The Best Email Subject Lines for Sales

The Best Email Subject Lines for Sales

The best email subject lines stop you in your tracks as you skim through your inbox.


It’s what email senders hope and dream for. But for every head-turner, ten cold email subject lines turn recipients away and send your email to the bin we call “Trash”.

 Heads up: We’ve discovered the science behind what drives that DiCaprio double-take, and it will help you better capture attention and drive action.

Our data scientists recently powered through subject line data from more than 100,000,000 emails sent by 7,839 companies to uncover patterns behind opens and replies. Here are brand new insights to help you send more compelling emails and increase email engagement.

Below are the top ten realities from our research. We think you’ll be surprised.

But first, the benchmark:

Average open rate: 51.86%

Average reply rate: 29.79%

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Reality #1: Language that shows immediacy is the most effective.

Research reveals that sending recap emails later in the week decreases reply rates to 2 percent. Subject lines that imply same-day send times as meetings receive more opens and replies than reminders sent days before and meeting follow-ups sent days after.

Here’s the data, broken down by open rates and reply rates, compared to the average:

best email subject lines_this weeks call

What to do before a meeting: As soon as your meeting is booked, schedule an email reminder to send at least two hours before your call or in-person meeting. Include an agenda and a note of appreciation for their time.

What to do during a meeting: Take notes using one of these 4 meeting minutes templates so you don’t forget 75% of what’s discussed.

What to do after a meeting: Use your notes and action items to send a follow-up email within one hour after your meeting. Your prospect just sat through a call with you and will still be invested in the conversation. Plus, it shows your dedication to their account.

Pro Tip: Save yourself 30 minutes with this proven template.

Reality #2: Asking someone “can you chat?” will lose you 98 out of 100 emails.

What it means: 55 companies used the same subject line phrase over 54K times: can you chat. But in the end, it only scored them a 1.9 percent reply rate.

What to do about it: Try using “check in” instead.

the best email subject lines _ check in

Reality #3: No, “something of interest” isn’t one of the best email subject lines out there (it’s one of the worst).

For every email you slap this subject line onto, the chances of your email ever getting replied to drops to one in ten.

the worst email subject lines - something of interest

What’s happening here: This phrase spells “sales email” to your recipients. They can smell out automated emails that require little effort and use custom fields like {!First Name}.

What to do about it: Take one minute to tailor your subject line to the value you provide in your email.

Example: “{!Action} {!Hard Success Metric} Like {!Customer}”

mailMeasure the successTrack all templates and campaigns to find your winning subject lines

Reality #4: Just because you’re “trying to connect” doesn’t make them care.

Everyone’s become blasé to this one. It’s definitely not one of the best email subject lines.

Data shows that it is finally time to retire this off-putting subject line phrase: trying to connect.

Our best guess why: Emails with this subject line are typically sent by strangers who assume that our time is worth theirs simply because they are interested, not because they’ve shown us value or done anything to find out who we are or what we need.

What to do: Stop sending general emails and do your research to personalize your email to a pain point your recipient has. Then, use “catching up” as a subject line to win more opens (and replies).

the best email subject lines - catching up

Here are some additional subject line ideas you could also test out:

“{!Pain point} sucks”

“{!End picture}

Reality #5: Using “next steps” in your follow-up subject line can score you a 70% open rate.

Choosing the phrase Next Steps to start off your email can boost your email reply rate 20 percent above average.

the best email subject lines 2017 - next steps

“Our team has found this to be one of the best email subject lines for double-taps with voicemails,” says Yesware Sales Manager Dave Saccardo.

“Specifically try the subject line ‘Next steps / Tried your line.’ It shows that you’re organized and committed to moving the relationship forward.”

Why it works: When one person sets an expectation, it drives another person’s behavior to be in line with that expectation. So, when a sender sets the expectation that there are next steps, it makes the recipient more likely to follow through with these next steps.

Reality #6: “Follow-up” gets 16% more opens, 18% more replies than similar variations.

Interestingly, while Follow-Up was a top 10 highest-performing subject line phrase in 2016, Following Up and Follow Up were two of the most popular and least effective.

best email subject lines for follow up emails

What to do: Test “follow-up” with the bottom performers to see if your audience produces similar results. You can also try adding your own subject line to the mix to see how it compares.

Pro tip: Save each of these phrases as separate Yesware templates with the same messaging in the body. Rotate so you use all three subject lines in your follow-up emails for a week, and check the tracking reports you get to see which earns the highest open and reply rates.

Reality #7: Thank you emails are 100% worth the send.

Do you ever feel like sending a “thank you” email is a superfluous task?

It’s not. It’s actually one of the best email subject lines out there.

Which is why thanking participants for their time after a call or meeting is worth yours. Emails that include the words Thank You in the subject line have seventeen percent higher open rates and reply rates.

the best email subject lines - thank you

pencil-altType it once, save for re-useSave top-performing subject lines and emails as templates that live in your inbox

 Reality #8: The word “invitation” no longer qualifies as a best email subject line for sales and marketing.

Think twice before following the common advice out there.

According to Yesware data, using the phrase Invitation To Join in your email subject line drops your reply rate to 2 percent.

the best email subject lines - sales and marketing

Our guess: Automated invites from strangers just aren’t the same as carefully crafted invitations from friends.

What to use instead:

“Meet {!Attendee X}”

“Introducing {!Speaker First & Last Name}”

“{!Day of Week} {!Morning/Night}”

Pro tip: Try A/B testing to find what works best, especially if you’re sending your invite to a wide audience. Split up your recipients into two batches; send one Subject Line A, and the other Subject Line B. Then track your overall open and reply rate for each.

Reality #9: The phrase “touching base” falls flat half the time.

Even though it was used in over 63K times by over 2,000 company domains, this subject line sends your email to the trash or Unread purgatory over 50% of the time (much more than that for recipients checking email on smartphones).

And it dropped reply rates in 2016 to below average:

stop saying touching base - the worst email subject lines

What to do: Don’t reach out unless there’s a new reason to. Maybe it’s that you’re approaching a deadline, or you have a case study relevant to them, or you discovered a trigger event. Whatever the reason, make sure it’s meaningful to your recipient, not just you, and refer to it in your subject line. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself needing to touch base a third time.


“Saw your post on LinkedIn!”

“Thinking of you”

“I {!point of connection}, too!”

Reality #10: Subject lines 5 words+ long are opened <50% of the time.

As your subject line word count goes up, your chances at an open go down.


You slash your open rate to 50% at 5 words and drop it below that as you add more.

subject line word count effectiveness

What this means:

The best email subject lines are under 5 words. Keep yours this short to give your email a greater-than-50:50 chance of being opened. (The average open rate for any SL above 5 words is <50%.)

Hint: Most outgoing emails have 2 or 3 words. Try a one-word or four-word subject line to go against the grain. If you’re emailing a stranger, put together a subject line that sparks creativity or shows utility to win an open. We’ve also discovered that empty subject lines work well.


Other best email subject lines to try:

[empty subject line]

“{!1-word success metric}.” → Like this: “SQL.”

“How to {!action} {!outcome}” → Like this: “How to Fasten Deal-Close”

 Hungry for more? Here’s another benchmark email analysis of 386M emails.

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