Hello domder, welcome to Webmaster World. You said...
> What works for you to get customers to buy from your site rather than calling in?
That is a tough one, especially when you are dealing with industries that typically do not use the web in their everyday communications.
One of the areas you should concentrate on are the internal staff. They need to be trained on getting the customer to the site and utilizing it to its fullest potential. I field hundreds of emails on a daily basis. Some of those are leads from our Corporate website asking for printed catalogs and/or samples. We know a good portion of those are just lookey loos or possibly even competitors checking us out.
I will normally send them a personal response directing them to our online catalogs and explaining to them that we no longer send out printed versions. Why? Because the printed versions are dated the moment we even think about printing one! Our online catalogs are updated daily and reflect the latest products, services and pricing available.
Another successful method we've used is to offer a discount for orders placed online. We've had promotions where we offer 10% off of a particular popular product and that it must be ordered through the website to acquire the 10% discount. This gives the consumer incentive to utilize the site and also opens their eyes to why they've been calling in orders all this time. The website ordering process is a little more streamlined than the over the phone scenario.
The next time a consumer calls and wants to place an order, let them know that you'll take 5-10% off of their order if they would allow you to take them through the steps of ordering online. This is an effective strategy and one that I train my clients to do. Its worked time and time again!