Email is now the preferred prospecting tool, far surpassing the phone to the relief of many sellers who hate cold calling. Yet it hasn't necessarily made prospecting any easier. Response rates are low and many sellers are discouraged by how difficult it is to engage contacts.

Often the culprit is the subject line. It's one of the most important keys to getting people to open your emails.

Many sellers love to use fun subject lines like "Enticing Ideas: Kendra Lee, Did You Catch the Wave?" They think that a bit of humor will lighten the recipient's day, prompting them to open it.


Remember who you're writing to and what you're trying to accomplish. Your email is no different than a cold call. You're interrupting the day of an already overworked person.

Picture Steve. He has six meetings and eleven action items to conquer today. In fly forty, fifty, possibly even one hundred emails throughout the day. While humor is fun, it's a waste of valuable time Steve doesn't have. Instead of laughing at cute subject lines and enjoying his mail, he's looking for reasons to hit "delete" and avoid another thing landing on his plate. If he doesn't recognize your name immediately, your lighthearted subject line instantly hits the delete barrier.

Regardless of how busy he is, you want your subject line to draw Steve in with a personal and compelling message.

If you're attempting to secure an appointment or invite a prospect to a web event, try:

• Shall we meet Tuesday?
• Can you talk Wednesday at 2pm?
• Can you attend Friday at 12?

What makes this work when the contact doesn't know you? It feels personal to him.

You're requesting a meeting at a specific date and time. He needs to read enough to determine what you want, then check his calendar to see if he can meet. These subject lines are successful because even though people no longer feel a sense of obligation to return every message, they do feel more obliged to RSVP to a meeting invitation.

Another subject line approach you might use is to share an insight or tip you have for the prospect. Try:

• A hiring idea
• A thought about managing distributed files
• An idea about using your IT to grow client satisfaction

People love a new idea related to their job. Don't share the thought here though. Tease your prospect with enough information about it to entice a response and start a conversation. Suggest a time to discuss it in more detail with them.

Bottom line, make it personal to them, but in a way that doesn't sound like a marketing email.

Steer clear of gimmicks like "Enticing Ideas: Kendra Lee, Did You Catch the Wave?" This didn't have anything to do with me even though it put my name in the subject line. It was clearly a marketing message. No action was required on my part. There was no sense of urgency or compelling reason to open it.

In three seconds it hit my delete barrier. Gone without reading more than the subject line. Don't let that happen to your emails.

Author's Bio: 

Kendra Lee is author of "Selling Against the Goal" and president of KLA Group. Specializing in the IT industry, KLA Group helps companies rapidly penetrate new markets, break into new accounts and shorten time to revenue with new products in the Small & Midmarket Business (SMB) segment. Ms. Lee is a frequent speaker at national sales meetings and association events. For more information, contact the company at +1 303.741.6636 or or visit