September 9, 2021

Cold Email Subject Lines That Work

Written by The Apollo Team

Your prospect opens her inbox and there it is: the cold email from a stranger (you). She reads the subject line and decides in an instant whether to open it or move it to trash (and God forbid, send it to the spam folder!).

What will make the difference? The email subject.

In this article, we will talk about the art of cold emailing and focus especially on cold email subject lines for B2B sales.

If you don’t master the subject line, the rest won’t matter, because your potential customer won’t read the award-worthy sales pitch inside.

Ready? Let’s go. We’ll start with the basics but feel free to jump ahead with the links below. 


What is a Cold Email?

A cold email is the written version of the cold call, an outreach email to a prospective customer who has not heard from you or your company, or who may have heard of you but doesn’t have a direct relationship with you.

Most sales reps send cold emails on a regular basis as part of their sales prospecting efforts. 

Here are some cold emailing basics:

  • Make it about them, not about you
  • Stick to 4 sentences max (make it interesting and mobile-friendly)
  • Use conversational language
  • The smaller the ask, the easier it is for your recipients to answer (and more likely you’ll get an answer)
  • The more personalized, the better – reference their name, company, industry, competitors, call out unique situations they’re facing, reference a real (relevant) use case of your product by a similar company, use language THEY use, and offer specific solutions
  • Follow-up, and follow-up your follow-ups

Don’t forget to do A/B Testing with your sales emails.

Split test different versions of your email body or subject line, but never both at the same time.

Small changes in verbiage are more effective to test against each other than completely different content.

Try to pinpoint what difference, whether subject line or opening sentence, is the cause for the change in results.

Finally, utilize the ‘clone’ function in Apollo to quickly test small variations in your messaging.

Cold Email Best Practices

When sending cold outbound email, you should think of it like dating.

In dating, you don’t want to overwhelm your potential partner right off the bat at first glance. Instead of going into your whole life story and personal details immediately, you should approach the potential relationship step by step.

First, allow your partner/recipient to briefly get to know who you are. The whole idea is to make a good first impression and provide a short introduction so they get acquainted with you. 

If you do this effectively, you’ll have your target intrigued, curious, and willing to have a second date or follow up. If you overwhelm them with information (or a long-winded email), you’ll likely get rejected and ignored.

On the second date (second step email), you will have already established context on who you are and what you represent. Because of this, it’s the perfect time to offer a little more substance. 

In this discussion, you can build upon the introduction and context of the first message and add additional information, value, or context. Keep in mind you’re still in the early stages though, so if you’re approaching a potential client that’s hard to get then you may want more steps showing ‘social value’ and depth.

There are a lot of tools and best practices that can help with your approach. If you get your intro and first few dates right, however, you’re on the right path to driving engagement and a genuine consideration of whether you’re a good fit for each other.

For the third and fourth dates though, this is where you’ll be diving into who you are. You can speak about your experiences, where you’ve lived, what type of value you can offer, and try to convince your recipient to take a chance. You can start to use case studies, name drop clients and success metrics, point out value, and try to convince them to take a chance. Getting them to take a call or demo is the goal. Remember though, at no point during dating do you want to overwhelm, oversell, or bombard your recipient — this will only lead to frustration and distancing on their part.

Furthermore, just getting a reply or some level of interest doesn’t mean that it’s the right time to ask for their hand in marriage — that would be a bit too forward. However, what it does do is set the stage for an earnest consideration of a relationship that would be mutually beneficial.

Remember, setting up a good relationship takes guided steps and isn’t a sprint to the finish line. From this point, you can move onto evaluating each other more deeply (qualification, discovery, needs analysis) — and get closer to a successful relationship.

How to Write Cold Email Subject Lines

What makes a good subject line? Here are our top tips for writing a cold email subject line.

Personalize the subject line

When writing a cold email subject line, be informative, focus on clear value propositions, and make use of snippets like {{first_name}} and {{company}} to be more personalized and targeted.

Try to be as specific as possible, even including a particular pain point, to increase your email open rate.

Here’s an example of a personalized subject line:

“[Introduction] [name]” or “[Introduction] [your name/company] <> [their name/company]”

Try different approaches

Your target audience may prefer different things, so try out different things to get the best subject line, like mentioning a mutual connection, asking questions, one power word subject lines, all lower case, or anything that causes curiosity and grabs the prospect’s attention.

Use common sense

Put yourself in the shoes of your prospect: if you read the subject line and feel that it is too salesly, then it is too salesly (the same is true for the body of the email).

And do not use dishonest practices like using clickbait-type subject lines that are not related to the content of the email. If you don’t deliver on the promise of the subject or the subject is not connected to the content of the email, you may get decent open rates but awful responses. And what is the point of that?

Cold Email Subject Lines Examples

Cold emails with a great subject line will not only avoid the spam filter but will stand out in your prospect’s inbox.

Try some of the subject line examples below in your next cold outreach.

“quick request”

“Trying to connect”

“[Name of their company]”

“detective work”

 “A proven solution for [pain point]”

“3 tips for [pain point]”

“A great tool for [name of company]”

“[Referrer’s name] recommended I get in touch”

Whether you’re doing email marketing or just writing a sales email or a cold email campaign, the best email subject lines are those that break through the noise and make the email recipient open the message. Try the proven examples above and book more meetings.

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The Apollo Team