When I talk with my clients about how they process orders at their organization (whether it be membership joins and renewals, product sales, event registrations, or something else), I always emphasize that it is most important to make it easy for the customer to buy from you. As I like to put it, the ideal transaction is one where the customer simply has to think "I want to buy from you," and the transaction is completed!
We're not quite there yet, but associations continue to make things harder than they need to be. A great example is an online membership join process. Too often I see my clients putting up membership join forms that ask all kinds of demographic questions about the individual and/or his or her company. Unless you need that information at the very moment of joining (i.e., the demographic data actually affects the membership dues rate), you shouldn't ask for it yet. Ask for as little information as possible that will allow you to complete the sale, and then go back to collect the other data.
While that may sound like extra work…well, it is. But the idea is to make the sale first and then collect the data later. Every question you ask during the sales process increases the likelihood of the person abandoning the purchase.
David Gammel at High Context Consulting has a great blog post with a real-life example of shopping cart that makes it incredibly easy to buy. While this example may not translate directly to association sales, it is a great illustration of making it easy, and, as David puts it, "getting out of the way."