Secrets of Top-performing Email Subject Lines

Secrets of Top-performing Email Prospecting email subject lines are crucial in getting prospects to open emails. Most businesses are using email as their primary form of communication, and your prospects and customers are inundated with it. To be noticed, you have to make sure your subject line stands out to get past their glimpse factor.

But you want more than to be noticed. You want prospects to feel they must open, read and act on your email.

Here’s where you can fall into a trap.

There is a lot of advice out there on how to write an effective email. But most of it relates to marketing emails, and even that advice isn’t very effective. Don’t read or follow the marketing email advice. It won’t work for your prospecting emails because your objective is different than a marketing department’s goal.

In prospecting, your goal is to get the first appointment. This means your email must engage the prospect from the very moment they glimpse it. Subject lines are your first opportunity to grab prospects and draw them in.

The $64 million dollar question in writing prospecting emails now becomes, how do you do that?

Let me share three of my top email secrets with you. These are some of the techniques we teach in our prospecting classes.


First, make your subject lines feel personal and leave the prospect feeling as if he needs to open your email. Make it so personal that your contact realizes this email was written specifically for him and he wants to open it. In prospecting, you can use your purpose as your subject line and accomplish this. Here’s what I mean.

If your purpose is to set a meeting on Thursday, whether in person or over the phone, use a subject line like “Meeting Thursday” or “Can we meet Thursday?” Now the prospect needs to open the email to see what the meeting is regarding and if they can meet. They aren’t even thinking, “Do I want to meet?” They’re thinking, “What’s this meeting? What time is it? Can I meet?”

If your purpose is to follow up on a referral, use a subject line that includes the referring contact’s name: “Jackson Peterson.” If your prospect knows the referring contact well, he’ll open the email to find out what about Jackson Peterson? Or, you may choose a subject line like “Jackson Peterson suggested we talk.” This is more direct than just mentioning the referring contact’s name and may feel more comfortable to you,  but it may limit your responses simply because it says everything the prospect needs to know in the subject line. There’s no need to open the email except to find out who you are and why Jackson suggested you talk.

If your purpose is to invite the prospect to an event, such as a webinar, try “Can you attend Thursday, Aug. 2?” or “Thursday, Aug. 2 event.” I didn’t say anything about a “special invitation” because that sounds like an advertisement. It doesn’t create the personal feeling we want.


Notice how brief each subject line is. That’s my second secret. Your prospects merely glimpse their emails. The shorter the subject line, the easier it is for them to glimpse and actually read what you wrote. Additionally, the short length will stand out in their long list of emails. They may be more apt to read it first, then open your email.


My third secret is to add a bit of suspense to your subject line. Hold back. You want prospects to open your emails and read what you have to say. You don’t want them to make a snap decision that they can simply delete your email because it isn’t relevant or important to them. To hold back and create a bit of suspense, don’t completely disclose what the email is about.

Consider the difference between the two referral follow-up subject lines: “Jackson Peterson” and “Jackson Peterson suggested we talk.” In the second subject line, we say exactly what we want. If for some reason the prospect isn’t feeling too fond of Jackson Peterson when our email comes in, he may not respond. Or,  if the prospect thinks he knows that Jackson would suggest we talk about moving to cloud solutions and the prospect doesn’t feel ready for that, he may not respond. Leaving a bit of suspense would avoid the prospect jumping to snap conclusions before reading the body of the email.

Use these secrets to write prospecting email subject lines that will pull prospects in, and soon you’ll increase the number of new appointments you’re setting.

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