Why Nobody Opens Your Sales Emails: Subject Line Edition

Subject lines are a tremendous force multiplier for sales emails. After all, it doesn’t matter how amazing the content within your email is if the recipient never opens it. Without the right subject line, all that time and effort you spent writing the perfectly personalized email will be for naught.

This is what a typical inbox looks like in the morning. Can you spot the sales emails?

email spam cluttered inbox

Which of those emails would you delete during your morning routine? Which ones grab your attention and demand to be opened?

In this age of spam and cluttered inboxes, personalization makes a world of difference, and nowhere is it more important than the subject line. A subject line is the make-or-break of your email’s open rate, so give it the attention and thought it deserves.

Here are five tips proven to help your email stand out from the digital crowd and avoid instant deletion.


1. Avoid Being “Salesy”

This goes without saying, but it’s worth repeating. “Salesy” emails clutter our inbox day after day, and they almost always go unopened. These are the first cuts every morning:

  1. “Quick question”
  2. “Regarding _____”
  3. “Appropriate person”
  4. “First name, are you the right person?”
  5. “<text> / {!Company Name}”


2. Don’t Capitalize Every Word

Normal People Do Not Communicate Like This. As such, you shouldn’t either. Subject lines for personal, one-to-one emails (the ones worth reading) are typically written quickly and not overwrought.


3. Write Like You’re Old Pals

Emails from friends and family often enjoy a 100% open rate. While part of that power lies is the name of the sender, you would still do well to match the style of these subject lines, which tend to have shorter, more colloquial-looking text.


4. Keep It Short & Sweet

Again, you want your email to appear to have been written quickly and for that one specific person. The type of person who would write a 10-word subject line is likely not someone you want to enter conversation with.


5. Be Mindful of Preview Text

As most people today preview emails right in their inbox, this preview text is very important for many reasons. Firstly, it is visible right there in the inbox and impacts open rate. Secondly, this is your chance to activate your prospect’s brain.

With that potential in mind, you should always lead with something that looks personal or bespoke. Consider the following examples:

  1. “Sally, I know you’re slammed this week…”
  2. “Sally, We at ACME Corp drive results by…”
  3. “Sally, We both went to Stanford and I…”
  4. “Sally, Congratulations on having very…”
  5. “Sally, My name is Steve Waters and I…”
  6. “Sally, Lonzo Ball is really exciting the…”

Which of these would you open?

“A” looks good, provided you haven’t received many similarly formatted emails. “B” is an instant delete. “C” will almost definitely get opened, as it looks like it took some research. “D” is intriguing. Flattery is appreciated, but realize a micro-contract has been made here. “E” is another instant delete. You probably don’t know a Steve Waters, and you probably don’t want to. “F” has the potential to work very well. If you’re a die-hard Lakers fan, this will definitely get an open.


At the end of the day, an email’s open rate hinges on the power of its subject line. Nobody wants to receive “spammy” email, so take the time to make your emails personal. Focus on the recipient, not on yourself. Use positive and congratulatory emotional language, and, whenever possible, try to find the keys to unlock someone’s personal attention. It takes a bit of legwork, but the results are worth it!

Want to learn more about how to maximize the effectiveness of every email you send? Check out our article on how to stop sending spam and start personalizing.

If you’re an email all-star who wants to get ahead of the competition with industry insight, personalization tips and tricks, free learning resources, and more, use the sign-up form at the top of the page to subscribe to Nova’s blog.

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