How a large sales organization improved its skills with mobile video

By Pat D’Amico, Director of Sales Training, Medtronic Cardiac & Vascular Group


Medical device companies are under tremendous pressure to do more with less when it comes to training and enabling our sales teams. Decreased budgets often mean we have to impact more people with fewer dollars. Remote teams can require more e-learning to address knowledge gaps, but how do you impact skill development remotely? And, despite shrinking budgets and increasingly distributed teams, there’s an even greater demand for performance coaching.

Our sales organization is very large, with over 3,000 individuals spanning clinical, management, field sales and sales leadership – all of them remote. I’m continually looking for ways to show ROI when it comes to sales training, leadership development and collaboration across the group. As a starting point, we took a close look at how training and collaboration is currently done to identify the problems and make adjustments where needed. Given the nature of our remote organization, e-learning has allowed us to provide training when and where we need it, without the T&E expense. While this makes ROI for e-learning as a solution to knowledge gaps fairly simple, skill development was becoming more and more challenging. It was no longer a question of cost vs. benefit of skill development in a live setting, since the cost became almost secondary to the near impossibility of the logistics for an organization of our size. So, we faced the dilemma of how to drive skill development remotely, but not with a traditional eLearning modality.

Most people process visuals 600,000 times faster than text

The Best Way to Role Play

We looked at the tried-and-true best tool for impacting skill development in the area of sales and messaging—role play. There is an abundance of data suggesting role play’s value and its impact on behavior. We also gathered a lot of internal data from employee surveys and interviews to understand how reps feel about role play. Additionally, scientific data points to the fact that behaviors can be changed with both positive and negative influence. While Pavlov famously demonstrated classical conditioning to elicit a desired response, B.F. Skinner’s work also suggested that negative reinforcement can be just as powerful in impacting behavior change. Individuals who practice the wrong way, and who do not receive corrective feedback, may develop negative behavior that becomes even more difficult to correct. So knowing this, where does traditional role play fall short?


If we delve into why people don’t like role play, it helps us understand the reasons it often fails to drive its desired outcome of skill mastery. Our data showed us that our professional sales people absolutely believe role play does work, or rather can work, if optimized. So we looked at how we were using role play, which I would suggest is similar throughout our industry as well as others. We reviewed a one-day focused sales course where, at the end of the day, we’d pair reps up and give them 20 minutes to practice their message back and forth while also providing each other feedback. What we found, which should not be surprising to anyone with even limited experience in managing role play, is that they practiced an average of 1.3 times each. So what did people spend the 20 minutes doing? Well, we noted that at the seven minute mark into their allotted time, all role play had stopped or been “completed.” So 65 percent of their practice time was wasted.

When we observed the feedback the reps provided each other, it was clear that just about all of it was overwhelmingly positive with very little constructive criticism. This is not unusual with peer-to-peer feedback, especially when both parties appreciate the difficulty in attempting to master messaging that is still very new to them as it is in these scenarios.

We also asked these reps directly for their opinions on the value of traditional classroom role play. This is what they told us:

• “Time is usually rushed at an in-person training, therefore role plays seem to be rushed as well.”

• “Normally the room does not want to do it. People hate getting put on the spot.”

• “It’s good to hear other people’s role plays, but it’s too nerve-wracking to do it yourself.”

• “It’s hard to have everyone engaged.”

• “I need to solidify my talk track at home and practice in front of a mirror.”

These comments, coupled with what we saw and tracked, reinforced much of what we already knew. First, role play in a classroom setting is typically rushed and that limited time cannot realistically build mastery. Second, it is difficult to drive engagement, even in smaller size cohorts. Third, reps prefer to practice on their own to master messaging before being asked to be observed and evaluated. And finally, peer feedback is seldom of high value and individuals are far more likely to be more critical of themselves than a peer. All of this should lead you to the important question of: If mastery of messaging is not taking place in the classroom during role play, where is that practice taking place? We know the answer, and you can cringe with me, in front of the customer. We realized we needed to find a way to engage our reps in role play that actually allowed them to master messaging before they were in front of a customer. Clearly, traditional classroom role play was not accomplishing that.

What Learners Want…

Knowing the realities of the value of role play, but also the challenges of traditional classroom role play, we next focused on what the learners (in this case reps) want with regard to delivery of training content or learning. This information is not exclusive to sales, or any particular function. These learner wants are what is driving the academic and professional areas of learning today. What learners want today includes:

• On Demand —access to content and learning, when and where they need it and can access it

• Micro learning —small “snack bites” of learning that are targeted to a specific objectivePc0330100

Pat D’Amico discusses the results

• Peer-to-peer best practices — not just corporate info, but strategies and insights from the field

• Video —the best way to learn, which I’ll expand on next

• To be engaged!


…is What Video Offers

Most people – 60 percent – are visual learners, processing visuals 600,000 times faster than text. Video is not only the preferred form of content for training, but it allows for the greatest absorption and retention of that content. If a two-minute video can convey as much as a 5-page document, retention of the content is bolstered. It is not only today’s generation that goes to YouTube for information on everything from replacing a kitchen sink to changing a tire. The number of hours that people spent watching videos on YouTube was up 60 percent in 2015, the fastest growth the company has seen in two years. What does this tell us? The majority of people prefer video as a remote or distance learning modality. The growth of platforms like the Khan Academy,, and others, has already shifted the way in which humans learn. So, organizations empowering teams to work the way they live in this digital world eliminate the learning curve associated with adopting new training tools and help encourage and accelerate adoption.


As important as video is to the learning process, we knew the solution we chose had to be mobile to allow our remote team easy access. Mobile devices are about to outnumber humans, and the average sales rep uses 2.6 mobile devices. With many organizations, including Medtronic, allowing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy in the workplace, it’s important that learning solutions are compatible and accessible across devices – from iPads to iPhones, as well as from a browser when working on a laptop or desktop.

For sales teams in particular, tools like video and mobile will play an increasingly vital role. Jim Lundy, CEO of Aragon Research, has said that “Video is the new document for learning and development.” In addition, Lundy outlined that the use of mobile apps in an organization helps force companies to compress their business processes, which can in turn deliver a more competitive mindset.

We Saw the Future, And Now We’re Starring In It

Taking all this into consideration, we focused on finding a solution that could optimize role play’s value, while at the same time meeting the wants of learners, specifically mobile video. The solution would also need to provide for more valuable role play feedback to ensure positive reinforcement for correct behavior, and developmental feedback for incorrect behavior.

We were fortunate from a timing standpoint to be exposed to a new technology tool becoming known as mobile video role play. We immediately knew this technology had the potential to be game changer for optimizing the value of role play. As we gained exposure to the products available in the market, we selected the mobile video sales learning platform from Allego.


This platform was rolled out to about 200 sales reps throughout our organization. The most common use cases for mobile video at Medtronic include product launches, certification, global messaging rollout, and rep and manager coaching. The solution allows reps to continue practicing using video role play, review and critique themselves, and enables them to receive remote coaching in the form of point-in-time feedback from their managers. Managers can give assignments to their teams, share relevant content, and offer the coaching needed to ensure consistency and better message delivery. Furthermore, the solution allows managers to curate examples of what good looks like from top performers and share them with the entire team.

TRP vs. MVRP: Feedback from Our Learners

As the team got up and running on the new mobile video platform, we conducted a study to compare traditional role play (TRP), like what’s conducted in the classroom, to mobile video role play (MVRP). The survey sample included 80 field sales personnel within one division of Medtronic. Respondents perceived MVRP as 54% more effective then TRP. Additionally, respondents were asked which aspects of the MVRP platform were most valuable to them. Watching their own videos, increased practice and recording their own role plays ranked most important to reps, followed by access to best practice videos, trainer feedback and manager feedback.

Open ended feedback from sales reps reinforced the team’s satisfaction with MVRP. “I could see with my own eyes and ears how well I was delivering my message… more importantly, areas to improve,” said one rep, and “The ability to review, practice and present multiple times is the best form of learning long term,” added another. The remote coaching aspect also resonated with the team, with feedback including, “Great practice. It’s like looking in the mirror but then also getting an RM response!”

What We’ve Learned

We’ve learned several important lessons along the way. We know that practice combined with coaching really can impact behavior change. We also know that role play, while perceived as the best method of practice, often misses the mark in terms of effective practice and coaching when conducted in the traditional classroom fashion. Lastly, we know that remote teams create additional challenges for learning and coaching.

Mobile video role play has tremendous potential for meeting learners’ wants and thankfully mobile technology provides a uniquely engaging remote learning solution that reduces the coaching and collaboration challenge of distributed workforces. We’ve found our mobile video platform provides a more effective role play than TRP and delivers a more timely and valuable coaching tool.



Pat D’Amico Director of Sales Training, Medtronic Cardiac & Vascular Group Pat has over 20 years’ experience in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries, and over 25 years of leadership/management experience. He spent his first 15 years at Johnson & Johnson in roles spanning sales, sales management, marketing, sales operations, recruiting, and training. He then served as Vice-President of Commercial Operations with Invatec, Inc. prior to its acquisition by Medtronic. After the acquisition he assumed responsibility for global sales training for the Endovascular/ Peripheral businesses, and in 2013 moved to his current role as the Director of Sales Training for the Medtronic Cardiac and Vascular Groups. He also served as a US Army officer with assignments in Panama, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. He is currently pursuing his M. Ed in instructional design.  

Medtronic plc (, is among the world’s largest medical technology, services and solutions companies, alleviating pain, restoring health and extending life for millions of people around the world. Medtronic employs more than 85,000 people worldwide, serving physicians, hospitals and patients in approximately 160 countries. The company is focused on collaborating with stakeholders around the world to take healthcare further, together.

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