People.ai
sales Legend

Christian Smith, CRO of Splunk, on Humility, Hustle, and Humanitarianism


We all know people who worked as kids to earn money. But do you know any who sold shares to raise capital for their childhood money-making venture – or regularly gave up their bed to strangers? You do if you know Christian Smith, Chief Revenue Officer of Splunk.

When Christian wanted to buy a fancy bike to replace his sister’s beat-up hand-me-down, he hit upon selling candy to the other kids at school. And to fund his inventory, he sold shares. “My stepdad was a stockbroker so I told people if they gave me 20 cents, I’d give them 30 cents at the end of the day.” When the principal shut down his cash cow, Christian pivoted to selling Matchbox cars and earned enough to buy the bike of his dreams.

At home, Christian shared space with seven siblings – and anyone who needed a helping hand. Extremely community-oriented, Christian’s parents started a halfway house in the family home that became one of the biggest social services in the state of Washington. Christian never knew who might walk through the door at any given hour or when he might have to sleep on the floor. “I’m proud of my mom and dad for doing great things for the community. They taught me the importance of helping others, and about acceptance, caring, and passion.”

My stepdad was a stockbroker so I told people if they gave me 20 cents, I’d give them 30 cents at the end of the day.

Perhaps this helps explain Christian’s strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. “It’s personally important to me to drive an equitable and a diverse work environment. Diversity is a challenging topic, but an important one, and more so now than ever.”

In high school and at the University of Washington, he discovered a love for Shakespeare. Though his business savvy drove Christian to pursue a practical path, he is thankful he cultivated an appreciation for the arts. “I minored in English, Shakespeare and literature and majored in advertising with the idea that I could spin this love of language into a job, using words to connect with and persuade buyers.”

That love of Shakespeare proved valuable when Christian needed to convince sportsmen to subscribe to a paper he slung while in college. He created a persona: Bobby Jones from The Fishing and Hunting News. “Bobby had to be the person you wanted to take on a fishing or a hunting trip. Because of my thespian background, it was second nature to develop, study, and live the character.”

Once out of college, he took to heart his stepdad’s advice to work for a company that trained its salespeople. “I got a job at Harris Lanier and really learned the art, techniques and strategy of selling.”

Christian’s entrepreneurial spirit, deep-seated belief in the importance of helping others, and love for Shakespeare have underpinned his enviable career. In addition to founding a company after college, he has held leadership roles at ATG, Oracle, and Nintex.

Some of Christian’s other keys to success:

  • Nailing the fundamentals. Christian believes in sticking to the basics because then everything becomes instinctual. As he says: Do the right things, do them the right way, and the rest will take care of itself.
  • Calling upon a well-defined playbook. At every organization, he relies on the four pillars of operational excellence, employee engagement, customer engagement, and partner engagement.
  • Seeing finance as his best friend. Christian greatly values his finance partners for their keen insights and perspective as he’s systematically scaling, measuring his programs, and making trade-off decisions around investments.