The subject line for your follow up email could be the difference between receiving a response or getting ignored. Here’s how to get it right.

  1. Be brief
  2. Be natural
  3. Honesty always
  4. Be personal
  5. Ask a question
  6. Promise value
  7. Leverage a connection
  8. Create urgency
  9. Make a joke
  10. Experiment and test

You could say that subject lines are the most important thing about follow up emails. If you get your subject line wrong and your recipient doesn’t open your email, it doesn’t matter about anything else. All the time you spent crafting the body of your email, all the research you put into working out the right time to follow up, they would all be for nothing if the recipient saw the subject line, then pressed delete. Your sales follow up email subject line could be an advertisement for the rest of the email, or it could be a blocker. It’s the difference between success and failure.

Unfortunately for sales reps, crafting an effective email subject line is an art rather than a science. There’s no right answer. However, there are things you can do you maximise your chances of success. Let’s find out more.

Why are subject lines important?

Your follow up email’s subject line is important because it’s the one part of your email that your customer will definitely see. Whether your customer has any intention of reading your email, whatever they are doing when your email arrives, when they check their inbox, they notice your subject line.

When your email arrives, your customer is likely to have a multitude of things battling for their attention:

  • Colleagues talking to them
  • Other emails in their inbox
  • Work that needs to be done

The subject line is your one chance to grab your customer’s attention, to make them put everything else to one side and read your email. Like a newspaper headline that makes you intrigued enough to read the rest of the article, your email subject line should draw your recipient into your story.

What does my subject line need to do?

For a subject line in a sales follow up email is to grab the recipient’s attention and get them to read the rest of the email, it needs to perform a number of functions:

  • It has to stand out from the other subject lines sitting in your customer’s inbox.
  • Your email must convey a reason to open your email that will benefit them in some way.
  • It needs to create a level of intrigue, making your customer feel that they have to read more, now.

On the other hand, you have to strike a balance. If you give too much information away in your follow up email subject line, your customer may not feel they need to read any more. If you try to be too clever with your subject line, your customer, who doesn’t have much time on their hands, may not understand what you’re trying to say.

Sales follow up email subject lines – Dos and Don’ts

Whatever your idea is for a follow up email subject line, here are 5 things you must do:

  • Be brief – Your customer will not want to read a long subject line. Plus, if they are reading on a mobile device, it will only show approximately the first 30 characters.
  • Be natural – No one wants to read an email from a robot. Don’t use words in your subject line that you wouldn’t normally use. Remember, your follow up email is part of a conversation.
  • Honesty is the best policy – Make sure your subject line relates to what is in the body of your email. Don’t promise anything in your subject line that you do not deliver.
  • Always be helpful – You must show your customer the benefit they will receive from opening your email, no matter how small.
  • Get personal – Make sure your subject line is relevant to your customer, their business and their needs. If you can use their name, even better.

By and large, anything goes when you’re crafting an email subject line. There’s nothing wrong with taking risks if you think it will grab your customer’s attention. However, there are 3 things you should never do.

  • Use all capitals – It comes across as if you are yelling!
  • Employ any devices to trick your customer into opening your email. For example, using ‘re:’ at the beginning of your subject line is dishonest, unless it is actually a reply.
  • Show anger – Even if your customer has ignored your last 4 follow up emails, you can let them see that you are cross about it in your subject line.

Ideas for follow up email subject line success

The best sales follow up email subject lines are creative, attention-grabbing, without being too clever and without giving away too much information. Sometimes, it’s best to go against conventional wisdom when crafting a subject line. Take risks, then use tracking software to record open rates, what’s working and what isn’t.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

Ask a question

Asking a question in your follow up email subject line is a popular and effective method. In fact, there are a variety of ways you can do it.

Firstly, you can ask a question in your subject line that your customer can answer. This works because people like to demonstrate their expertise.

  • Steve. What are your social media goals this year?

You could also use a questioning approach to arrange meetings or calls. This works because it’s so brief. The subject line does all the heavy lifting for the rest of the email.

  • James. Coffee tomorrow?

A different tack is to ask a question in the subject line, which you then answer in the body of your follow up email.

  • Are you leaving money on the table by not tracking your emails?

You can then explain how your solution can help them.

Promise value

What better way to hook in your customer into your follow up email than to promise value in the subject line?

You know what your customer’s pain points are. Use them in your subject line for maximum effect.

  • Hannah. An idea to reduce your IT costs
  • 10 ways to save Acme Inc. $50K
  • I thought you might enjoy our newest article

This approach creates a compelling reason for your customer to open your email straight away. You’re offering valuable information they could use today.

Remember, your customer is likely to be in a ‘What’s in it for me?’ mindset when they open their emails during a busy working day. Craft your subject line to tap into that selfish feeling.

Leverage a connection

By definition, a sales follow up email is a continuation of a conversation that has gone before. Your customer should already know who you are, but they may be having hundreds of similar conversations with sales reps. Leverage the good work you have done before and raise the likelihood of a response by referring to your connection in your follow up email subject line.

  • Jess. Great to meet you yesterday.
  • Confirming our next steps
  • That information on pricing you asked for

This approach is especially effective if you have been referred to a new decision maker by someone you were already talking to.

  • Dan. Nick recommended that I contact you.

Dan is going to open that email, out of respect for Nick. He wants to know why Nick wants you to contact him. You then have the opportunity to start a new conversation in the body of your follow up email.

Create urgency

Creating a sense of urgency is one of the fundamentals of sales. The subject line of a sales follow up email is an ideal way to appeal to a customer’s FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). It lets them know that they can ignore your email, but it’s at their peril.

  • Holly. Our prices are going up in 10 days.
  • Black Friday 2019 deal
  • [COMPETITOR] just signed with us.

Mentioning a competitor is especially effective because it creates intrigue. Your recipient won’t be able to resist finding out what their rival has done and the benefits they are currently missing out on. It also acts as social proof.

Tell the truth

Okay. It doesn’t require the same level of creativity as our other approaches, but simply telling the truth in your follow email subject line is often remarkably successful. It’s refreshing. When you are brief and get straight to the point, it shows that you’re professional, serious, not messing around.

  • I forgot to mention…
  • Dave. I just left you a voicemail
  • Sophie. Can you help me out here?

Your customer may be wary of seeing cleverly-crafted subject lines trying to hook them in when they open their email app. Your straight-down-the-line approach could be just what is required.

Make a joke

This is the hardest approach to take, but when it works, it really works. A joke can create something memorable. On the other hand, they may not understand it and totally ignore your email. It’s a fine line. However, when nothing else is working when you’re trying to follow up with a customer, try it. You have nothing to lose.

  • Lizzie. Are you tired of salespeople that won’t stop emailing you?
  • Who’s got two thumbs and can help you boost your social engagement
  • Winning lottery numbers inside!

Remember with this kind of approach, know your audience. Jokes might work with a buyer or marketer, but not with the CEO.

Experiment and test

Remember, crafting sales follow up email subject lines is an art, not a science. Just because a line works with one customer, it may not work with another. There are other factors at play, not least the mood of the recipient as your email arrives.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Make sure you track your email open rates so you can see what approaches work and what do not. If a particular style of subject line is landing your emails straight in the trash, try something else. The best salespeople never give up following up, so there is always a chance to try something new and reap the rewards.