7 Cold B2B Subject Lines That Get Clicked by C-Level Executives

7 Cold B2B Subject Lines That Get Clicked by C-Level Executives

Make no mistake, proactively engaging someone you don’t know for the very first time regarding your business AND getting them to respond can be difficult.

Even if you think your cold b2b subject lines are exactly right…

…Only your recipients can be the true judges of that.

If you’re new to it, even getting the first words right… the subject line can seem DAUNTING, not to mention discouraging when it doesn’t hit the mark.

You ask yourself:

“Am I imposing? Am I interrupting them?

Does my email sound SPAMMY?

If they don’t like my email, will I blow the opportunity or relationship?”

No doubt about it, these are legitimate concerns.

Occasionally, questions like these that inhibit and ultimately stop salespeople from fully taking advantage of the power of cold email prospecting. Leaving perhaps millions in revenue on the table.

(Candidly, it’s why we’ve been able to carve out a nice consulting practice, as well as build a thriving growth marketing agency helping companies strategically leverage the enormous opportunity outbound email prospecting represents.)

In a moment, we’re going to share with you why these 7 sure-fire cold B2B subject lines we’ve used for our clients get consistently clicked on by C-level executives.

Rather than inundate you with dozens of headlines to try, in this case, we believe LESS IS MORE.

But before we share we need to position these subject lines correctly. We need to share with you our mindset and what makes them work.

Understandably, when salespeople first start doing outbound prospecting, the overriding attitude of the email is…

“Hi, I’m X. I’m from Y. I want something from you. I want your business. Give me a moment of your time. Please let me show you what I have to offer.”

I’m sure you get emails with this intention all the time.

When you do, what happens? How do you feel?

Let me guess. You feel like they are wasting your time. They’re imposing. Interrupting. Demanding your immediate attention.

And what’s your response?

Predictably, you ignore them. There is nothing particularly or emotionally motivating about them.

So to be effective with outbound prospecting email, you as a salesperson must abandon that mindset (initially) and focus on a different premise. You have to walk a mile in the prospect’s shoes.

For instance, one email subject line that gets consistent responses from C-level executives is:

B2B Subject Line #1: {Name} can you help me?

Why does that work?

Because it’s human. It’s personal. It gently tugs at a person’s desire to be needed.

Now what you say AFTER THAT is up for discussion. But that subject line WILL get clicked, for all the right reasons.

Last time I checked, it gets as much as a 67% open rate on a good list. Not bad when most open rates are in the teens.


B2B Subject Line #2: {Name} about your [X] project

We have a client which is discussed in Marylou Tyler’s new book, Predictable Prospecting.

The client admits that he only opens emails that are relevant to the project(s) he is working on. He ignores the rest.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

If you’re a C-level exec, you’re probably in an information gathering, analyzing, decision making or implementation stage of your project. You have a desire to know how you can help right now.

What you as the email writer don’t know yet is whether he has an ongoing project which YOU can help with.

If you’re confident he does, then an email subject line like:

“Samuel, about your eCommerce project”

If you don’t know, then make the subject line blind. Say:

“Samuel, about your project”

Now regarding the first version, if your prospect doesn’t have an eCommerce project he is responsible for, the response will be suppressed.

The reason should be obvious.

However, if they click, read and then respond, your prospect will be much more targeted, much more viable, than the later subject line.

In other words, they right off the bat demonstrate they’re a better fit. The more targeted you can make the project name, the better the fit will be. (So if you’re into not wasting time, this version is for you.)

Now there are times when you want to go broad and cast a wider net. If that’s the case, the second subject line gets the job done.

Next… And I love this one…

B2B Subject Line #3: {Name} I have an idea

Ok, what makes this work?

One big thing: Curiosity.

What’s inside could be relevant to the person. You’re appealing to their “what’s in it for me?” desire to know. They’ll have to open to find out.

(Beware, you HAVE TO DELIVER on the idea.)

These days curiosity, not some big benefit, is what gets emails opened today. But you must do without resorting to clickbait tactics.

Keep in mind, the idea you’re sharing:

  • Should NEVER be a pitch in disguise
  • Should not try to sell them on the idea. Like a softball, you’re “lobbing” it to the recipient, to see if they’ll catch it
  • Should tease them just enough they’ll want to find out more from you.

Done right, your email will be considered a timely, serendipitous opportunity for the recipient.


Subject Line #4: {Name} can you do me a favor?

Now before I get into what makes this work, I want you to notice something. It’s important.

You’ll notice that these subject lines could be embellished from a copywriting perspective.

For instance, you could say “Samuel, I have an idea for you”.

The “for you” is redundant. Of course it’s how you, otherwise I wouldn’t have sent the email!

But copywriting books will advocate sticking “a you” in there because the word “you” is powerful.

We agree. “You” IS powerful. So powerful, you have to handle it with kid gloves – especially within the B2B subject line.

Despite what the email gurus teach, based on our experience, we resist sounding too “hypey”, too “sales-y” at every opportunity.

We have found being UNDERSTATED works better with C-level executives. It’s what they’re used to in real life.

So please, put away those copywriting books and appreciate the power of sounding human, organic and natural (yet still professional) instead.

So what makes “[Name] can I ask a favor?” so effective.

Like “[Name] can you help me?”, it appeals to a person’s desire to be needed.

Never underestimate the power of someone being needed.

Now you may want to embellish this subject line by saying:

[Name] can I ask a small favor from you?

Again, we would encourage you to resist the urge. It crosses the line and starts to steal the personalness of it, doesn’t it?

Step into a manager’s shoes for a moment. Your time is worth $50,000 an hour and you see an email like that from someone you don’t recognize.

Your skepticism meter pegs. However a simpler “[name] can I ask a favor” is more informal, isn’t it?

Odds are more often than not, it will get opened.

It may work if you already know this executive, but in outbound prospecting, you usually don’t.

Next ones…

B2B Subject Line #5: Update

Let me ask you, what C-Level executive doesn’t want an update?

Of course this will get opened. But you better have something meaningful to offer as an update.


B2B Subject Line #6: Question

Again, a human desire to be helpful will get this innocent sounding email opened.

What you say after that, well, just make sure it is a legitimate question.

Last one…

B2B Subject Line #7: {Name} thank you

For obvious reasons, this one will get opened. Humans have a natural desire to feel appreciated.

The caveat should be obvious too: You have to have something that is truly noteworthy and relevant to thank the person for. And sincerity is a must.

7 Cold B2B Subject Lines That Get Clicked by C-Level Executives

Summarizing Cold B2B Subject Lines

If at this point, you’re starting to appreciate the subject line is less about specific words and more about intent, context, and strategy, good for you.

Because that’s exactly right.

Also, notice the brevity, relevance, personal and directness.

However, candidly we had a hard time writing this article. Why? Because in our experience, many salespeople view subject lines as combination locks which open the doors to a relationship.

Just say the right words and the opportunity doors swing open.

However, such is not the case.

To do so will usually backfire.

What we attempted to do today was inspire you to think through your outbound approach–strategically. Sure, words are used, but to open the door of opportunity, the entire email, the entire approach has to have integrity.

So go ahead, and study this article. Let these subject lines inspire your thinking. These subject lines have made our clients millions and we have no doubt they’ll help you as well.