Subject Lines That Work For Sales Emails | A Sales Guy's Sales Blog Copy & Close
August 24, 2014 Keenan

Subject Lines That Work For Sales Emails

I thought this was an interesting infographic. As sales people, we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to communicate with our prospects and buyers. Therefore, it seems to me we might want to get it right.

This infographic suggests nothing in the subject line get’s open the most. Well duh, any “Re:” suggests the recipient is responding to something they sent out earlier. Therefore in essence, the recipient in an “Re:” is reading their own email. Of course it’s gonna get opened at a higher rate. We love ourselves.

However, beyond the absolute irrelevance of “Re:” open rates, this infographic offers a lot of little tidbits to think about as you reach out via email. Most notable, shorter is better.


Infographic authored by ContactMonkey, an email tracking service for salespeople. To view the
original post, see the original subject line infographic.

Here’s the takeaway as I see it. The subject line matters. Take a little extra time and think about what you’re saying. If you use Contact Monkey, YesWare or ToutApp, do a little A/B testing. Don’t just ignore the subject line. You’re spending too much time on the email to waste it with a bad subject line.

First impressions baby, first impressions.


Tagged: , , , ,
  • Shannon Mulligan

    Love it! I try to keep my first email subject line short but just never considered the RE: in front!

  • LB

    Sorry – but fraud is fraud. Re: is a fraud. It is a misrepresentation and unprofessional at best. Keenan I universally like your content, but this is truly a low point for you to even consider this on your blog. For a professional email marketing company to endorse a ‘trick’ is professionally disgusting. Do you really think you’re going to trick someone into opening your message and because they opened it and realized they were tricked they’re going to magically think you have the credibility worthy of a response? Real salespeople earn the right to secure a prospects time and attention and are honest and ethical, this accomplishes neither. Let’s send emails to our entire book and prospect base and forfeit our credibility with one click of the mouse!!

  • LB, I don’t recommend trickery at all!! This infographic is a simple analysis of 30 million emails sent via outlook and gmail. It then states what the highest open rates are. As I said in the post: Re’s get a higher open rate because they are traditionally a response from someone they’ve already engaged, not because someone put a “fake” RE: into the subject line.

    From my post:

    “This infographic suggests nothing in the subject line get’s open the most. Well duh, any “Re:” suggests the recipient is responding to something they sent out earlier. Therefore in essence, the recipient in an “Re:” is reading their own email. Of course it’s gonna get opened at a higher rate. We love ourselves.

    However, beyond the absolute irrelevance of “Re:” open rates, this infographic offers a lot of little tidbits to think about as you reach out via email.”

    So NO LB, I’m not suggesting anyone trick anyone. This post isn’t suggesting that either. Sorry you got that impression my man.

    If I’m nothing else, I’m consistent. Trickery, games, and manipulation are not selling. I’ve been saying that on this blog for years.

    Anyone who puts “re” in the subject line just to trick a recipient into opening is missing the point and as you said undermining trust.

  • RonBelensky

    OK, so you got an open. But what if the prospect feels manipulated by the RE:? If you get a 92% open rate but 92% of them are upset with how you got them to open it will that get you any business? I totally understand that getting someone to open your email is important and these numbers prove that the RE: works for that. I would dive in further and see how much new business comes from RE: emails sent to prospects. Now if you are emailing a current client or someone you have been talking to then reply to their last email and shorten everything past the RE:!

  • putting an RE: in front of an email that you are not replying to is shady at best. I see political campaign emails do it all the time – and I immediately delete those emails. You are getting somebody to open your email under false pretenses – never a great way to start a relationship with somebody. I do NOT recommend this at all…. EVER. I *do* agree that a short and sweet Subject will generate the best (honest) results.

  • Scott,

    My man not recommending “re” nor is the infographic. I call out my reasons why I think “re” is answered so frequently in the post and why it’s there.

  • Kennan – you should make that crystal clear in your post then. Your title is “Subject lines that work for sales emails”. The infographic you use shows that “re:” emails are BY FAR the most effective. Don’t you think people will therefore imply you are suggesting they should use it?

    You do not discuss the pros or cons of using Re: in your post either.

    Sorry – I appreciate your position, but the way you wrote the post leads to conclusions that are dubious at best. You should make your point very clearly – given your post title, what ARE you suggesting are subject lines that sales folks should use?

  • I thought I did with this:

    “This infographic suggests nothing in the subject line get’s open the most. Well duh, any “Re:” suggests the recipient is responding to something they sent out earlier. Therefore in essence, the recipient in an “Re:” is reading their own email. Of course it’s gonna get opened at a higher rate. We love ourselves.

    However, beyond the absolute *irrelevance of “Re:” open rates . . . “*
    I also address it in the comments.

    Just thought it was an interresting infographic is all.

  • Andrew Bernat

    Jim, I read your blog because it is humorous and sometimes insightful. Unfortunately, this post missed the mark on being insightful. A+ for humor though! Here are 3 things you failed to mention:

    1. Mail open rates CAN be full of false positives. Providers like gmail are moving in the direction of completely hiding mail opens. They are not all the way there yet, but it is a matter of time. Some details: http://techcrunch.com/2013/12/12/gmail-open-rates/

    2. Users will frequently open an email just before deleting it. This may end up being counted as an “open” though clearly it isn’t.

    3. Most importantly, even if you get a legitimate “open”, what your prospect does next is more important than the actual “open” event. Obviously, actions like viewing an attachment or communicating back to the sender are real signs of interest. Your post doesn’t offer any useful suggestions on how to formulate a subject line that will lead to a more significant event… But hey, I guess salespeople gotta do some homework to get results.

    The products you mentioned: Contact Monkey, YesWare, or ToutApp measure “opens” as well as they can be measured. They are all limited in the information they provide for content views and do nothing to assist in setting up a communication channel between sales professional and prospect. A more useful A/B test would be to see which content gets viewed, what content resonates with prospects, and what email message provides real hits.

    Full disclosure: I work for Tellwise which does provide a collaborative tool for sales professionals to communicate with their prospects.

  • Tell Conrad I said Hi and I’ll work on providing more “insightful” posts.

    Thanks Andrew

  • Everyone talks about open rates like it’s the holy grail. I get it, if they dot open they don’t respond. And there in lies the truth.

    Open rate is only part of the battle. The real win CEs from measuring your positive response rate. Specifically someone who says, yes I’m interested.

    As someone mentioned, open rates are false positives. Positive response rates are the key to successful email sales hacking.

  • Marc

    Sorry, but somebody has to defend Keenan. He never recommended to use Re: as a cold email opener. Instead the infographic about which the blog entry is all about provides a comprehensive analysis of what works and what’s not with email openings. If somebody really reads the whole graphic you may see that his recommendations are rather keep it short, be direct, use intro/introduction etc. The only thing which could be misinterpreted is the sub title under “what makes a good subject line”; When in doubt use Re:. For me, the post countained a lot of insight which is helpful and the conclusion I drew by just reading it (without looking at the comments first) is to use “Intro” or “Introduction” as an opener for a cold email.
    Furthermore I agree that opening is only the first step. The real challenge is to catch the interest of the prospect, here again, Keenan has a wonderful method at hand => see http://asalesguy.com/2012/03/30/how-to-get-a-prospect-to-call-you-back/

  • TheGeekLP

    From what I’ve seen, using ANY tips & tricks approach is a good way to airball the entire effort. People are busy. To be effective is to keep it simple. Make the Subject 1.) Relevant (to them!) 2.) Personal (you’re not spamming) 3.) Direct. Convey urgency where applicable. If your email brings any value, this should be easy. If not, your email belongs in the trash anyway.

  • TheGeekLP

    …unless your business is click-bait. That’s a different story 😉

  • Radhika Mohan Singh Roy

    Well..don’t do it at all..users are smart enough to know that they did
    not write such a mail in the first place, to receive a ‘Re:’