Kevin- i like to think of myself as a good negotiator (been in sales 10+ yrs) but there is nothing like developing strategies for a specific industry. anything you could offer would be welcome with open ears.
Greg I did a bad job there. It does sound like I might've been inferring you're not a good negotiator but that's not what I meant. What I was trying to say is, you might consider not even negotiating with professional loggers at all if they aren't budging, and instead start negotiating with landowners or even the part-timer firewood cutters. So working on your "strategy" is the word I should've used.
Around here it's pretty easy for me to negotiate with a land owner to remove some trees for just hauling them off, and sometimes getting them to do the felling and limbing even. But this is cattle country and maybe it's not easy for you to do that. The firewood cutters though, again, at least around here, I can almost always get a big saw log, or several from them on the cheap if not free, but they usually do want a little dough for them.
I developed the audacity early on to ask for trees without offering payment. I did this because I would let the owner know I was interested in finding trees that were not wanted or that the owner need cleared for just the cost of letting me have the saw logs. I would be specific and honest with them saying that since this isn;t really logging country, I could not offer to buy the trees but would be happy to remove a portion of his unwanted ones.
Many times the the owner would tell me I could have all 700 acres if I would doze them down and then laugh. But they were serious because they have to pay a dozer by the hour to push them up and burn them. This is where I really concentrated my negotiating efforts. I would close the 'deal" by saying "Well since you are going to doze them eventually anyway, would it be alright if I dropped a few now to feed my little sawmill?
Long story short, I have over a dozen places now, heck probably two dozen if I just sat and wrote them down, where I can go and get free logs. If I pay for a tree, which I haven't done probably 5 times in as many years (except for a couple of large tracts of primo cedar purchases), it's because the tree/s are spectacular and the owner knows it and I cannot live without them.
So I'm thinking that even though you ARE in logging country, there's still opportunity to get free trees if you locate owners who have tracts they need removed for whatever reason, simply because they know the industry there has been decimated. They aren't getting timber buyers coming through, and you would be shocked at how willing people are to help a guy out when you just shoot straight with them.
Just start looking at timberland with a different eye as you drive by and try and catch the owners out on the property. I tried knocking on a few doors at first but qucikly discovered they are too defensive when they have to come to the door and talk to a stranger about giving them some trees. Find them already on their property though, get them to bragging about their land, and they will let you know if they have trees they could stand to get cleared without you hardly even asking.
All you got to do is let them know "Well I have a little sawmill and trying to make it pay it's own way but having some trouble finding affordable logs. In fact the way the market is, I'm down to trying to find landowners who need some cleared out for no charge . . ." Always start out though by introducing yourself with your full name, and describe in detail where you live so they feel safe.
That's how it is down here anyway. It may not be nearly as easy to operate this way down there but I bet it is possible to a degree. Thought I would throw it out there for you. I wouldn't run this idea past any of your other sawyers or loggers up there because they will say you're crazy, like I was told down here except I didn't let it discourage me.
You got to remember that most sawyers are not willing to do this. The few we've had around here didn't do it, they would try to operate like big time sawyer-timber buyers and they didn't last. Once you get a landowner liking you, many times they will call you and ask you if you need any more trees. Sounds insane probably but it works for me.