the seller strokes the buyer's ego a bit.

And so, including a complimentary subject line - like "Big Fan of [Prospect's Company]" - might be an easy way to catch a reader's attention and get them to open the email.

But, you need to be able to back up your flattery with some real knowledge - and that's the second benefit:

  • It shows you've done your research.

If you say you're a big fan of the prospect's company, prepare to give a brief explanation as to why in the body of the email.

And don't make it something generic, like "you guys have a great culture!"

Do the research ahead of time and know what's going on in your prospect's business.

One simple way to do this is to set up Google Alerts for your prospect's company and name.

That way, anytime something interesting about them or their business comes across the web, you have a great conversation starter to leverage in your email.

Include the Recipient's Name

It's simple math really:

Emails that include the prospect's name in the subject line have an 18.3% open rate as opposed to 15.7% without.

Of course, this isn't going to be a standalone strategy (you don't want to make your subject line only the person's name), but it's an easy addition to any of the other strategies discussed in this post.

Set-up a Joke

This one might feel a bit cheesy at times and that's why it's important you know your audience and don't do anything that's outside your comfort zone.

But the truth is, this strategy actually works. Here's what you do:

  • Run a search for industry specific one-liners.

Try to find a quick, easy insider joke that would be universally true for anyone working in the prospect's industry but doesn't have the potential to offend.

  • Put the set-up to the joke as your subject line.

For example, if your target client works for a SaaS startup, you might make your subject line: "You know you work at a tech startup when…"

  • Then put the punchline in the body of the email (you can experiment with placement).

Try putting the second half of the joke at the bottom of the email, maybe even as a "P.S." so that the reader needs to get through all the important information before getting to the punchline: "...Your managers all wear plaid."

You might also try including a funny visual that draws their attention.

Using a subject line like "Saw this on my drive into work today…"

And then including an image like this in the body:

Highway Sign

(Check out Atom Smasher to make your own sign.)

Continue the Conversation

I'll admit, this is a risky one (but it does actually work sometimes):

Lead off your subject line with "RE:" as if the email is part of an ongoing thread.

If the goal of a subject line is to get someone to open an email, then making them believe it's part of an existing conversation might be the easiest way to do it.

But prepare yourself:

You might get some people who don't appreciate the approach.

But if the email itself is truly valuable, leads might just recognize it as a smart technique and appreciate the content.

Lastly, Don't Forget to Test and Measure Your Subject Lines' Effectiveness

You're never going to know what works if you don't actually measure open rates and continuously test new methods.

So, try each of these strategies in your next round of sales follow-ups - I'm confident you'll see some amazing results.

Erika Desmond
Erika Desmond

I bring 7 years of graphic design experience with 2 years of marketing experience from on the job training and experience. I've helped build Cirrus Insight into the company it is today from my start as a graphic design intern while earning my degree at Maryville College. Growing alongside Cirrus as a company has been an especially rewarding experience.

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