3 Reasons Your Prospecting Email Subject Line Screams Delete Me


3 Reasons Your Prospecting Email Subject Line Screams Delete Me

Here’s a fact of life: according to the Harvard Business Review the average business executive gets 200+ emails a day. Add to that the mail they get in their social media inboxes, instant messages, and the chatter on crowdsourcing tools deployed by many companies, and there is simply no way they can possibly get to it all.

So your prospects cope with being crazy busy and overwhelmed by an inbox that is set to “infinite refill” the same way you do: Scan and Triage.

They, like you, must make instant, split-second decisions to: Open –or- Delete –or- Save for Later

In this paradigm, to get opened, your prospecting email must stand-out from all of the noise and be compelling enough to entice a click. Though subject lines are not the only thing that gets your sales prospecting email opened – timing, your name, brand, and email address also play a role – the subject line is, by far, the most important of these elements.

Sadly, though, most prospecting email subject lines neither stand-out nor are compelling. Most, in fact, scream – “Delete me.”

Here are the 3 Most Common Reasons Sales Prospecting Emails Scream “Delete Me!”

1. Too Long: Data from many sources across the sales ecosystem prove that shorter subject lines outperform longer subject lines by wide margins. Frankly, it’s intuitive. A long subject line requires your prospect’s brain to work harder. That extra effort in the context of split-second decisions about the value of an email gets you deleted.

Neither do long subject lines play well on mobile. It’s estimated that 50% or more of emails get opened on a mobile device. With the limited screen size, you get but a glimpse of the email subject line. If you think about your own behavior on your mobile phone, you are even quicker to delete a message there. More than 50 characters in your subject line and the open rate goes down exponentially.

Solution: Keep email prospecting subject lines super short. Three to six words or 40 to 50 characters including spaces. Remember – less is more

2. Questions: Email prospecting subject lines in the form of questions are delete bait. Virtually every major study conducted on the efficacy of different types of email subject lines conclude that subject lines in the form of a question quickly doom your email to the delete-button-death-roll. Though there may be a time and place for using a question in your email subject line, in most cases you should step away from the question mark.

Solution: Use action words and directive statements instead of questions. List based subject lines that include a testimonial like 3 Reasons Why ABC Chose Us are especially powerful; as are referral subject lines like Jeb Blount Said We Should Talk; and statement based subject lines like Biggest Fail in Industrial Pumps

3. Impersonal: Generic, impersonal subject lines are boring. When you are attempting to engage hard-to-reach executives a failure to connect will send you straight to the trash. Think about it. Every salesperson in your industry is trying to connect with the highest value prospects in your market. These executives are inundated with requests for appointments. You will never break through this noise and get their attention with cheesy, impersonal subject lines. Instead of standing out, you’ll look like all of the other schmucks junking up your prospect’s inbox and wasting their time.

Solution: Connect your subject line to an issue your prospect is facing – especially if it is emotional or stressful – or compliment them on a recent accomplishment or something that you know makes them feel proud. For example, the easiest, fastest way to get me to open your email is a subject line that reads: Loved Your Book!

The reality is we are all self-centered and almost always focused on our problems, issues, accomplishments, and ego. The fact is 95% of the time we are thinking about ourselves and the 5% of time that we are not thinking about ourselves something – maybe a mouthy salesperson – has gotten in the way of us thinking about ourselves.

So, play the odds, and make your subject line about your prospect. It’s really easy to do if you take a little extra time to research the recipient of your prospecting email through an internet search, company website, and on social media sites.

The brutal reality, though, is there is no secret formula for creating the perfect email subject line every time. What works in one situation may not work in another. Advice that works in one industry vertical may not be applicable within your industry or prospect base. This is why experimentation and testing is the real key to success with subject lines.

Testing helps you zero in on which subject lines get the most opens. With this data in hand you’ll often find patterns that lead to subject lines that work phenomenally well with certain prospect groups, job titles, geographic areas, and business problems.

Yet most salespeople don’t test. Instead they create subject lines on the fly and then send their emails into a black hole hoping that they’ll get a response. It’s an incredibly frustrating way to prospect because it’s like throwing darts at a target while blind folded and hoping you hit a bulls-eye, without any feedback to let you know if your aim is true.

You don’t need to fall into this trap. There are fantastic tools available today that make testing email response rates unbelievably easy and affordable. Sales email prospecting, automation, and intelligence services like Yesware give you instant insight into what happens with your prospecting email after you push send. With this information you’ll be able to narrow down and hone in on the words and phrases that get the best response. Soon, with this information in hand, your emails will stand-out and get opened while those your competitors are relegated to delete folder.


(Full disclosure: Yesware is a paid sponsor of my Sales Gravy Podcast. They are one of the many great companies that offer sales prospecting intelligence services. I love Yesware and believe that they are one of the very best in their class which is why I endorse them. The good news is Yesware has graciously provided my readers and listeners with a Free 30-day trial of their service. I highly recommend that you take them up on the offer. To get started testing your sales prospecting email subject lines go here.)


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