It has been researched to the fifteenth decimal point. Millions of dollars have been budgeted trying to figure it out. In this age of all things digital, it is a strategic imperative for effective business communications, but most sales people do an awful job at it.

What’s the “it”? The ability to engage a potential customer via email. Giving them a nugget of info in the subject line that piques their interest enough to read further. Something that they won’t ignore, delete, or file before opening.

Here’s a clue as to what it should NOT be about:  You.  Or your company.  Or your service. It should be about the person you’re writing to.  And they have gotten a bit crafty at filtering out unwanted communications.  If it’s not about them or someone they know, your email will be deleted or ignored and you won’t connect – making you a member of the 29% Club. As a member, you reveal three things about yourself to potential clients:

  1. You do not know them
  2. You do not have a direct referral to them
  3. You are guessing at what that customer needs

According to a recent study conducted by a TechCXO client in the printing vertical, 71% of the time buyers already knew someone who provided the service/product they needed – or could get a direct referral from someone in their networks. Likewise, before any RFQs, I/Ps, buying process or decision timeframe is established, a buyer begins his research on where he can get reliable intel on his project needs. Demonstrating that you’re a member of the 71% Club can successfully start a conversation. In other words, you need to:

  1. Know your client
  2. Get a direct referral to them
  3. Understand their pain

That brings us back to the email subject line. The time-proven technique to get a buyer’s attention is a name — the name of someone they know and trust who has referred you for a brief, introductory conversation. You already have, or have access to, those names. Mining your contacts and conducting a little research into published information about your prospect, will result in a network of data dots that, when properly connected, will lead to a must-read subject line. Getting good at it qualifies you for the 71% club.

Chris Pariseau is a Sales, Strategy & Marketing Partner for TechCXO in Atlanta. He is a firm SME on prospecting. See his full bio here.